He started his life as a little puppy that nobody wanted, but now he's 155 pounds of therapeutic comfort and his name is Bandit.  

He started his life as a little puppy that nobody wanted, but now he’s 155 pounds of therapeutic comfort and his name is Bandit.

“I think anyone who has come into contact with Bandit would agree, that just a few minutes with him changes your day for the better,” said Kelly Brownfield, Bandit’s owner.

Bandit is a 2-year-old European Blue Great Dane and stands almost four feet tall.

Brownfield saved Bandit from a puppy mill situation. He was born with a deformed front leg, growth on his neck and had mange.

His life is much different now. He has been working as a therapy dog for a year.

“He has been able to touch more hearts than I ever imagine he would at the beginning of the journey,” Brownfield said.

Bandit received his therapy certifications through Therapy Dog Inc., which is an organization that has been around since 1990 and currently has more than 12,000 handler/dog teams throughout the United States.

“He had to go through several one-on-one tests with Susan Hinkle, who is one of Therapy Dog, Inc. testers. She tested him in different scenarios to ensure he fit the profile of a therapy dog and once she gave the all clear, Bandit has been going full speed ahead trying to touch as many life’s as he can,” Brownfield said.

Susan Hinkle, Missouri Patriot Paws coordinator and Therapy Dog, Inc. tester said at this time there are 40 therapy dogs working in the area.

Hinkle said one look at Bandit and she knew he was special.

“He just looks like a wise old man. I have probably tested 100 dogs to become therapy dogs with Therapy Dog Inc. We have a lot of good therapy dogs but Bandit is a great therapy dog. I knew it the first time I tested him,” Hinkle said.

Brownfield said she takes Bandit to visit several places each week. She is the Fort Leonard Wood USO Center director, so during USO operational hours Bandit can often times be found there, where his official title is USO Comfort Dog.

“At the USO alone, Bandit comes into contact with nearly 1,500 troops weekly, some who haven’t seen their own dog in several months who just grasp a hold of Bandit, many shedding a few tears as they remember their own dog who they had to leave at home,” Brownfield said. “You can find him at the St. James Veterans Home on Wednesdays. One veteran in particular, John Kinsley, waits for Bandit to arrive in the front lobby every Wednesday, so he can have first dibs on Bandit and helps escort me throughout the facility and he does so because he knows first hand just how much it means to have him there.”

Brownfield said Bandit also visits the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital.

“He especially enjoys his time in the emergency room where he often has a chance to provide comfort to a young child in need of a distraction and if there are no patients, I think many staff members ranging from the ER to the maternity unit would agree, that Bandit has been a great morale booster not only for the patients, but for the staff,” Brownfield said.

“What makes Bandit special, is his ability to know what someone needs, from resting his head on your lap to leaning on you to let you know he is there for you, to allowing anyone to hug him, he let’s you take all the time you want and he won’t pull back, he is simply there to be loved and to make a difference,” she said.

Right now, Bandit is a contestant in the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards.

The American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards were created in 2010 to celebrate the remarkable bond between dogs and people.

“We have started a Facebook Page for Bandit, which has a direct link to his voting page. Remember you can vote once a day for every email you have until voting closes. You can find Bandit on Facebook by typing in ‘Vote For Bandit,’” Brownfield said.

To learn more about the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards and vote for Bandit visit www.herodogawards.org/.contestants/?nominee=58779771.