The Great Bandit Adventure

Earlier this week I commented to my husband on how I couldnít understand how anyone who has ever experienced the enthusiasm of a beagle could not automatically know of the existence of God; in particular the 2 year old, 13 inch male beagle whose name is Bandit. He was enjoying winter break at Grandmaís house in the woods so his owner could go off fishing. Each day was a new event as he rushed to explore the fresh scent and tracks of the previous night. He would bounce from track to track with his white flag of a tail marking his travels across the snow. Upon catching a fresh scent of who knows what, perhaps a deer, rabbit, squirrel or even a mouse he would begin to howl and go into a frenzy. First he went one way then the other crisscrossing back and forth until he appeared to have not a clue of which way the imagined creature had actually gone. The weather was not especially cold but beagles having short hair are not willing to stay out all day in the snow. Besides Bandit loves people far too much to actually leave their company completely (or so I thought). So after awhile to the door he would come to announce that he would prefer to come back inside. He likes to nap on the couch as it is soft and also if need be he can easily check outside by standing up and peering out the window. His Grandmotherís house has many accessible windows to a spry little beagle who can so easily hop onto any bed, chair or sofa available. He especially likes to leap into the middle of 2 people sleeping and then slowly inch his way along their bodies until he has completely spread out and taken the entire middle of the bed therefore making it impossible for the other two bodies in the bed to find any comfort at all. Upon having had enough rest the beagle decides to lick anybody who has any skin available. This usually means he has to slither up to your pillow until he reaches your face and begins to wash it. So mostly this little creature is utterly irresistible which leads me to the pain of the following days.

The millenium celebrations were being planned by all. We chose to do our usual celebrating by having a nice dinner and a bottle of champagne. His owner planned a party with a keg of beer and the usual trimmings. The plan was for Bandit to end his winter getaway and be home for the party. On a balmy Thursday afternoon (for December) as Bandit was chasing one more phantom deer he diverted from his usual crisscross pattern of howling and reversing. Upon not hearing him I began to call him and promise him treats which has worked before. He did not come. I walked and drove through the neighborhood knowing surely he would be around the next turn. After 2 hours I was heartsick and had to let my son know. He came to find him to no avail. Being such a people dog he was sure somebody had taken him in for the evening. His tags bore my sonís phone number so he was not overly concerned. I however being a grandmother was devastated. All night I would look out windows hoping he had come back and that just maybe I didnít hear his bark. The next morning I called every neighbor, shelter and dog control officer that I could think of. I created flyers with his picture and place last seen. I distributed them all the while looking, hoping and praying that we would find him. That afternoon we took a long walk in the woods hoping to hear him howl. Nothing!! It was about 5PM New Yearís Eve 1999 when the phone rang. My son had received a phone call from some local snomobilers who had caught Bandit, saw his phone number but could not convince him to ride on the snowmobile. He was somewhere in the woods planning his own New Yearís celebration and it was getting dark. Now what?

The keg party was put on hold. The quiet dinner would not be enjoyed. I immediately went back to the woods and began to call over and over. Dusk turned into darkness. His owner and 3 friends arrived in two 4-wheel drive vehicles. They drove deep into the woods with spotlights. They called and walked and drove some more all to no avail. There were no beagle signs or sounds anywhere. The search was called off at 8PM and the partygoers left to salvage their plans. I tried in vain not to worry but could not focus on the biggest New Yearís of my life. It is a very large woods and in spite of his wonderful nose I could not figure out how this little buddy would ever get out. We went to bed but I mostly lay there plotting how I would just walk the woods all day until I heard him. I imagined dragging a shirt or pillowcase with my sonís scent on it in order to assist him in his search for home. After sleeping fitfully I woke on New Yearís Day saying yet another prayer to everyone, especially St. Francis. I decided to sit up and begin the dayís search. As I sat up in bed I caught sight of the beagle walking very determinedly down the driveway. I jumped up and shouted his arrival. We both met him at the door so enthusiastically that he crouched a little and was unsure of our joy. He seemed to be in good shape but eagerly accepted food and water after which he proceeded to take a long nap on the couch. This news could not wait. I called the party house, woke up the revelers and announced the good news. A groggy voice answered but all were relieved to hear about the homecoming

Grandmotherís puppy resort is closed for awhile. Iím not sure if there would have been any more walks in the woods had he not come home. I would always be wondering and searching. The woods could never have given me the peace that I depend on. Now as I hike among the trees I can imagine a deer, coyote, porcupine or some other wild animal drinking in the creek or curled up among the pines knowing that they are pretty much able to fend for themselves. I will always be grateful that someone answered my prayers and led Bandit back to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm

Nancy Denecke .