Bandit, part of the Gwinnett Jail Dogs program, has been adopted four times since 2014. Each time, however, he returned to the jail and was placed back up for adoption.
The 11 or 12-year-old Chow mix is no ordinary dog. He is paralyzed from the waist down and gets around with a wheelchair, requiring extra care and attention.
Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Shannon Volkodav said that after the fourth time he was adopted and returned she began to think that perhaps Bandit was meant to be the jail’s mascot.
But Wednesday was a bittersweet day for everyone at the jail who had come to know Bandit over the years. His fifth family, Darrell and Sue Rider, picked him up from the jail to take him to what will hopefully be his forever home.
Unlike other people who have adopted Bandit in the past, Darrell understands what it’s like to be in a wheelchair. He is also paralyzed from the waist down.
“He is me,” Darrel said. “... Going through what I went through in my life and growing up, life wasn’t easy but you just have to continue to move forward. The things that I have read about Bandit, the videos that we saw kind of had the same mindset that I have so to me it just felt like it was the right thing to do. It was a good fit to make sure that he really had somebody who understood him.”
Darrell Rider said it was easy to fall in love with Bandit, but he understood that making the decision to adopt him required him to dig deeper and really consider what he would need in terms of care. What Bandit needed, he said, was a family that has been through the same things.
“We're not going into this blindfolded,” Darrell said. “If we really felt like we couldn’t give him that final home and that support that he’s going to need, we wouldn’t be here today. The biggest thing is just that disabilities are what they are. When you look at him, he just keeps me motivated and keeps me going every day. We couldn’t wait until this day happened. To see that every day and to be able to have him there, I just couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Sue said she was anxious for Bandit to meet their other dogs, now Bandit’s siblings.
“Any of our rescue dogs we’ve had, the ones that have liked Darrell and his chair, have been great dogs for us,” she said. “The ones that were skittish of him we didn’t opt for. But we couldn’t ask for better dogs than we have and we’re so excited to let him live his last however long he gets to be with us.”
As Bandit walked out of the jail Wednesday afternoon, his permanent handler at the jail, Brandon Tredo, hugged him goodbye and shed a few tears. He said they had worked together for four months, as well as for some time last year.
“He’s my best friend,” Tredo said. “He loves treats. He loves dogs. He loves me. I love him. I’m really glad he’s going to another home. I do truly believe that he is going to a forever home, but at the same time my heart is broken just a little bit. This is a bittersweet day that’s for sure.”
Volkodav said there are currently 34 dogs in the Jail Dog program, as well as several cats. The program started in 2010 when Sheriff Butch Conway partnered with the Society of Humane Friends of Georgia, which assumes financial responsibility for all of the animals and oversees the adoption process.
“The dogs are pulled from the Gwinnett Animal Welfare and Enforcement, and we try to pull the dogs that have been there for a while, that are getting closer to being euthanized,” she said. “They come here and live with one of the inmates…. The dogs are trained in obedience, vaccinated, microchipped, spayed and neutered, and placed for adoption to the general public.”
To date, 750 dogs and 80 cats have been adopted out of the program. For more information, visit www.JailDogs.org.