The faithfulness of a dog is a precious gift demanding no less than the friendship of its owner. The bond with a dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth can ever be.
On August 14, 1993, in Wheeling, Illinois, a little cocker spaniel puppy was born that was destined to change the life of the Knapp family forever. When Becky and Roger Knapp, along with their sons Ben and Mark, brought this little puppy home, the adventure began. Because his markings made him look like an outlaw, the family named him Bandit. Becky’s dad, Sheldon Durham, always called him “Dit”. Bandit knew his family loved him and he willing answered to Bandy, Bandy Lou and even Fluffy.
Bandit was full of energy and love for his family. When Becky needed the boys, she would say “Bandit, where are Ben and Mark? Call the kids!” And call he would, howling until the boys showed up. When friends or family were playing ping pong, Bandit would go downstairs, returning with a ping pong ball in his mouth. The fragile ball was never crushed, but it now belonged to Bandit, and you could not get it away from him.
Special memories of Bandit center on his love of baseballs. A favorite “member of the team”, Little League teams loved to have Bandit around because he always retrieved those hard-to-catch balls. At the end of the “game”, after returning many balls, Bandit would claim the last one as his trophy, and return home with it proudly displayed in his mouth. Like the ping pong balls, this was his ball, he had earned it, and you were not going to take it away. Bandit wasn’t much of a growler, but if you tried to take his precious baseball, you heard about it, loud and clear.
Even when there was no game going on, Bandit still could find baseballs. He seemed to be able to smell them and would carry the ball around until he smelled or spied another one. The first one was dropped and the new on was the prize. This happened each time he found another ball. There were times when he would find anywhere from 10 to 15 balls on one trip. Roger always saved the last one to throw for Bandit to fetch on the way home, a game they both enjoyed.
Besides his baseballs, Bandit had a basket of favorite toys. You could say “Bandit, get your Wiggy Worm” and he knew exactly which one to choose. Other favorites were Baby, mousy and Santa Claus.
Bandit was definitely a member of the family and slept on Roger and Becky’s bed until he could no longer jump up. From then on he slept on the floor in Ben’s room. He loved to have Roger scratch his belly and would eat just about anything the rest of the family was eating. If the kids had popsicles, so did Bandit. He liked eggs, apples, carrots and hotdogs. He even raided the garden, eating tomato’s and rasberries. One Christmas the Knapps put up two trees. The one in the living room was decorated with all the ornaments the boys had made, along with little candy canes. When Becky began finding cellophane wrappers on the floor, she reminded the boys that if they were going to eat the candy, to please put the wrapper in the trash. When both boys denied the wrong-doing, it was discovered that Bandit really was a bandit. He loved those candy canes. And he was always able to sniff out his own presents – he loved those pig ears! One Thanksgiving, the family walked in to find Bandit in the middle of Becky’s mother’s dining room table, eating the butter. Like the gentleman that he was, each goblet and candle stick was untouched.
Like most dogs, riding in the car was a big treat, especially if he could sit in the front and stick his nose out the window. However, he hated going to the vets and the groomers. When he figured out where the car was going, he would just shake with fear. He also hated water, whether it was getting a bath or swimming in the lake. He really seemed to have a terrified look on his face.
Even though he hated going to the vets or the groomers, Bandit hated being left alone even more. He always seemed to know when the family was packing for a trip and he would not let Roger out of his sight.
Bandit loved going for long walks. As a young dog, it looked like he was exercising whoever was on the other end of the leash. You had to run to keep up with him. In the winter, he drove the family crazy with his constant scratching at the door, begging to go outside. He didn’t want to go for a walk, he wanted to eat snow! In the summer, he loved to chase the squirrels and chipmunks , he loved running up and down the yard barking at the hot air balloons, about the only time he barked at !
As time went on, the years began to take their toll on gentle Bandit. He loved to be loved and held, even when it became so painful for him. He eventually could no longer hear Becky ask him to call the boys, and his vision began to fail. The life of this kind, loving, funny and playful pet was coming to an end. It was the hardest decision the Knapp family had ever made together but they knew that it was best for Bandit. On June 19 at 5:00 pm, with Roger and Ben at his side, sweet Bandit slipped from this life to the next, one where he could see, hear and run with the best of them.
Dogs take your heart, and cherish it; they walk with it, and sleep with it, and they never let it out of their sight. And when it’s their time, they take a little piece of your heart with them to remember you by, and that empty space is filled with all the wonderful memories shared. Good-by, Bandit. We miss you!