Four years ago today was one of the toughest days of my life. It was the day that Dean and I had to say goodbye to our sweet little boy, Bandit. It’s a day that makes my heart hurt and also makes me hyper sensitive whenever something is up with my dogs now.
As Bandit untimely lost his life to a brain tumour, and I still look back and think about what more I could have done to help him. I often find myself saying “if I would have taken him to the vet sooner” and “if I would have pushed to get an MRI done” while still knowing that it would not have made a difference. I couldn’t have saved him. Nothing would have saved him.
Yet, for years I blamed myself. I felt so much guilt and anxiety over it. I finally had to see a therapist because my anxiety became unmanageable. I felt so much shame over as people would say “it’s just a dog”. But as you will read, he wasn’t just a dog. He was my family. And it was a major loss for me.
Our sweet little boy of 8 (almost 9 years), suffered a seizure three weeks ago and without even knowing it at the time, that was the turning point for his health. He spent the night at the Emergency Vet Clinic the night the seizure happened and was tested for a variety of health issues that would cause a dog to have a seizure. The couldn’t find anything specific at that time by just doing a blood test and when Dean picked him up the following day, he seemed to be better. Looking back over the month of May, there were signs that his health was declining. He wasn’t his usual energetic happy go lucky self. Things he used to get really excited about, he was no longer really interested in. Over the past couple of weeks, he started to have issues with his front right leg. We thought he must have pulled a muscle at daycare but I knew it was more than that when it started to drag a bit when he walked and actually saw him fall over when he was outside peeing on the fence. I took him to his vet two days after his seizure to get him checked out. Based on what the vet saw, he assumed it was a slipped disc in his cervical spine and put him on anti inflammatory meds and rest. The vet mentioned that it could also be a tumour based on the fact that nothing had been found in his blood work (and that was also a feeling the emergency vet had as well). I didn’t want to believe that was the case as I knew the outcome was not going to be good if that was it. I took him home that day believing it was a slipped disc and immediately cut all physical activity for him.
Over the next few days, there were moments where it looked like he was walking a bit better but he himself was not better. He wasn’t hungry like he usually was. If you called his name, he didn’t respond right away. He woudn’t really make eye contact with you and his one eye was so red. Then, his balance started to go. He was restless and panting so hard Tuesday night, we were worries he was going to have another seizure. We realized this was not a slipped disc. The vets were right in thinking it was a tumour. By Tuesday night, he could no longer stand without falling over. Dean and I realized the painful choice we had to make.
We woke up Wednesday morning hoping that he would be better but instead, he was worse. He was no longer Bandit. We knew that day was going to be our last with him and the hardest day of our lives together. I’m grateful that I was able to spend the day with him sitting on the floor telling him how much I love him and how he was my little sunshine (for years I couldn’t hear that song without bursting into tears). Dean and I were grateful that we were able to be there for him in the end.
Anyone whoever met Bandit instantly fell in love with him. He loved nothing more than being where people were (especially if you had a treat for him). Although he may be physically gone, he will never be forgotten and Dean and I are grateful that we have so many wonderful and hilarious memories of him. I would like to share some of them.
We got Bandit when he was an 8 week old 8lb puppy. I specifically remember the day we got him, I was in the kitchen in our apartment at the time and turned around to see him sitting there and staring at me. I then said to Dean “Dean, did we make a mistake?”. He said “of course not”. Let’s just say, he was the best “mistake” we ever made.
Bandit was definitely a stubborn puppy. I remember the first time I took him out for a walk, I started walking and then got to the end of the leash only to look back and see Bandit just sitting there staring at me refusing to move. I think I called him for a couple of minutes but he refused to move. He wanted me to carry him over to the grass so of course, that’s what I did. He eventually learned how to walk on a leash without sitting there waiting for you to pick him up.
As we lived on the 9th floor of an apartment, we had a balcony. Thankfully, the space was too small for Bandit to ever fit through, but not his toys. He would always take his toys out there, push them over the balcony on the bottom opening and sit there and watch them fall. It was the funniest thing until you realized that you had to go down and get the toy. As well, someone did not appreciate having a squeaky toy dropped on their head as they walked out of the building one time.
Probably one of the worst things Bandit ever did was destroying my cycling helmet (which was not cheap). I remember it was the week we started leaving him out of his crate while we were not there. I went to work and came back a couple of hours later to check on him. When I opened the door to our apartment, I saw a pair of cycling gloves laying on the floor. As I walked in, I saw Bandit sitting in the middle of our apartment shaking and had a look of guilt on his face. It was so cute but so terrifying to think about what he must have done to be acting like that. I then walk in our bedroom and see pieces of foam lying everywhere and then I saw my helmet. He tore out the the inside and started to take apart the outside of it. I screamed when I saw it turned to him and yelled “Bandit! What did you do?!”. Enough to say he was back in his crate for at least another four months after that.
Bandit had many more memorable moments including running into multiple screen doors at full speed, jumping up on the counter at Petsmart to get a treat, his obsession with stacking his toys by his food dish while he eats, running full tilt and clearing my parents couch, his love of carrots,his love of Greenies and pretty much every treat possible, his love of my mom’s slippers and running with them through the house, him untying my dad’s shoe laces as he tried to tie them up and his love of stealing all of the blankets at every chance he got. Plus, he loved to sit with my dad in their motor home and beg for food. He knew his spot at the table.
Bandit was the perfect dog. He knew when I wasn’t feeling good and he knew when I was sad. I could always count on him to be there for me. There are so many things I’m going to deeply miss about him.
I’m going to miss his excitement when he saw myself or Dean. I’m going to miss dropping him off at daycare as he loved going every Friday. I’m going to miss snuggling with him especially when it was cold out and he would crawl under the covers so he could lay right next to me. I’m going to miss his nesting in every blanket he could find. I’m going to miss him pawing at me in the middle of the night to lift him up onto the bed (as he never wanted to jump onto Max). I’m going to miss the way he followed my mom around as when she was around, Dean and I didn’t matter. I’m going to miss him barking at me and running to the gate to greet me if I came home and he was outside. I’m going to miss looking outside and seeing him sitting there in the sun.
Most of all, I’m going to miss the unconditional love he always gave me.
Goodbye Bandit (also known as the Bear). I will always love you and you will live on in my heart until the day I die.
Talking to a friend of mine who has also been through this with her dogs said something that made me think. Maybe Bandit was helping Dean and I realize that we were meant to go on an add to our family through adoption? We would have never adopted Freckles or Dolly otherwise. It will never take the pain away of the sudden loss of him but, realizing that maybe he was trying to send us a message makes the pain of his loss much more bearable.