A year ago today, our lives changed. No, we weren’t hit by a bus. We adopted a 6 month old puppy named Harly.
7 years ago, we lost both our dogs, Bru and Jack (AKA The Boys) within 18 months of each other. They were our best friends and we swore we’d never get another dog. Not because we couldn’t love another one, but because we couldn’t lose another one. Their deaths devastated us and we couldn’t bear that again. Then after our sister, Sarah, lost her dog, she wanted another one to fill the hole Misty left behind. Our mum said as we would be looking after our sister’s dog while she’s at work, maybe we should get one so they could grow up together as they’d be spending all day together. We said no. We wanted a tortoise.
Sarah had visited all the rescue centres and we even went with her to Cardiff’s dog home. We hated it there. It was like a giant dog prison, with the cages only a foot away from the dogs opposite. Just perfect for the nervy dogs placed within spitting distance of the noisy ones. Though we fell in love with a massive Staffie called Rex. They told us we would have to bring our cats to them in a case to meet the dogs. There was no way in hell we were taking our old cats (aged 10-16) into a place full of barking dogs, where they would be trapped in a case, terrified. How stupid. Then Sarah heard of a litter of puppies that had been born at Crofts Kennels Rescue Centre in Bridgend. They were two weeks old. Their mum, a lab, was on her second litter and had been seized by the police. She was 18 months old. We went to Crofts with Sarah so she could meet the mum and decide if she wanted one of the puppies. We couldn’t say no to seeing puppies.
In the first pen was a sad looking lurcher pup. Next to him was a bouncy little Staffie. Sarah stopped by the lurcher’s cage and called us over. There something about him that made her stop. The pups were right down the other end. We couldn’t see them, but the mum, Kiki, was a small golden lab cross. We got talking to the guys at the centre and mum mentioned we were also thinking of getting a dog. We were still against the idea. Them “We’ll bring Harly to meet you.”
Moments later, the skinny, sad looking lurcher pup that Sarah found, was brought in. You could see all his ribs. He’d only been there a week. They told us some people would phone up and ask them to take their dog and the centre would request an £80 re-homing fee. Then within a few days, people would show up with a ‘stray’ and the centre had to take them in. We wondered if this is what happened with Harly. He came straight over us, wagging his tail and acting like he’d known us forever. He sat down by our feet. We fussed him then crouched so he wouldn’t feel intimidated by us. He cwtched up to us and put his head on our shoulders. Them “think he’s going home with you. He’s £110.” We had exactly £110 in our wallets. Them “You can take him now if you want.”
And damn it, we did.
He was so skinny, he fitted into Misty’s harness. She was a Jack Russell cross, so she wasn’t exactly big. In two weeks, he outgrew two harnesses. When we first got him, he had a habit of eating slugs. Whether he did this for food before going into the kennels, we don’t know. But he no longer eats them.
That was a year ago today. They’d said “There’s a sheet here for if you to decide to bring him back.” Us “We’re not bringing him back. He’s ours now.” After 9 days, we renamed him Bandit, on account of his eye mask. And because our mum said a flat-out no to Van Helsing. We’ve since discovered, how unusual his reaction to us was. He’s actually really wary of strangers. He won’t approach them, hates it if they approach him and it’s taken him ages to let other dog walkers actually pat him. He’s especially wary of men. But when he met us, he put his head on our shoulders and acted like he’d known us his whole life.
When we got him home, we looked up lurchers online. We’d never owned one (we only ever had mongrels), had no idea what one was (greyhound/whippet crossed with collie/spaniel. Judging on Bandit’s appearance and personality, he’s whippet/springer spaniel – fast and crazy) and wanted to know what we’d let ourselves in for. Mostly, we wanted to know what he would’ve looked like as a baby. We’d only ever had dogs from small pups. Scamp was bought for £1 in the 70s, Max was found, Jack showed up on our doorstep one day and refused to leave and Bru was in a horse market. Online, advice was “don’t get a lurcher if you have small furry pets. Lurchers are hunters. They’re trained to kill small furry things.” Our house is filled with small furry pets. We suddenly felt a deep sense of “what the hell have we done? We’ve endangered the animal army by bringing a hunter into the house.” But there was no way we were taking him back. This had to work. Even if it meant he could never be alone with the cats, we were not taking him back. Being in the animal army is like being in a gang – you only leave it when you die. We were given a bit of hope by finding forums on how to integrate lurchers with cats and people were posting photos of their lurchers cwtched up to the cats. Considering Warlock (whose previous owners used to set their dog on him) hated dogs, Ebony when first encountering anything just flees and Speccy tends to hiss at new things, we weren’t holding out much hope for this to work. To be fair, Speccy’s the second oldest pet and has been forced to take in countless little brothers.
So Bandit was kept on a lead for four weeks. He spent his first week with us being made to sit outside by the rabbit pen until he got desensitised by the fluffy bunnies hopping around. Made worse by the fact Drogo bunny likes to tease the cats and teased our newcomer. Oh, and there’s Peking duck, who enjoys tormenting small furry creatures. This wasn’t going to be easy. There’s also the iguana and corn snake. It was a few months before he met them.
And Sarah did get one of those puppies. We talked her into it.
Her partner’s only ever owned Jack Russells and doesn’t like big dogs. We practically strong armed them into getting the puppy, saying, “his mum was small, he won’t grow much bigger than her.” Turned out, dad was a Rottweiler. And a big one, judging by the fact that the puppy, Axel, at a year old, is the size of a small horse. Every time we saw him, he’d grown. He grew overnight, every night. And we laughed. They wanted a small dog, we talked them into getting a dog that is nearly big enough for us to ride. We still laugh about this. And Sarah’s now had to sell her Ford KA ‘cos Axel doesn’t fit into it. They still don’t see the funny side.
Ebony LOVES Bandit. He’s always there to greet him when he comes back from his walk. Speccy sometimes wants to cuddle with him, sometimes moans when he gets too close. But she does that to us. She cuddles on her terms. And he thinks her slapping him is her playing, because that’s how he plays. Warlock very quickly trained Bandit into obeying him. Bandit won’t leave the room if Warlock is in his path. And if Bandit’s being wild, Warlock will enter the room and sit down. Bandit will jump on the settee and behave. Warlock’s got this dog psychology thing cracked, just by being a bit of a psychopath. Our stray cat, Moussy, looked at him then went back to eating. He and Bandit had an instant respect thing going. And we can sit on the settee with both Bandit and a bunny. After a little while of introducing him to the iguana, Kyler, Bandit helps out at Ky’s bath times and will even put his nose on Ky’s face. He’s only met Charlie snake through the glass, but he’s fascinated. And though he chases squirrels, when he gets close, he stops and lets the squirrel get away. We were determined that the adoption would work out for all the animals. We had no other choice. And it paid off.
Bandit certainly lives up to his name. He’s a wanton thief. He cannot walk past something without picking it up. Shoes and gloves are a favourite. He once invaded some teenagers’ picnic, stole their rubbish, then when they got it back, stole their football in revenge. Axel once knocked Neen’s little girl over in excitement. Bandit stole the hat off her head and ran off round the park with it. He also mugs other dogs and trespasses farmer’s fields. He has a reputation as a troublemaker and we can no longer go to parks. He has 3 modes – hyper, naughty and sleeping. He’s also easily distracted, which makes training difficult because he can’t concentrate for long. Damn it, this dog is ours in every possible way.
A year ago, we had no idea we were about to meet our new best friend. There’s only one thing we’d change – we wish we’d got him sooner.