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Bandit the dog steals fisherman’s heart, becomes everybody’s buddy

Charles Ivey was on his way back from Arkansas when he called Peggy in Gainesville, Ga., to check in. He’d been trout fishing on White River with a bunch of other guys, and his wife would be interested in what he was bringing home.
Usually it was a T-shirt, but this year he was bringing home a dog.
He really didn’t want him because that was the ugliest dog you’ve ever seen. He was dirty, and his ribs were practically touching in the middle, he was so malnourished. He’s white with a brown ring around his left eye. He looks like Petey, the mutt in the Little Rascals movies.
“I would’ve named him Petey,” Charles said, “but that sounded too sissy, so I named him Bandit because of that brown ring.”
Bandit, obviously abandoned or lost and with no ID, had been hanging around the boat dock on White River for about two weeks. The dock owner didn’t feed him, because he didn’t want him either.
But that dog was determined to go home with somebody. Charles was the victim. “But I told him on the way home, I said, ‘Now if you don’t work out, you could end up at the pound. You’re kind of on probation.’”
A few days later, Bandit was at the veterinarian’s office being checked out when Charles asked what kind of dog he was. “He ain’t no kind of dog,” the vet said. “He’s just a dog.”
But that was three years ago. Bandit is not just a dog any longer. In fact, Charles has slipped one notch on his wife’s priority list. He now comes after son Tim, four cats and one ugly dog. Bandit has his very own bed, and his bedfellow is one of the cats, a long-haired white feline named Beetle because he was born in a Volkswagen.
Wherever the master goes, Bandit goes. About a year ago, he was waiting in Charles’ truck while Peggy was in the hospital with dangerously high blood pressure, and the nurse told Charles, “Bring him in.” Bandit rode up the elevator, strolled into Peggy’s room, hopped up on the foot of her bed and stayed there all day. Peggy’s blood pressure eventually went down.
Bandit goes to church every Sunday, but he waits in the truck. He likes the singing, but not the preaching. He attends car shows with Charles and is mascot for the Old Friends Car Club.
Twice, Bandit has blown the truck’s horn repeatedly, surprising a few fellows hanging out. Once, while Charles was pumping gas at Freddie Harkins’ store, Bandit locked the doors. “That could’ve happened to anybody,” Charles said. The store owner drove Charles home to get his spare key.
“But everybody just loves Bandit,” Charles said, excusing his buddy.
Why, just last week, Charles entered Bandit in a calendar contest sponsored by the humane society. That ugly dog is almost pretty.
Who would have thought that a dog nobody wanted would become a dog everybody loves?

Phil Hudgins’ column is published in many newspapers around the Southeast.