Jun 26 2015

Thank You Bandit – A Story Of Animal Love

Bandit Curled Up


Warning: This is not a story about horses. It is a personal story about an animal, a pet of mine – that I decided to share with the animal lovers that follow our website.

I have been an animal lover my entire life, especially cats and dogs. I’ve had everything from Siamese cats to Saint Bernards (two at one time, in a mobile home). This story is about my latest, a beautiful white and black cat named Bandit. The photos make it fairly obvious how he got his name. Like many of my pets we rescued him from an animal shelter as a kitten. At the time we had a beagle, named Oscar, who was the family dog for nearly all of our kid’s childhood.

Bandit on Oscars Bed

Bandit on Oscar’s Bed

As the photo to the side shows, Bandit was not intimidated by Oscar, and within a short time had booted him from his own “dog” bed. Oscar was older, and mostly just ignored Bandit. So Bandit turned to the family members for attention. Bandit was the ultimate lap cat, looking for and settling for any lap that he could find. We initially called him a “lap slut” because he would select the most convenient lap with no allegiance to any of us.

But as the years passed, he got smarter about choosing a lap. Whenever he entered the living room you could see his mind go quickly into action – sizing up his options.

  • Deb: nice lap, but she never sits still for more than five minutes. Not worth the trouble.
  • Courtney: she’s always reading a book, not much room for me. Next.
  • Michael: not a bad choice, stays put longer than mom, doesn’t like to read as much, so room for me, but sometimes turns on his side, not as comfortable. Backup choice.
  • Dad: always has legs up on the ottoman, making for a perfect lap, rarely moves once he sits on the couch, and is prone to fall asleep. On top of that, he is the one person that will continuously stroke my fur … I like that.

Usually after being on my lap for awhile, Bandit would stretch out his front paws and exhale, making an audible “sigh” of sheer pleasure. His evening was made.

Bandit Playcat Pose3

Aside from laps, Bandit’s next favorite location was the window next to my desk. Sometimes he would sleep in a bed I placed there for him, enjoying a summer breeze. But, when the sun was shining brightest, he’d lie inside the window sill, giving his best pose for “Playcat” magazine. Other times he’d sit facing out the window, providing the inhabitants of the house with complete security that the grounds were under surveillance. No vermin were going to get to us.

Bandit on My Lap

Bandit on my lap.

In recent months I’ve been dealing with multiple health issues, confining me to the house for much of the time, mostly existing between the bed and the couch. Needless to say, Bandit and I spent even more time together.

On May 1st, I had some surgery that involved a very painful recovery. For a few days, I would lie in bed, and just cry into my pillow. Unfortunately, due to the location of the surgery, I was afraid to allow Bandit to come into the bedroom and lay on me as he was accustomed to doing. But after a few days, I let him in. He knew I was in pain and vulnerable, so instead of laying on my midsection, he got into the habit of lying beside me and then extending his paws onto my chest. As long as he was touching me, he was ok with that, even if it wasn’t the “perfect” lap.

A few weeks after the surgery, as I was beginning to feel better, I was walking around the backyard taking some photos of flowers. I bent the wrong way to get a photo of an Iris. I felt a “pop” in my back and was instantly in extreme pain. I tried ice, and heat, and lots of ibuprofen. The only relief I found was lying on my left side with an ice pack up against my back.

Once again, Bandit had to adjust. He now would lie down parallel to my chest. But, since he wasn’t touching me, he kept extending his paws up to my face. Knowing he wanted to be touched, I brought my right arm over and laid it on top of him, basically hugging him. As first he was a bit uncomfortable with the weight of my arm on him, but he adapted again. And after a few minutes, he exhaled with an audible sigh. And there we lay together for the next three weeks.

I recall one time we were lying together and Deb came into the room to check on me. As she stood over the top of us, Bandit cocked his head back and looked at her as if to say, “We’re just fine here, I’ve got this under control.” When she left the room, he tucked his head under my arm and we went back to sleep.

After about three weeks my back spasms started to go away, and I was feeling good enough to sit on the couch again, with my normal lap in place. But, something was wrong, Bandit only sat on my lap a couple of times and then he stopped coming to the couch. For the next few days, he was unusually off on his own, lying in odd places, like on a hard chair under a table, rarely used in Deb’s office.

Deb noticed that he wasn’t eating as much food. I looked in his mouth and thought I saw an abscess. So Deb took him to the Vet the next day. They took some blood and urine tests and called us a couple of hours later. Bandit had 75% renal failure. The Vet said he was shocked by how good Bandit looked on the outside, because internally he was suffering, badly. He said the most humane thing we could do was put him down and end his suffering.

The family went over to the Vet’s office to say our goodbyes to Bandit. I stroked his head and rubbed his fur. He had the softest fur of any cat I ever knew, like the texture of a bunny rabbit. I looked into his eyes and he did not have that look of fear that normally accompanied a visit to the Vet. His eyes were dull and resigned … and sad. All I could do was meekly whisper “I’m sooo sorry Bandit.”

As I sat on the couch that night, with an empty lap, a thought came to me. Had Bandit managed to mask his pain during my suffering in order to remain by my side? Had he held on just long enough … to see me showing signs of a recovery … finally, after all these months … a recovery. Did he feel that his job was done … and then decided to go off alone, so that I would not see him suffering? In hindsight, looking back to our final parting in the Vet’s office, what I should have said was “Thank you Bandit.”

Bandit on Lookout

Goodbye Bandit.

Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit

8 comments on “Thank You Bandit – A Story Of Animal Love

  1. Neal,

    There is criticism leveled at horse racing fans that we too often attempt to humanize the horses to explain our admiration for their efforts on the track and in Barbaro’s case, to justify the expressions of emotions that he cannot appreciate. I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist or veterinarian. In am simply a dog owner and racing fan who has anecdotally observed our now deceased yellow lab place himself next to my wife in a moment of grief without so much as a request or command.

    I have also observed horses change demeanor simply by the different speech patterns and physical posturing of different handlers.

    In the end, Bandit and all of our four legged companions provide comfort and assistance in ways humans may not, simply because they do not possess the cognitive abilities of fully developed humans. Breeding has created a codependency of certain animals and humans well documented through history. This codependency has given us the gift of bonds with pets as special as Bandit. Perhaps in this instance, the quotation, “When people say it’s just a horse, they JUST don’t understand.”, should replace “horse” with “cat”.

    Our condolences to your family on Bandit’s passing and continued well wishes for your speedy recovery.

    • Brigadoon,
      Thank you for your kind words and sentiments. Your comments are always poignant and in this case heartfelt. The whole experience left me feeling inadequate, in that I could not help my friend in the same manner that he helped me. He was always so full of life and a pleasure to be around. He loved the outdoors, both being outside and observing it from the window. At only 8 years old, we thought we had several more years of his company. Reminded me that you must fully enjoy and appreciate what you have … When you have it.

  2. Being a “cat person” who has also lost a 15 year companion to renal failure, I know the tears you have probably shed over the loss of Bandit. Thank you for sharing your story of unconditional love…and loss. My heart goes out to you.

  3. To the Benoit Family;
    Sincerist condolences.what a Pal, that Bandit ! Cats are so loyal and affectionate.you made me remember why these creatures are so enduring, Neal.thank you. Cats bring a real presence to a home. Bandit sounded like a wonderful part of the Benoit family.

  4. Wow Neal. Sorry for your loss buddy. I too loved that cat and Oscar.

    Thanks for sharing that story. And thanks a lot for making me cry on my couch.

    Hope to see ya soon. Man of Kent is still calling our names.

  5. Sorry for your loss, Neal. I have a few similar stories about compassion showed by my pets too. They have such keen senses. When I say that my best friend is a cat I also can say that my cats best friend is me. The same goes for my dogs. I consider it an honor. We have suffered through losses but we still add a new friend when the time is right. As an animal lover I’m sure you will too. We need them, they need us. Get well.

  6. I loved your tale and pictures of Bandit. I lost my first cat to kidney failure when he was 12 years old after taking him back and forth to the vet over a two month period. I am convinced he was holding on as long as he could for my benefit. Whenever he would see me coming towards him, he would struggle into a sitting position to greet me even though it was clear that he was in great pain. One morning, he looked me in the eye and from his expression, I could tell it was time to take him to the vet for the last time – his pain was too much – and I lost a great friend. It sounds like you were lucky enough to have a great friends too!

  7. Neal….I think I could almost sense your sorrow, in the way you described your last days with Bandit. Thank you for sharing a loving experience….Tony

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