Having been the caretaker and "Mom" to dogs and cats for over 35 years, I've grown to love all animals, admire their ability to be loyal despite any circumstances, and to recognize their healing abilities to those in need, such as veterans suffering with PTSD, lonely or abused children, and any person in need of a loving hug or slurpy animal kiss. My husband, Jack, and I were lucky enough to learn about Bandit's circumstances in 2007, and we saved him from ending up on the streets, in a shelter or in the care of someone who wouldn't care. It was a life changing rescue, for him and for us. Already having three cats in the family, and mourning the loss of our very special Golden Retriever, Goldie, we hoped that Bandit would fit into the family. It was an immediate love fest!
I soon recognized a very special trait in Bandit that despite anything that had gone on his life in his first five years, that he was a gentle giant, with a giving, loving and healing soul. Being a big boy, we knew daily walks would be a routine for the benefit of all of us. Those daily walks became daily adventures, stories to share, and the addition of friends, too many to count, that included neighbors, strangers, cats and kittens, other dogs and pups, and children. That is how our book "BANDIT Big Black Dog Who Stole My Heart" came to be. Bandit, being Bandit, wouldn't allow me to write it without his input, so in every chapter, Bandit adds his point of view with a black pawprint, and his words in a more dog-like font! It's a story about our first year together, from my viewpoint, and from Bandits view!
During the process of writing our first book, I did research, and I discovered a very disturbing phenomenon called The Big Black Dog Syndrome. For those of you unfamiliar with this syndrome, it's rampant in shelters across the country and world. It's a bias against large, dark breed dogs in shelters, and they rarely are adopted. Consequently, they face a life behind bars in a cage in a no kill shelter, or no life at all in the vast numbers of kill shelters. One of the most disturbing stories that I learned, was one shelter in Arkansas put down 14 dogs in one time period, and 13 of them were Labrador Retrievers. All I could envision was that could have been Bandit's future.
Instead we were blessed with this wonderdog, and with the help from friends, and information on local programs and training, we got Bandit into training to be a Therapy Dog. He aced the training, completed his visits and evaluations, and as we speak, his papers for certification are being processed. We volunteer at our local Veteran's Hospital, with children and their reading programs, and become involved in local events for fundraising, just to name a few. He is our Therapy Dog through Heavenly Healing Paws, and just recently part of Battle Buddies, which helps veterans be matched wth a trained Therapy or Service Dog.
Jack is a decorated Vietnam veteran, who lives with PTSD, and Bandit has been a tremendous help to him, and is now training as a Service Dog for PTSD, and as a "Brace" dog. Again, he's thriving, and it will soon be another success story. In closing, we are now working on a series of books that will benefit children, educating them in the humane and loving treatment of all animals. When finished, Bandit and I, along with members of our Therapy and Service Dog groups will visit children in schools, camps, etc. to help our youngsters make a change for the future of all animals. Animal abuse has no overnight solution; but if we begin now, future generations could embrace all animals and treat them more humanely and lovingly.
Bandit and my husband, Jack, were the inspiration for our first book together, and others continue to inspire me, and I'd like to thank them here and now. They know who they are, and know that Bandit and I love you all, and can't thank you enough! Bandit and I will keep you posted on our progress and accomplishments, and hope that you'll buy our book, and share it with friends, family, and even your local library!