INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Bandit’s world expands dramatically during week six. His gruel is replaced by kibble mixed with some soft food. He learns to slurp water from a bowl which usually gets turned over after a few laps.
Bandit sleeps fewer hours a day now, so there is more time for play and stimulation. I invent a game of fishing using a stretchy “cat dancer.”
I toss out the line and eventually reel in Bandit. He fights like a marlin before I land him. We do this again and again. We also invent games with empty paper towel rolls and plastic balls.
This week I try to introduce Bandit to new people and places. I decide it is time to take him outside. My neighbors visit and four of us form a human chain to keep him from harm on his first outing.
He romps around the grass delighting in the new sensations, smells and sounds. He makes his first contribution of fertilizer to the lawn and seems pleased with the deposit.
Bandit meets two of his siblings at the Pet Network offices where we go for medication. The three energetic pups tumble together around a small room until they wear themselves out.
Bandit is not the alpha male of the group, but he gets involved immediately and the others seem to like him. At one point, three of them try to squeeze into one small box.
It reminds me of stuffing a Volkswagen or phone booth with too many people. He gets invited to visit the other pups in their home. This gives him more stimulation for all of his senses.
And, he must conform to their house rules, which he does not like at first.
My little pup is changing appearance again. He is getting a bit taller and thinning out. His floppy ears grow longer. The vivid black mask over his eyes and nose which inspired the name “Bandit” has dissipated as he has grown and is barely evident.
His most distinguishing markings now are his two-toned black and brown tail, a small white asterisk on his chest and one white toe on each back paw.
He has a bit of Chinese Shar Pei wrinkling on his neck. His dark blue eyes are now ringed in light brown.
I decide to take him outside again. This time it is just the two of us and not the best of days. The wind is gusting. Fallen blowing leaves attract Bandit’s attention and I keep taking them from his mouth as they are covered in sap.
There are far too many yellow jackets hovering and I keep redirecting the pup away from a large boulder that may contain the nest. I am bending and stooping constantly to keep up with him.
Suddenly I hear a sorrowful whimper. He looks up with surprised and sad eyes and limps to me on three legs. I pick him up and he licks a back foot. He has been bitten by one of the yellow striped pests.
I immediately call Becky at Pet Network but do not reach her. I get online looking for facts. After several reliable sources concur, I realize that as long as he is not one of a very small percentage of creatures that will have a severe allergic reaction, it isn’t much to worry about.
I watch him closely for over an hour and he seems dejected but not physically worse for the wear. We move inside and rather than continue to play he mopes over to his sleeping area and buries his head in the blanket.
It seems that Bandit was a bit over-dramatic about his wound. It makes me realize just how protected he has been. Yes, he had a very ignoble start in the Dumpster and probably deserves his fair share of coddling.
But in truth he has been living in a climate controlled bubble for the past six weeks. He gets warm, clean bedding twice a day; four warm meals lovingly prepared and served on schedule; great background music; my company on command; dog toys and cat toys and homemade play things; pedicures every other week; and he can watch as much television as he wishes!
He has gone from being discarded, unwanted to being adored and sought after. Almost 50 adoption applications have been submitted to Pet Network for Bandit and his litter mates.
I am thinking Bandit needs to get real — start learning what life is really like. Just as I plan ways to introduce him to a less self-centered world, my cat Rowdy swats him on the head.
I guess this will be a family project.
— Beverly Keil is a board member with the Pet Network Humane Society. Learn more at www.petnetwork.org.