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September 21, 2009

Adopting can be Rewarding!

Great Dog Story and  well worth the reading!!!!!

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

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

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."....  .....

____________ _________ _________  _________

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

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

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

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's  not

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

His real name  is Tank.

Because that is  what  I

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

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

Thank you,  Paul

____________  _________ _________ _______

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

"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.