by Matthew Chase
Another week of the ski season has flown by and here we are… the temperature is a balmy sixty five degrees and I’m roasting in a cashmere sweater. Who knows why the weather does the things that it does, but we are all surely feeling it here on the mountain! Sales are down, and upset guests abound. Meanwhile I have to continue to smile and greet guests with the energy and happy attitude they expect. Even when I can feel the sweat beading off my forehead. It can get taxing, and when I am finished with a day at work there is nothing I like better than for someone to wait on me while I kick back with a beer, a glass of wine or a good Jack Daniels on the rocks. Sometimes it works out nicely and other days the dog is just too needy for me to get comfortable. He’s Sixty-seven pounds and he thinks he is a lap dog. He crawls all over people when they are on my couch! However he has the sweetest demeanor you know all he wants is your attention.
Bandit, (my dog) is my pride and joy. I was about 22 or 23 when he came into my life and I think he is the greatest pet I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. All pet owners are proud and happy with the animals they care for so I admit to being biased. How he came into my life is a story I love to share, so if you have heard this story, shut up and let others hear it for the first time.
My memory is not very accurate, but I would have to say that it was about four or five years ago. I was living at a small ski resort here in Vermont, in the Warren and Waitsfield areas called Sugarbush. Part of my employment at the area included my housing, for which they deducted money from my paycheck every week. Now at this time in my life I was earning decent money, and pretty happy with my life aside from feeling lonely all the time. Well not all the time because my pal JaWa lived in the same area and we would get together almost nightly to drink, ski or sled, and otherwise enjoy the great company. Well I was moved from the hotel size room I had been living in, to a large four bedroom “ski in, ski out,” condo. Where I received three very unpleasant roommates. After about a month, all three had gone and I had one new roommate about to move in. It was during these three weeks living alone in that building, that I moved myself into the master bedroom and bathroom, and put a decent lock on the bedroom door, so that I had my own full bathroom, and a safe place to lock up my valuables. In truth I was set up as the BIG QUEEN ON SITE! I was baroness of the household and I could dictate as such. JaWa and I frequently had gatherings and other fun things going on in that place and it was also about the time that JaWa adopted “Mr. Big”, a black and white cat. However JaWa kept the animal at the local housing shelter because there were three good sized dogs at the condo he was currently renting with some friends. He was afraid the dogs would traumatize his new pet. While as the summer changed into winter we found that we had a problem with mice at my little home. Thus, we had a meeting of the minds and it was decided that if the corporate office said ok, I would foster JaWa’s cat to help keep the house free of mice.
So that weekend when the corporate office worker came to check on the condition of the house, My latest roommate and I asked him if it would be ok to have a cat to act as a mouse deterrent. He said: “I don’t care what you do to this house as long as you keep it nice.” As soon as he had left I had made up my mind to get a dog. I had always wanted one.
If one could find my Christmas lists from the years in which I ranged from about seven or eight to about fourteen, one would see that each one of them had a dog or a puppy written down somewhere on them, sometimes even highlighted as the thing I wanted most. Now here I am in my early twenties, at last with the space and the finances to own a pet that I had wanted for years. The hunt began the next day; I went scouring the paper for just the right kind of animal for me. What I had in mind was a multi-colored mutt of some sort. But at around February there were no “Free Puppies” signs anywhere, and the paper had some puppies available, but the owners wanted six to seven hundred dollars for these “registered” dogs. Personally, I think it is an insult to ask so much for an animal. Secondly, I am not about to pay that much for a purebred dog, when purebred animals tend to have more problems than your average mutt, Including cancer, hip displacements, diabetes, and any other number of hereditary issues. Because a mutt is one or more breeds mixed together, they tend to get stronger resistances to a lot of hereditary issues. ANYWAY, one afternoon I get a call from my Sister-In –Law. She and my niece were, (at the time) working as volunteers for the Randolph Animal Hospital and Shelter. She told me that there was a little black and white puppy and an older dog at the shelter that both needed a good home. I agreed to meet her there the following day to take a look at the puppy, but I told her I wasn’t really interested in something I could not train myself.
The next day JaWa and I took the hour long drive to Randolph to rendezvous with my sister-in-law, and my nephews and niece to examine the dogs. When we arrived, I was informed that the puppy had been adopted that morning, so all there was left was the older stray dog. They told me that the dog was a male, neutered, approximately a year and a half old, (though they really had no idea) and that he had been found out playing with the schoolchildren at the local elementary facility. I was not really enthused about the prospect of an older dog, they can be set in their ways sometimes, or they may have issues I was not ready to deal with. JaWa told me that we were at least going to look at him because ‘like hell was he gonna sit in the car for that long again’, with absolutely NOTHING to show for it. We were led down a hall of kennels, most of which were empty, and the few that had animals were there by appointment. To the very end where there was a clipboard attached to the side of the kennel with the words “STRAY”, and the phrase: “This Dog SMILES!!” with a little smiley face. The attending vet opened the door and we were assaulted by a dog that was about the height of my thighs, who ran here and there, up and down the hall, licking every face that was close enough. He even managed to topple my 6 year old nephew in his exaltation at being freed from his cell. My nephew was laughing, and the rest of us called to him so that we could get a good look at him. Once he came within range, JaWa; who at the time worked at a grooming facility for animals in Waitsfield, looked him over for lice, ticks, and other problems, and examined his teeth and paws. I kept him still by petting him and looking at his fur patterns. I was struck by the mask like appearance of the black fur on his face which covered his eye area, but kept his nose relatively free of the markings. It reminded me of Johnny Quest and his dog “Bandit” So I looked at him and I said: “If you were mine I’d call you Bandit.” (This is the one thing you are NOT supposed to do when looking for an animal. Name it before you’ve decided to receive it.) The Vet told us on our way out that if someone did not adopt the dog within a few weeks that the dog would probably be put down. That made all of us sad, and as I drove home with JaWa, we stopped at the local McDonalds for some fast food to comfort ourselves. JaWa said that the dog seemed fine and still young enough to train. I was in a lot of confusion over it. I knew that if I didn’t take him, he might die a sad and lonely death, but if I did take him, we might not get along I might get hurt and he’d be put down anyway. We still hadn’t decided anything by the time we got to the counter at the restaurant, so when they asked us if we wanted to purchase a paper heart for Valentines Day to support heart disease I did so and wrote on it: “For Bandit- May you find the home you deserve. Love JaWa and Matthew” We ate our dinner, and talked a bit more and then finished the drive home. When we arrived back at the homestead, JaWa had this to say: “Why don’t you adopt him on a trial basis? If you get him and the two of you don’t get along, you can at least get him to a humane society that is a no- kill shelter. If you get bitten, don’t mention what dog it was…” I love that man for thinking of something I never would have considered.
The next day I made a call to Randolph and told them that I would like to adopt the dog now known as Bandit, they said that they would have to charge me for updating his shots but that I was free to take him as soon as I wanted, so I made an appointment for the following Wednesday afternoon at 5pm. During that time I went and bought a supply of dog food, dishes, and one of everything dog related that I could find based on his weight and age. I think I bought him one of every toy I could find! When the day finally arrived I was excited when I got out of work at three in the afternoon. I was excited to hop into the car and get my new pal. I walked out the front door to discover a blizzard had decided to hit Vermont that day. There was over four or five inches of snow on the ground, and it hadn’t stopped snowing yet. JaWa, who had borrowed the car that day and was there to pick me up, asked me if we shouldn’t call the vet and pick up the dog on another day. I was so mad and stubborn I looked at him and said: “No, if that dog is going to be mine I will not have him spend one more night in that little dump! Move Over, I’m driving!” It took us two hours and fifteen minutes to drive through that blizzard to our destination. I drove by following the two foot wide strip of pavement that was all you could see on the interstate. We arrived fifteen minutes late for my appointment. When we pulled in there was over seven inches of snow on the ground, and one lone red car in the drive with about the same amount of snow covering it. The lights were off and I was immediately upset. I began banging on the door, and cursing to JaWa, that the least they could have done was call me and let me know they were closing early that night. (Although in hindsight, how could they have? I didn’t own a cell phone at the time!) All of a sudden I hear a meek voice call out “Hello???” and a person appeared from around the back of the
“Yes you can help me I’m here to pick up my dog. I’m about fifteen minutes late, but the roads are crap.” She looked at me for a second and then explained that the electricity had gone out, and then asked which dog was mine. “The stray on the end” I replied. “He should have had all his shots either today or yesterday.” The young woman then let me inside and led me through the darkened office, she told me that she couldn’t see to find the paperwork, but that they would call me sometime tomorrow about it. I was then once again in the hallway of kennels and she asked if I wanted her to get him or if I would like to do it myself. I had my leash with me so I said I would take care of it. “The Door is by the end, just take him out that way, and give a call in the morning.” I thanked her and then made my way alone to the end kennel where Bandit sat. We sat a moment looking at each other through the wire kennel walls when I said: “I’m bustin’ you out of here!” I opened the door and he practically leapt into my arms! I struggled with the excited dog for a second while I fastened his leash to the collar he was wearing at the time, and then I opened the door. He bounced around in the falling snow in such a way that one is reminded of a small deer. After a few minutes of jumping about we finally got him into the car for the long trek home. During which the poor thing threw up three times. By the next afternoon there was no way anyone could separate the two of us. EVER. So that’s pretty much his first story; and one of my favorites. It truly is nice to finally have something that appreciates me, without any expectations other than wanting to be fed and pet often. He was, and is, the dog I havealways wanted and the companion I have relied on all these years since he came into my life. Thank you for listening to me tell his adoption story and I hope to hear some from my readers about their little companions!
Until next week I hope you find happiness in the days to come, and joy in the events of the New Year!