Posted on August 21, 2009. Filed under: Inspirational... |

OK…technically, this story is not true, but I’m sure there are lots of dog owners who have the same special bond with their 4-legged friend as this fictitious man had, those who consider their dogs a part of their family.  I’m posting it here in the hopes that it will warm your soul the way it did mine.  Enjoy…
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 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 "d**n dog probably hid it from 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."………

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

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

His name is 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 to the
shelter…in the "event"… to tell them that Tank could be put up for

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

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
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 brightened.

"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.


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