A Decade of Devotion

Written By Jenny Pavlovic

We lost Bandit to multiple myeloma in March, and our little pack continues to find its way. When Bandit’s body was failing and I realized he was in pain, it became apparent that he was ready to go. But I could tell he was concerned about how we would manage without him. So we spent time with him doing things he wanted to do for one last time, and cherished our last hours together. I reassured him that we didn’t want him to be in pain any longer, and that somehow we would get along without him. Bandit wanted us to be happy and celebrate life.

Australian Cattle Dogs usually live longer than ten years, so whenever I begin to wish that we’d had more time, I remember that a miracle brought us together in the first place. One step this way or that and our life together would not have happened at all. I’m grateful we had that ‘chance’ meeting.

Over the past ten years, I think Bandit has influenced my life more than any other being. We lived together day in and day out. He leapt out of bed every morning ready to face the day. He was a 'glass half full' kind of guy who always brought me the ball, and whacked me on the leg with the rubber chicken when I sat at the computer for too long. I called him my 'recreation director'.

Bandit was so smart, so intrepid, and so good at everything that I had to learn a lot just to keep up with him. As a team, we had many accomplishments in versatility, herding, agility, obedience, rally and tracking (to name a few). But most of all, he was a loyal and wonderful companion whose energy filled our house with love. He took care of me in many ways that I’m still just beginning to realize. Our love was pure.

Those of us whose dogs are part of our families know that they influence us in many ways. When I look back over my time with Bandit, I see how he changed me. Better than Eckhart Tolle or anyone else, Bandit taught me that all we really have is this present moment, and we’d best enjoy it and not postpone being happy. He taught me that I don’t have to be completely serious; I can laugh and enjoy the journey and still get my work done. Bandit turned me into a positive person, a glass-half-full person. He was a lead-or-get-out-of-the-way kind of guy. I had to step up just to stay ahead of him, and that helped me in other areas of my life too.

Bandit accepted me completely and loved me completely for who I am, thus he helped me accept and love myself. He helped me understand that I have what I need inside of me. Bandit never fit into anyone’s box any better than I do. He taught me that it’s best to be myself even when I don’t fit in, that sometimes I’m meant to be different for a good reason. Uniqueness is a gift, and others can learn from me.

Who would have thought that a little red ball of fuzz could do so much to change my life for the better?

My spiritual journey with Bandit began with the miracle that brought him to me as a bolt out of the blue in 2004 (http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2448), and continued all the way to the bald eagles who visited me several times in several places before and after his passing in 2014. I learned to believe in miracles and to understand amazing spiritual connections between animals and people, connections that are made among animals too.

Bandit was always the pack leader and hall monitor among the animals in our family, a solid protector and friend. As Bandit’s health declined, Chase wanted to take over and I had to manage the pack very carefully. Once Bandit was gone, our house seemed way too quiet. Nobody brought me the ball every time I stepped outside. Nobody hit me on the leg with the rubber chicken while I was working at the computer. I felt like I couldn’t be whole without him, until a friend pointed out that I’m so much more because of him.

People told me that Bandit will send me another dog, just as my dying dog Rusty sent Bandit to me. Maybe he will. But for now we’re finding our balance without a third dog. Three dogs was always a lot for me, and I have thousands of dollars of vet bills to pay, for Chase’s and Bandit’s cancer treatments. I’m looking forward to working more with Chase and especially with Cay, who was always the third dog with two very busy older ‘brothers’.

Bandit’s absence from our household has shifted the pack balance. Chase and Cayenne and Gingersnap the cat are working it out. I’m enjoying seeing different parts of their personalities emerge. Chase is the pack leader now, yet Ginger has taken over some of Bandit’s ‘watchdog’ duties. Cay, who always followed Bandit, is learning to manage without him. You may recall that Chase goes into the bathroom and puts his front feet up on a stool when he wants a gentle hug from me (or when he thinks I need a hug). Cay has been watching, and with the hall monitor gone, she now comes into the bathroom seeking a hug too. The other day, I also found Gingersnap the cat with her front feet up on the stool, waiting for me to give her some lovin’. The pack is mellower, enabling Ginger to integrate more easily than before.

Although Chase and Cay would love to go tracking, I haven’t been able to do that yet. Bandit and I spent so much time last year training for a tracking test that I can’t bear to go without him. I’m thinking about taking Chase and Cay out to herd ducks though, something Bandit was too powerful for even at age ten. And I’m wondering if Cay is ready to start practicing for the therapy dog test, so she might volunteer at the library as Chase does.

Over Mother’s Day weekend, Chase and Cay had fun playing ball with a 5 year old girl and a 2½ year old boy. I was supervising closely as the girl threw the ball for Chase and he retrieved it again and again. I was astounded to see the boy throw the ball for Cay and watch her retrieve it and set it on the ground in front of him, over and over. Cay doesn’t usually retrieve for me; she fetches the ball and runs all around the yard with it. So I was amazed to see her watching the girl play ball with Chase, and then copying the pattern with the little boy. Both dogs were very gentle with the kids, dropping the balls for them. They didn’t jump on or bump the kids at all. I was surprised because Cay never seems to know where her back end is. She bumps me all the time. It was fun to see how well both dogs did with the kids, and I was encouraged about Cay’s potential to work with kids as a therapy dog.

Our dog sitter, who has known Bandit since he was a pup, gave us a beautiful garden stone in his memory. Now that the spring weather has finally arrived, I’m building him a memorial garden. Hauling dirt and making a garden can be a lot of work. But not too much work for the guru in the red dog suit who jumped out of bed every morning full of joy, ready to greet the day, eager to work and play.

We miss Bandit terribly, yet still feel his presence on our walks, and in the amazing lessons he taught us that help us find our way. Rest in Peace sweet boy. We look for you in the sky with the eagles, and we celebrate life in this present moment, just as you taught us.
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What have you learned from your animals? What more can you learn by paying closer attention?
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