Having known her for as long as we have, we understand why the Waco animal shelter didn’t bother to give her a name. While all the other dogs had names assigned to pique a potential suitor’s interest, the card on her holding pen read, “Unadoptable.”
We took her anyway.
I don’t know why we did. We already had two dogs. But we had already gotten to know her, just beyond arms’ reach, in our front yard. The dog we’d met out there, however, wasn’t the one cowering in the corner of the pen.
The one we had met was a playful pup who, wherever she came from, always managed to have something stolen in her possession — a boot, a foam ball.
That’s why, once she became ours, we named her Bandit. That surely was 10 years ago. I honestly don’t know, just as I don’t know Bandit’s age or breed.
For all that time, the mystery that was Bandit vexed us, though she was a wonderful pet from Day 1 in all ways.
Except: the leash. She wanted nothing to do with it.
Put a leash on her, and she would freeze. We always assumed that this was either because of a mean past owner or because of the way she ended up in the shelter at the long end of an animal warden’s dog grasper. We had actually attempted to lure her into our back yard way back then. The dog catcher beat us to her.
How serious was she about not budging at the end of a leash? When we moved from Waco last August, I had to carry her — 70 pounds plus — from the back yard to the rented moving van.
There, for the next 24 hours, she was a statue on the floor next to me as I drove. She wouldn't eat. She barely drank. She barely blinked. When we spent that night in a motel, she spent the night in the cab. I honestly worried that I might find her dead the next morning. That’s how traumatized she appeared.
Things have changed.
For one thing, Bandit has become a house dog. You talk about a development. In Waco, in addition to a big back yard, she had a laundry room in which to stay dry. But no way, no how, could we get her to come into the kitchen. In her new home, with brisker winters (OK, fence-high snow), we decided to force the issue. I picked her up, all 70-plus pounds of her, and put her inside.
She spent the first day and night only inches from the exit. We put a blanket down for her. At some point, whatever influences bore on her before, Bandit decided that inside was an OK place.
That landing reached, our next interest was, somehow, getting her to go on a walk. (Heck, she hadn't been to a veterinarian but twice in all this time. By review: She wouldn't budge.) At this point we must acknowledge the role of two puppies rescued from a pile of them near Abbott two springs ago. Sadie and Lucy go wherever they want. If they’re on a leash, it’s literally so. And if they see a leash, or hear the jingle they associate with it, they are as enthused as Bandit has been intimidated by the leash.
So it was a development beyond gargantuan a few weeks ago when, having watched the puppies venture out, Bandit let Becky put a leash on her and lead her out the door — all the way onto the front porch. That was far enough.
Actually, this small step was a giant leap for dogkind.
The other day we decided, what the heck, let’s take all three for a walk. Bandit did not buckle. She strode forward. She didn’t freeze. She walked. She kept up. She strode from house to house, head high, part of the family, part of the neighborhood, part of an expanded universe.
It only took 10 years. Some things are worth the wait.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young resides in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.