Dog Story

This is one of the most touching stories you will ever read.


They told me the big black Lab's name was Reggie as I looked at him lying in his pen.  the shelter  was clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly.I'd only been in  the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college  town, people were welcoming and open. Everyone waves when you  pass them on the street.

But something was still missing  as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn't hurt.  Give me someone to talk to. And I had just seen Reggie's advertisement on the local news.  The shelter said  they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn't look like "Lab people,"  whatever that meant. They must've thought I  did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged  me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad,  bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his  dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner.  See, Reggie  and I didn't really hit it off when we got home.  We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust  to his new home).  Maybe it was the fact that I was trying  to adjust, too.  Maybe we were too much alike.

For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls - he wouldn't go anywhere without two stuffed in his mouth) got tossed in with all of my  other unpacked boxes.  I guess I didn't really think he'd  need all his old stuff, that I'd get him new things once he settled in. but it became pretty clear pretty soon that he wasn't going to.

I tried the normal commands the shelter told me  he knew, ones like "sit" and "stay" and "come" and "heel," and he'd  follow them - when he felt like it.  He never really seemed  to listen when I called his name - sure, he'd look in my direction  after the fourth of fifth time I said it, but then he'd just go back to  doing whatever.  When I'd ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly obey.

This just wasn't going to  work.  He chewed a couple shoes and some unpacked boxes. I was a little too stern with him and he resented it, I could  tell. The friction got so bad that I couldn't wait for the two weeks  to be up, and when it was, I was in full-on search mode for my  cellphone amid all of my unpacked stuff.  I remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guest room, but I also mumbled, rather  cynically, that the "dog probably hid it on me."

Finally I found it, but before I could punch up  the shelter's number, I also found his pad and other toys from the  shelter..  I tossed the pad in Reggie's direction and he snuffed  it and wagged, some of the most enthusiasm I'd seen since bringing him  home.  But then I called, "Hey, Reggie, you like that?   Come here and I'll give you a treat."  Instead, he sort of  glanced in my direction - maybe "glared" is more accurate - and then gave a discontented sigh and flopped down.  With his back to  me.

Well, that's not going to do it either, I thought.  And I punched the shelter phone number.

But I hung up when I saw the sealed envelope.   I had completely forgotten about that, too. "Okay, Reggie,"  I said out loud, "let's see if your previous  owner has any advice.".......

Whoever  Gets My Dog:

Well, I can't say that I'm happy you're reading this, a  letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie's new  owner. I'm not even happy writing it.  If you're reading this,  it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab after  dropping him off at the shelter.  He knew something was  different.  I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them  by the back door before a trip, but this time... it's like he knew  something was wrong.  And something is wrong... which is why I  have to go to try to make it right.

So let me tell you  about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he  with you.

First, he loves tennis balls. the more the  merrier.  Sometimes I think he's part squirrel, the way he hordes them.  He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there.  Hasn't done it yet.  Doesn't matter where you throw them, he'll bound after it, so be careful - really  don't do it by any roads.  I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.

Next, commands.  Maybe  the shelter staff already told you, but I'll go over them again:  Reggie knows the obvious ones - "sit," "stay,"  "come," "heel."  He knows hand signals: "back" to turn around  and go back when you put your hand straight up; and "over" if you put  your hand out right or left.  "Shake" for shaking water off, and "paw" for a high-five.  He does "down" when he feels like lying down - I bet you could work on that with him some more.  He  knows "ball" and "food" and "bone" and "treat" like  nobody's business.

I trained Reggie with small food treats.  Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of
hot dog.

Feeding schedule:  twice a day, once about seven in the morning, and again at six in the evening.  Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.

He's up  on his shots. Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info  with yours; they'll make sure to send you reminders for when he's due.  Be forewarned:  Reggie hates the vet. Good luck  getting him in the car - I don't know how he knkows when it's time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some  time. I've never been married, so it's only been Reggie and me for his whole life.  He's gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can.  He sits well in the  backseat, and he doesn't bark or complain.  He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.

Which means that this transition is going to be hard, with him going to live with someone new.

And that's why I need to share one more  bit of info with you....

His name's  not Reggie.

I don't know what made me do it, but when  I dropped him off at the shelter, I told them his name was Reggie.  He's a smart dog, he'll get used to it and will respond  to it, of that I have no doubt.  but I just couldn't bear to give them his real name.  For me to do that, it seemed so final, that handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting that I'd never see him again.  And if I end up coming  back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, it means everything's fine.  But if someone else is reading it, well... well it means  that his new owner should know his real name.  It'll help you bond with him.  Who knows, maybe you'll even notice a change in his demeanor if he's been giving you problems.

His real name  is Tank. Because that is what  I drive.

Again, if you're reading this and you're  from the area, maybe my name has been on the news.  I told the shelter that they couldn't make "Reggie" available for adoption until they received word from my company commander.  See, my parents  are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could've left Tank with... and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq, that they make one phone call the the shelter... in the "event"... to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption.  Luckily, my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was  headed.  He said he'd do it personally.  And if you're reading this, then he made good on his word.

Well, this  letter is getting to downright depressing, even though, frankly, I'm  just writing it for my dog.  I couldn't imagine if I was writing it for a wife and kids and family.  but still, Tank  has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family.

And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me.

That unconditional love from a dog is what I took with me to Iraq as an inspiration to  do something selfless, to protect innocent people from those who  would do terrible things... and to keep those terrible people from coming over here.  If I had to give up Tank in order to do it, I  am glad to have done so.  He was my example of service and of love.  I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that's enough. I deploy this  evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter.  I don't  think I'll say another good-bye to Tank, though.  I cried too much the first time. Maybe I'll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.

Good luck with Tank.  Give hima good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight - every night - from  me.

Thank you,  

Paul Mallory

I  folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope.  Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new  people like me.  Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and  posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save  three buddies.  Flags had been at half-mast all  summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows  on my knees, staring at the dog.

"Hey, Tank," I said  quietly.

The dog's head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.

"C'mere boy."

He was  instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor.   He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn't heard in months.

"Tank," I  whispered.

His tail swished.

I kept  whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered,  his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment  just seemed to flood
him.  I stroked his ears, rubbed his  shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged  him.

"It's me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal  gave you to me."  Tank reached up and licked my cheek.  "So  whatdaya say we play some ball?  His ears perked  again.
"Yeah?  Ball?  You like that? Ball?"  Tank  tore from my hands and disappeared in the next room.

And  when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his  mouth.

The story may not be literal truth doesn't prevent it from being figurative truth. Those who serve overseas do so at the cost of great personal sacrifice. A tale such as this literal truth or not serves to remind us all of how much they give and how much we owe them.