By Sandi Moynihan

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Missouri—When Kelly Gist adopted Bandit three-and-a-half years ago, she didn’t expect him to become a healer.

Sickly, underweight and suffering from a number of health issues before adoption, the great dane pup looked like he needed more help than he would ever be able to give.

But as Bandit grew stronger and healthier, and started accompanying Gist to her job at USO Fort Leonard Wood, Gist saw Bandit was more than an average rescue dog.

“We would bring him into the USO, and as he grew, his interactions with the troops were unbelievable and we realized he had something else to give [and decided to train him as a therapy dog],” said Gist, the USO Fort Leonard Wood center director.

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Bandit the Therapy Dog sits on a bench after the USO of Missouri traveled laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Oct. 3.

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Bandit visits hospital visitors.

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Bandit visits with a military family.

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Bandit comforts hospital visitors.

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Bandit visits with a veteran.

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A contingent from the USO of Missouri including Bandit the Therapy Dog mingles after laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Oct. 3.

Whether it’s visiting patients at the hospital, comforting troops at the Warrior Transition Unit or hanging out with military families at USO Fort Leonard Wood, Gist says Bandit is always ready to comfort those in need.

“If anyone can spend five minutes with him, even two, they’ll realize the difference he can make in someone’s day,” Gist said.