Because they’ve been so removed from their wild ancestors, domesticated dogs typically can’t last long without the comforts of human companionship. Yet, despite many thousands of years of relying on people, they do still possess innate animal instincts that can come in handy in a pinch.
Take the story of Bandit, a three-year-old black Labrador that escaped from an animal hospital in his hometown of Gardiner, New York. He’d lived in a home his entire life, so after a year of being missing, things didn’t look good. Then, an incredible thing happened…
In October of 2016, Bandit, a then-two-year-old black Labrador retriever, was brought by his owner to the local animal hospital in their hometown of Gardiner, New York. While there, however, the crafty pooch managed to escape from the facility.
Bandit’s family searched far and wide for their beloved pup; all to no avail. The woods where he’d escaped were impossibly deep, and the chances of locating him there dwindled by the day.
Bandit’s family couldn’t stand the thought of him being lost in the woods all alone. Without any previously learned survival skills, managing to live from day to day would be far from easy for the young dog…
As the months dragged on, a few pedestrians mentioned seeing a lone black dog wandering in the woods, but no one was ever able to track him down to find out if he was okay. That all changed, however, in March of 2018…
A concerned motorist spotted a dog that looked an awful lot like Bandit and managed to get close enough to see that he was still wearing his tags. Clearly, the stray needed help, whoever it was, so the person called Nicole Asher of Buddha Dog Rescue and Recovery.
After receiving the call, Nicole knew she had to act fast, especially since she figured the dog was going to retreat back into the woods. “We went and set up a trap and surveillance camera in the woods immediately,” she explained of her plan.
“When I heard he was wearing a collar, I couldn’t wait to find out who he really was and where he came from. I was hopeful we could reunite him with his family,” Nicole added. Would she be able to find Bandit?
With the help of her DIY surveillance system, Nicole managed to track the pup for the next few days. She even brought a variety of toys, bones, and food for him to eat. Still, he didn’t fall for her trap…
Growing frustrated with the lack of success in capturing the dog, Nicole decided to place a fenced enclosure in the woods, put treats in it, and wait for him to waltz inside. Would her crazy plan actually work?
At first, the dog seemed a bit put off by the appearance of the new trap. “He was very skittish, so everything new we’d introduce to his area would spook him,” Nicole remembered. Thankfully, that was about to change.
After about five days, the stray finally seemed to be comfortable with the enclosure. Slowly but surely, he began inching his way through the doorway, though never fully entering…
“Watching his antics on video were a constant source of amusement,” Nicole recalled. “He would chase the critters away from his enclosure, play with toys that we left for him and do his little playful dance in front of the enclosure.”
Whenever any other wild animals showed an interest in his food, the pup was quick to scare them off. “He’d stand there barking with his chest puffed out and tail high. He was always so proud that he chased them off. You could tell he was such a character,” Nicole said.
As March was drawing to a close, Nicole began to fear that the dog would never enter the enclosure completely. Then, just when hope was nearly lost, he decided to walk right inside. Her plan had worked!
At that, Nicole rushed into the woods as quickly as possible. She was incredibly anxious to meet him in person for the first time. When she arrived, she took one look at his collar and called his owner to let them know she’d found him. Lo and behold, it was Bandit!
Unfortunately, Bandit’s family claimed they were no longer able to care for him. “Their lifestyle had changed and they just couldn’t take him,” Nicole mentioned. “They surrendered him to us right away. Apparently this wasn’t the first time he’d ran away for a long period of time, either.”
Bandit was taken in by a partner of Nicole’s rescue called Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge in Oakland, New Jersey. Aside from a tick-born illness, the veterinarian there was shocked to find that he didn’t appear to be underweight or malnourished at all.
In fact, he was a totally healthy weight, something they attributed to him choosing to live in a section of the woods where hunters often left scraps of meat. Still, everything wasn’t perfect, as Bandit remained very skittish.
Despite his being uncomfortable around humans, the veterinarians still had high hopes that Bandit would start to warm up to them, especially since Nicole mentioned how playful he’d been in the woods.
“You can tell that he is a silly, lovable boy on the inside,” Nicole explained. “His story is amazing and I think he’s given a ton of people hope who have lost dogs out there. They’re very resilient and smarter than we give them credit for.”
He might not have been trained on how to survive in the wilderness, but Bandit certain found it within himself to learn how to live. Hopefully he found a loving home!
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