Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wonderful Story - Tank

I do not normally post things like this. The following is a story that has been making the rounds in email. It serves as a nice reminder of what our service men and women give up when they deploy. We often think of their spouses and children, but how often do we think of their pets? What happens to them when they do not come home?

You may have read it already, but on the off chance you haven't. Enjoy

NOTE: You might want to grab a tissue or two.

Tank

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 "damn 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."

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 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 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 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.

**************

For those of you who are wondering if this story is true, Snopes.com checked it out and has rated it as 'false'. However the spirit of this story is...

See Reggie on Snopes

13 comments:

An English Shepherd said...

What a nice story.

Wizz :-)

Lynn said...

I don't care if it's not true. It's a wonderful story, whether real life or fiction. I bawled.

Emma Rose said...

Big tears!

The Thundering Herd said...

It may not be true, but what a great story. Here is a story that I can vouch to be true -

http://www.thethunderingherd.com/news/2009/04/09/salute/

PoochesForPeace said...

Like Snopes.com said, even if it isn't literal truth, there is no doubt in my mind it's figurative truth. Thanks for the tissue warning, I needed them!

Kathy said...

wow, I imagine it might not be a true story but I volunteer at the local shelter and every once in awhile -not often because most dogs that end up there do not seem to have had that great a bond with their families, but once in awhile I see dogs that are mourning really badly for their former owners-searching all over and looking expectantly every time a door opens and I wonder what brought them to this place in life and how this dog could end up in the shelter....I wonder if it is situations like this one????

Maryellen Riley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
meb219 said...

I don't understand why it's so touching or wonderful. The original owner, while honorable in his military service, chooses to put his beloved dog in a shelter rather than providing it a real home in his absence and deprives the shelter of using the dog's real name which would comfort the dog? A shelter that irresponsibly provides a home for the dog but does not read a letter that could influence his care? A new owner who decides to get a dog because it "couldn't hurt" and then proceeds not to provide the dog the comfort of his previous toys and irresponsibly forgets to read the note from the previous owner for 2 weeks? While the acts of service men and women may often be selfless, this story isn't an example of one of them -- the selfless and humane thing would have been to find the dog a real home before he left - one with a prepared owner who knew the dog's background from the start. And what's obvious from all of this is that this is pure fiction (snopes.com debunks it) and it was designed to manipulate your emotions.

BCxFour said...

Mary Ellen or MEB

Yes, I know snopes.com debunked it - which is why I included the link at the end of my post.

As a former member of the military and US Army wife for more years than I care to remember - I found the spirit of the story to be one that was touching. Not necessarily the actual logisitics or finer technical points.

However remember that most people in this world are not as sensitive about dog feelings and as educated about their behavior as we would like, which is why we, as rescuers, are so busy.

The POINT of the story was about sacrifice of our military.

That is what I found touching...and choose to overlook the other points - because I KNEW IT WAS FICTION.

meb219 said...

and my point was that this person, whether real or fictional, should be honored for his service to the country, but he didn't make the right sacrifice before he left which would have been to leave the dog in a real home with someone who knew his name...so why should we hold that up to praise when others have made better choices?

Lynn said...

Okay, meb219. Since this story is fiction, we can change it to suit us, right! How about this? The soldier had no friends or family and maybe had no time to arrange for a better home. And how about if we just forgive him for the little selfish act of the name change? Nobody's perfect! Especially FICTIONAL people! Look at the big picture of the message, don't get hung up on the details!

BCxFour said...

AMEN LYNN!

MaryEllen - I believe the story does state that he had no family and tried to find the dog a new home. AND did you know... many shelters surrounding military bases actually will care for pets of deploying soldiers (if no other home can be found & for a small cost) UNTIL they return. Which the story does say and then mentions the shelter had instructions to not place the dog until they were notified of his death.

If you have any experience with active duty military you know that they are far from home, most of their friends are active duty as well. Their friends who could take the dog are more than likely in the same unit which deploys together. All of this makes it very difficult for them to locate and find home for a pet. Which is why shelters are there. They are LAST RESORT - so why are you busting the nuts of some fictional person for being selfish and irresponsible for putting his dog in a shelter for them to care for him until he came home? At least he didnt leave him locked in an apartment to starve, or dump him on the side of the road.

The whole thing is a stretch of our imaginations. And you are correct it is designed to manipulate the emotions....SO WHAT?

sheepkelpie said...

Sometimes people get stuck in the letter aspect, and not the spirit. Meb, whomever you are, at the end, the dog found a loving home. Your reaction is rather like being at a wedding and remarking how cheap the bride's dress looks. Falls flat.