To all the dog lovers. This is well worth taking the time to 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, 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.
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..
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 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.
direction after the fourth or fifth time I said it, but then he'd just go back to doing whatever.
This just wasn't going to work. He chewed a couple shoes and some unpacked boxes.
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.
Whoever Gets My Dog:
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
I trained Reggie with small food treats.
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.
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.
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 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 take 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 have to give up Tank in order to do it, 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. 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,
I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope.
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 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?"
"Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?"
And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.