Marianne Van Osch (Patrick Davies, 100 Mile Free Press photo)

Ghost dog finds home, lease on life

Marianne Van Osch guest column

One bitter cold November night, something was moving down the steep, moonlit road above our house. It walked slowly, with a strange hesitancy. As it came into the light from a street lamp, I could see that it was a tall black dog in terrible condition. It was only as wide as its backbone, with hair stretched tightly over ridges of ribs. It wandered from one side of the road to the other, unsteady on its thin legs.

I had been hearing about the dog from neighbours who had seen him for several weeks and had tried to get him to come closer. But he had remained elusive, would run when approached. He had eaten some food left out for him, but had ignored other attempts to feed him. He was often seen on yard cameras, wandering through.

Then one evening near the end of November, Garry Emslie’s little dog Watson began to bark. An answer came from under the back porch of Emslie’s house. When Watson would bark, the dog would answer.

“I think they had met at some time and the dog had followed Watson home,” Emslie said. “When I looked under the porch, I could see his eyes. I got some kibble in a container and shook it gently. He crawled out, ate it, then went back underneath. I fed him again in an hour or so and again he went back under the porch.

READ MORE: Watching the birds help us fight ‘Midwinter Jickers’

“I thought ‘well, I think we’re getting somewhere.’ I went out to my workshop and left the door open. He followed me right into the shop. And to my surprise, he was so friendly and affectionate. I think he had had enough of wandering.”

Emslie was appalled at the state the dog was in.

“He was incredibly emaciated. I don’t think he had much longer, maybe a week. I fed him as much as he could handle for several days and then took him to a vet. The vet said he was in bad shape, still weighed only 17 kg even after the amount of food he had been eating, and that I should continue to feed him as much as possible. The vet estimated his age at between three and five-years-old.

“I called my granddaughter Sophia to see if she could come up with a name for him. I told her that he’d been ‘on the lam’ for some time. She looked up ‘lam’ and said his name should be Bandit. And so Bandit it is.”

Bandit had certainly found the right house and the right man to save him from an unhappy ending. Much of Garry Emslie’s life has been about working with animals, from growing up one of eight children on an Alberta farm to acquiring and caring for a variety of animals for the Petting Farm at the PNE through the 1980s and 90s.

Bandit is now a strong, healthy dog. He has beautiful markings, a mix of collie and rottweiler, and weighs about 23 kg. He’s very vocal and over-the-top happy with his new family, bounding around in the snow, with his tail wagging and a big smile on his face.

Emslie suggests that people be aware of dogs who appear to be roaming aimlessly around their neighbourhoods. They may be lost or abandoned. There are many ways to help them and resources for finding out if someone is looking for them.

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