Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Great Dog Story

I got this email today and could not help but to tear up while reading it. It is kinda long, but nonetheless a great story! Worth the 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 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 "darn 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  Reggies 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."....  .....
____________ _________ _________  _________
To 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 knows 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 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   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 him a 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  awarded  the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies.   Flags had been at half-mast for days.
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.

3 comments:

Kari said...

I teared up too!

Life, Love, and Labs said...

Hi Ashley! I'm your newest follower and (if you can't tell by my name) I'm a total "lab person." :) This absolutely put me in tears. What an amazing story... I cannot even fathom giving my Charley (my yellow lab) up. Thank you so much for sharing! I'm definitely passing this on!

whitney said...

This made me cry! I am using this on my blog! I am a HUGE dog person. We have 4 :) a sharpei-lab, a mix, and 2 yorkies. thank you for posting this!

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