I’m sure for most of us it’s easy to remember our first dog. Maybe it was a dog your parents already had when you were born. Maybe your parents allowed you to adopt a dog from a local shelter, rescue, or from a friend’s litter when you were a kid, or maybe you had to wait until you were grown and living on your own before getting your first dog. Whatever your situation was, I’m sure that you haven’t forgotten the feeling of bringing your first dog home. It is definitely one of the happiest times in your life.
My first dog was a puppy when we first brought him home. I was seven years old at the time and my oldest sister’s dog had just had a litter of pups. They were a German Shepherd and collie mix of eight puppies. Though I was only seven at the time, I still remember visiting my sister at her home shortly after the pups were born. I was originally told that we were only visiting her and the pups, with no plans to bring one home with us to live. However, I knew in my heart that one of the puppies was meant to be mine, and I was going to find out which one it was.
After a lot of begging and pleading, I finally convinced my dad to let me pick one of the pups to bring home to live with us. As I sat on the floor playing with the pups, I noticed that there was one who wasn’t very active and never received much attention from the others. He was the runt of the litter, much smaller than the others. He was mostly brown, with some darker colors around his eyes. I remember thinking that he looked like he had “raccoon” eyes. I reached over to pick him up and he nestled deeply in my arms. He really enjoyed the warmth, love and attention that I shared with him. I knew then and there that this was my dog, and I would call him Bandit.
Bandit spent all of his time outside the house and rarely ever came inside. It may be partially due to our family of five being raised in a 675-square-foot home. There wasn’t much room for the humans, let alone a dog. Besides, my dad was very old-fashioned and wouldn’t allow a dog inside the house. Thankfully, with age came wisdom and his attitude changed when all of the kids moved away and he got his very own Pomeranian to sit on his lap in his recliner.
I missed not having Bandit stay inside with me, as I would have liked to sleep with him every night. Instead, we had an old shed out back in the yard. I remember Dad placing a screen on the door so Bandit could see outside when he chose to sleep in the shed or when the weather was bad. Bandit had a walking area in a section of the yard where dad had placed a small metal-fenced enclosure. My bedroom was a converted back porch area with one window and a back door. During the warm months the back door had a screen to allow air to flow through. We didn’t have air conditioning in those days, though I did buy one for my parents once I moved out and started my adult life. The screen door was nice since I could keep an eye out on Bandit and listen if he happened to bark or whine. During the daytime it wasn’t an issue since I was always outside playing with him or in the yard with friends.
I had the responsibility of playing with Bandit, feeding him and making sure that he stayed healthy and protected. Bandit seemed to love being outside and rarely used the shed for shelter. He was terrified of storms and actually dug a hole under the shed to hide in when a storm approached. I’m not sure why he didn’t go in the shed. He just seemed to feel more secure under it. After each storm, I would go to visit him. I remember calling his name and letting him know that it was safe to come out. He would crawl out from under the shed, shake his entire body and start to wag his tail. He never got wet or muddy unless he rolled in a puddle after coming out from under the shed.
Later in his life, we got him his own dog house. A friend had an extra one and dad and I went to pick it up. We thought that this would be a good place for him to stay when it got cold. Dad would line the dog house with straw each winter and make sure no air could get inside. He would secure a small rubber mat on the front door during the winter to keep the cold out. Bandit never took to the dog house, though, and it sat empty most of the time. The only animal to take advantage of the dog house was the neighbor’s hen. She would sleep inside when it was cold and Bandit would lie near the door. In the summer she would lay on the top of the dog house while Bandit slept beside the house. Yes, my dog had his own pet chicken!
After high school, I attended college less than an hour from home and would get back home every few weeks for the weekend. It gave me a chance to spend time with Bandit, as well as get my clothes cleaned and enjoy some down-home cooking from my mom.
I remember coming home the spring of my senior year for a visit. I arrived home a little early and mom and dad had not gotten back from the store. So, I went out to visit my best boy Bandit in the backyard.
As I walked back to his normal spot, he was nowhere to be found. I started searching the entire area and asking every neighbor if they had seen him. No one had seen him. After a few hours of looking, my parents arrived home. Mom reluctantly explained that they knew Bandit wasn’t there and that he had run away. They didn’t want to tell me when I was at school and hoped to be home to break the news.
It was devastating to me to realize that my boy, Bandit, who was with us for 15 years, was gone. No closure, no burial, just gone.
I think of him often and, in retrospect, wish he could have had a more fulfilling life. However, I know that he was always happy when I was with him and he could tell that I loved him very much. He will always be with me and in my heart.
Do you remember your first dog? Did you get to pick your first puppy? Share your stories and pictures in the comments.
About Tim Link: All American guy, loves to rock out to Queen while consuming pizza and Pinot Noir, prefers to associate with open minded people who love all critters, considered to be the literal voice for all animals. Author, writer, radio host, Reiki Master, animal communicator and consultant. www.wagging-tales.com
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