While living in the Texas Hill Country and going to school with girls that raised and showed their own Steer, barrel raced their prize-winning Quarter Horses and shot and skinned their own Deer, I wanted a baby Lamb to raise.Our 16 acres weren’t suitable for a horse pasture without a lot of expensive land clearing. I settled on a Lamb but that idea was quickly shot down because a Coyote would probably get it. I knew that was logical but I was feeling depressed. I was a teenaged girl trying to acclimate to country life. I had joined FFA. I wore cowboy boots and went “coon huntin” on the regular with the boys. Field parties abounded. I was a hick. I was happy to be a hick.Still, I wanted an animal of my own to cement my place in the country lifestyle. I needed Horses, I needed Hogs, I needed Steers. My parents wouldn’t budge.
What I did get was a Border Collie and two Roosters named Floyd and Lloyd. Bandy the Border Collie was like an extension of myself. She came along just when I needed a friend the most and although she was “just a dog”, she’ll always be counted as one of the best friends I ever had. Ranchers are notorious for letting their “work dogs” ride unsafely in the back of their pick-ups. One day as my parents were making their daily sixteen mile drive in to “town”, my mother spied a black and white dog on the side of the road. They pulled over and as my Mother approached, she saw that the dog was bleeding badly from just above her right eye. My Mother said that as soon as she made eye contact with the dog, “she knew she was meant for me”. When they brought her home, it was love at first sight. I loved her and she loved me. An attachment was formed in seconds, an instant. We did the right thing and posted flyers but somehow, beyond the fear that she’d be taken away, I knew that she was home. At first I called her Shadow because she never left my side. In a few short days that name would change to “Bandy” because she would accompany me to the Dance Hall that my Dad had opened just a few short yards from our house. It was a family business. We were all in. As we cleaned, stocked beer and loaded the Nacho machine with “cheese” in preperations for a Rodeo followed by a dance, Shadow was busy cozying up to to the bands that were booked for the night. Although they were occupied by sound checks and rehearsals, they, like me, couldn’t resist her charms. She was given the name ‘Bandy’ but ‘Groupie’ probably would have also fit. She herded me, she herded my sister’s babies and she herded the chickens “Floyd and Lloyd”. She barked only two times. The first time was when my 1st Nephew was crying in his crib. He was inside and she was outside. She was so concerned that she broke through the screen door and was immediately by his side. The second time she barked was during a late, dark night that my Mother and I were cleaning the Dance Hall. The unusual sound of her bark was so jarring that we were forced to look up from our work, only to see a strange man with his face pressed up against the glass. Bandy’s face was in his and he quickly fled.
I left home when I was eighteen and got a crappy apartment with a crappy boyfriend. Bandy was always on my mind. At first I couldn’t afford the pet deposit but bound to have her with me, I squirreled the deposit away. I didn’t even have my own phone and my end tables were cardboard boxes covered with fabric. I called my Mother from a payphone to tell her that Bandy could finally come and live with me. Her voice cracked and she whispered the news tha Bandy had been hit by a car and killed. My knees gave in and I wailed without apology or embarassment while reduced to a crumpled position in the phone booth.
My best friend had died. She died while crossing the highway to go chase cows in the neighbor’s pasture. Bandy had never done this while I was living at home. She contented herself to lie beside me and steal all of the covers. When I was a younger teenager, I would go to sleep-aways. Bandy would always go on a hunger strike and only eat when I called to check in. Like clockwork, my Mom would press the phone to her ear and as soon as I would say “Bandy, go eat”. She would go and eat. My approval of her was the only sustenance she needed.
My best friend died while I was discovering myself. She existed to please me. I was her charge and once that was taken away from her, she merely exhisted.
She “got me”. Bandy wasn’t a licker. I’ve never been a fan of a ‘licking dog’. Still, when I was sad, she’d wrap her paws around my neck and hug me like she meant it. This wasn’t a trained reaction. I honestly don’t know where it came from but “Bandy Hugs’ were the best form of therapy.She just seemed to know when I needed a hug.
I have a dog now. It took me years to take the plunge in to adopting another dog. She’s not he brightest but she loves her people. She’ll never read my mind like Bandy did. but she appreciates a good belly-rub, will melt at the prospect of a doggy massage and is happiest to be under the feet of “her people”.