This is a great story...worth
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
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.
I saw the sealed envelope. I had
completely forgotten about that. "Okay, Reggie," I said out
loud, "let's see if your previous owner has any advice."
____________ _________ _________
To Whomever 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. He
knew something was different.
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 hoards 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 them, so be careful. Don't do it by any roads.
Next, commands. Reggie knows the
obvious ones ---"sit," "stay," "come," "heel."
He knows hand signals, too: He
knows "ball" and "food" and "bone" and "treat" like nobody's
Feeding schedule: twice a day,
regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.
He's up on his shots. Be
forewarned: Reggie hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the
car. I don't know how he knows when it's time to go to the vet,
but he knows.
Finally, give him some time. 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
And that's why I need to share one
more bit of info with you...His name's not 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.
But if someone is reading this ... well it means that his new
owner should know his real name. His real name is "Tank."
Because, that is what I drive.
I told the shelter that they
couldn't make "Reggie" available for adoption until they
received word from my company commander. You 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 to the shelter ... in the
"event" ... to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption.
Luckily, my CO 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.
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,
too, and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way
If I have to give up Tank to keep
those terrible people from coming to the US I am glad to have
done so. He is 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.
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 him a
good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight - every night -
____________ _________ _________
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
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.
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
"It's me now, Tank, just you and
me. Your old pal gave you to me." Tank reached up and licked my
"So whatdaya say we play some
ball?" His ears perked again.
"Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?"
Tank tore from my hands and
disappeared into the next room. And when he came back, he had
three tennis balls in his mouth.