I write cursive on legal pads.

Bandit

Added on by D.S. Hooker.

I woke to dad calling my name, telling me that we were bringing Bandit, our golden Labrador, to the vet. Groggily I asked, “What for?” He looked at me with a gaze, and it was then I knew. I quickly washed up, changed, and then met him in our kitchen where Bandit spent most of his time lounging, drinking from his favorite blue water bowl, and dining on his favorite snack; pig ears. Dad had already gotten his SUV ready for the ride; the only thing remaining was its passenger.

Bandit lay on top of his gigantic pillow of a bed, dad & I by his side encouraging him to get up and, though he tried, his arthritic joints prevented him. His facial expression similar to the one he would give as a pup to acknowledge he had done something bad, but it had slowly become permanent in his later years. Dad & I looked at each other, knowing what we had to do and, reluctantly, did; each of us positioning ourselves on either end of our friend, and then lifting, never mentioning the ease we navigated out the back door and outside.

We walked down the path to the driveway, all three of us ignoring how wonderful the weather was even though only one was going blind. As we walked through the yard we passed the former location of a small tree Bandit would chew while teething, eventually tearing it down one day and running around the yard with it. We placed him in the back, the seats where rolled down, and a white bed sheet spread out with pillows; Dad & I closing the trunk hatch slowly as not to spook him, then climbing into the front to begin the drive.

Dad drove slower than normal, the Red Sox dog tag he hung from the rear-view mirror, which would usually tumble back and forth, was almost stationary. As we cruised along, I recalled the rides Bandit would come along for, always darting from window to window, and then sticking his head between the two front seats to lick whosever face he could get to first. After some time I glanced over to dad, still driving slowly, staring forward, his eyes shifting from the road to the rear-view. I looked out the window and noticed us passing the street where Bandit was hit by a car, having run out the yard after a roofer, who was working on our house, had left the front gate open. I pointed it out to Dad and he recalled the story with zeal, chuckling at the part where the lady who had hit Bandit got out of the car and ran over to him, only for Bandit to get right up and lick her hand.

We pulled into the parking lot. Dad said he was going in to talk to the secretary, told me to stay with Bandit, then left. I unclipped my seatbelt and climbed into the back and sat next to him. His fur was graying, and his breath was heavy. I started to pet the top of his head and back, his tail began to wag. I moved closer to lie next to him, placing my head on his front paws and he licked my nose. I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him behind his ears, as I did when we first got him thirteen years ago, whispering my goodbyes.

The hatch opened and dad gestured in the direction we were to bring him. I hopped out and we lifted once again, going into the vet through a back door which a nurse held open. We brought him into a small examining room, placing him upon a hydraulic, steel table which doubled as a weight. The nurse said she would return, closing the door behind her. We stood in front of the table; dad petting Bandit’s back, then glancing at the digital display and commenting on how much weight Bandit had lost over the past year. He then bend down and put his face to Bandit’s, kissing his nose and receiving a lick in return.

There was a knock at the door; it was the nurse from before, walking in quietly with a coworker who carried the tools which would give our friend his mercy, setting them on top of the counter behind us. Dad asked about the chemicals and the nurse gave a gentle explanation, “There’s two chemicals,” she said, “One makes him fall asleep, while the other puts him… to sleep. It should take no more than thirty seconds, with no pain.” Dad nodded, petting our friend’s head once more, I began to hold one of his front paws. The nurses braced a hind leg, and met no resistance as they injected the syringe. Suddenly Bandit let out a sigh, every muscle easing, his head lowering onto the table. “Just like that?” said dad, his hand resting atop Bandit’s still back, “Rest easy, boy, rest easy.”

The nurses left us to our last goodbyes. I removed his collar as dad took care of the cremation details at the desk. He returned shortly after and we stayed with our old pal a little while longer, admiring his peaceful demeanor. The two of us left through the same door we arrived in. As we drove dad handed me a napkin which I promptly blew my nose with and then I sunk back into the seat, my head against the rest.

Once more I stared out the window, the outside fading into a memory of the first night, returning from the pet shop with our new dog sitting in my lap as we thought of what to name it. “How about Clint?” suggested dad; Clint Eastwood was always a favorite of his. “Never mind,” he retorted moments later, “Doesn’t sound right for a dog.” We passed illuminated store signs, headlights zooming by us as the pup stared attentively outward, viewing a world he had not before. “How ‘bout ‘Bandit’?” I said, it being a vocab. word I had at the time. “’Bandit’…” said dad approvingly, “Now, that’s a good name for a dog.”