After being checked by a vet — he was found to be heartworm positive and his rescuers started him on treatment. Unfortunately, Bandit went through very rare and severe side effects and as a result, ended up losing the use of his back legs.
“At first we all assumed this was something acute or temporary,” a volunteer with the Gwinnett Jail Dogs Program, Lori Cronin, shared with The Dodo. “We were wrong. His condition not only persisted, it got worse.”
And due to the rare side effects from the treatment, Bandit’s lower half of his body was completely paralyzed. His handlers had to help the dog do everything at first, that is until the organization that helps run the jail program, Society of Humane Friends of Georgia, saved up enough money to purchase Bandit his very own wheelchair.
Bandit has spent the past four years with the Gwinnett Jail Dogs Program and has been adopted four times by four different families.
Sadly, each time he has been adopted, he has been returned as his families were not able to handle his disability.
Founded in 2010, the Gwinnett Jail Dogs Program pulls at-risk dogs from local shelters and houses them in jail with the inmates. Each dog is assigned to a primary handler and the handler is responsible for both caring and training said dog as long as they are in the program. The dogs also sleep in the handler’s room.
The inmates are taught on how to care and provide basic training to the doggos, along with information about general welfare practices by licensed trainers and animal professionals. Now, the program includes cats who are housed with female inmates in a different unit.
Despite being paralyzed, Bandit is adored in the program – with everyone saying the 8-year-old dog is one of the sweetest and happiest they have ever met.
“He is probably one of the most happy-go-lucky dogs in the program,” Cronin said. “He has never met a stranger and gets along well with the dogs in his unit. When coming inside to the unit after his daily outings in the yard with his handlers, he will literally run to the deputy’s desk looking for a handout (treat)! His handlers say he is a great dog to work with. They have taught him some pretty unique tricks since he is in a wheelchair. He does just about everything the other dogs do, if not more!”
While Bandit is able to get around in his wheelchair just fine, he does need lots of help going to the bathroom each day. It is said to be the main reason why he continues to get returned each time a family takes him in.
“People don’t realize what it takes to accommodate a special needs dog,” Cronin said. “He doesn’t always know when he is [going to the bathroom], but when kept to a schedule his handlers know [when he has to go] and can get him outside during that time of day. Keeping him on a schedule is what works best for him. He weighs 40ish pounds and has to be lifted in and out of his cart throughout the day so that makes it difficult on someone that is unable to pick him up.”
If you would like to help Bandit along with his friends at the Gwinnett Jail Dogs Program, click here.
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