When my brothers and sisters and I were younger, we had a dog named Bandit. I don’t remember exactly where we got him but he was black with some white and brown coloring around his eyes. He was probably a cross-mix and had features like that belonging to the Collie breed. Unlike his name suggest, Bandit did not steal.
Whether we were outside playing or somewhere in the house, Bandit made his rounds to check on us to make sure we were okay. This dog was more than a pet to us, he was an escape.
We were raised in a large family. The atmosphere of our home was often cold. It seemed that most of what I remember of what took place back then, centered around alcohol addiction, lies, and various forms of physical and mental abuses. Barely having the basic necessities of life didn’t help either as often we left the home embarrassed, shameful , and having low self-esteem.
For my brothers and sisters and I, surviving these challenging years would depend on our learning early in life when to speak, and when not to open our mouths. Surviving also depended on knowing who we could trust. Who we could turn to, that we knew would not try to add insult to the injuries we were already facing. Who would be there for us in our time of need and who would not ask for anything back for the help received?
As the years went by, the number of people we could trust, where we could expose the different types of abuses we as children endured our home was non-existent. To reveal to others the secrets that went on behind our closed doors of our home was not always the safest thing to do. But we were never alone during these times. We had a friend, Bandit.
I can still smell his warm breath, as he licked the tears off my face and looked at me with his sympathetic eyes. I could almost read his mind and just knowing that he cared, this seemed to make my inner pains fade some as I drew him closer to my body and held on to him for comfort and love. Somehow Bandit always came around and did not care how mad we got or how many tears we cried; he stayed with us until we were brave enough to interact with the other family members again. It was like he gave us a little of his strength each time we held him close.
There were times that Bandit came between us and the abuser, and he would bark and bark at the person to try to keep them away from us, protecting us. That act of valor would cost him as he would now be in the line of fire and took over being the victim, allowing us a chance to step back. It would be our turn to return the favor and reach out to him and soothe his pains and shower him with our love. Bandit was special. He was not just a dog. He was our protector and friend, to the end of his life.
As I aged in life and separated myself from the family, I did not allow the cycle of abuse to continue in my family. I tried to raise my children in a way that all children should be raised, free of fear, and with love and trust, and more importantly free of any kind of abuse.
My children did not have Bandit, as he had already passed on, but there were times we had a dog or cat running underfoot in our homes. I can remember seeing the children interact with these pets and as I watched them bond with them; I knew too, they would never be alone. They would always have their special “friend,” who they could trust with their secrets and who they knew would come to them when they had tears to shed and needed that extra loving touch that only they could offer.
Today, I still think about all Bandit did for us in our younger years. On top of being a trusted friend, the most important thing he gave us other than himself, was the ability to know what it was like to be loved.