Jim was trying to settle into a new life in a small town, but something was missing. He was lonely. Then he saw a story in the local news about a dog at the local shelter that needed a home.
Jim went to see him. He was a big black Lab named Reggie. He said ‘Yes’ and took him home with him, along with Reggie’s belongings, consisting of a dog pad, his dishes, a bag of toys (mostly tennis balls), and a letter provided by his previous owner.
The shelter told him to give it two weeks for Reggie to adjust to his new situation. Jim really didn’t think he needed his old stuff and kind of tossed them aside, planning to get him new stuff once he settled in. The only exception was the tennis balls. He wouldn’t go anywhere without two of these balls stuffed in his mouth.
They were both trying to adjust, but things were not going well. They just weren’t hitting it off for some reason.
The shelter had told Jim that Reggie knew the normal commands like ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ ‘come,’ and ‘heel’ and he would obey if he felt like it. When Jim would call his name, he would give him a glance after the fourth or fifth time, but then just go back to whatever he was doing. When he would make the demand again, he might grudgingly obey.
Jim may have been a little too stern with him, and perhaps he resented it. He was at the point that he was looking forward to the end of the two-week trial.
Finally, the day arrived that marked the end of the trial. Jim was looking for his cell phone to call the shelter. When he found it, he also spotted his pad and other toys from the shelter. He tossed the pad towards Reggie, and he sniffed it and wagged his tail – probably the most enthusiasm he had seen from him since he came home with Jim. But when Jim told him to come, and he’d give him a treat, he simply flopped down with his back to him. That was it! Jim punched in the number for the shelter. Then he saw the letter. He had completely forgotten about it. So, he hung up, deciding to see if his former owner had any advice for him.
The letter read –
For Whoever Adopts My Dog:
I just finished my last car ride with my Lab, taking him to the shelter. It was so hard to leave him. He knew something was different. Yes, something is different this time, and I have to try to make it right. So, let me tell you about my dog so that hopefully it will help the two of you bond.
He loves tennis balls and the more, the better. He hordes them. He almost always has two in his mouth and keeps trying to get the third one in but hasn’t accomplished that yet.
The shelter probably told you Reggie knows the usual commands, like ‘sit,’ stay,’ ‘come’ and ‘heel.’ He also knows ‘shake’ when you want him to shake the water off himself and ‘paw’ for a high-five. He does ‘down’ when he feels like it so you will need to work on that one. He also knows ‘ball,’ ‘food,’ ‘bone’ and ‘treat.’
He knows some hand signals, too. When you put your hand straight up, he will turn around and go back. If you put your hand out to the right or the left, he will go the direction you point.
His feeding schedule has been twice a day at 7:00 a.m. and again at 6:00 p.m. I just used regular store-bought food and the shelter knows the brand I used.
Reggie’s shots are current but know that he hates the vet. Somehow he knows when it’s time for the vet so be prepared for trouble getting him to get in the car.
There has only been Reggie and me for his whole life. He went everywhere with me, so I hope you will take him with you for daily car rides. He sits well in the backseat. He loves to be around people.
I expect this transition is going to be hard for him, so I need to share something else with you.
His name is not Reggie. I don’t know why I did it, but when I dropped him off at the shelter that is the name I gave them. He’s smart and will get used to it, I think. For some reason, I just couldn’t bear giving them his real name. To do it, seemed so final, like me admitting I’d never see him again.
If someone is reading this, then it means I’m not coming back, and you will need to know his real name to help him bond with you. I am glad I don’t have to write a letter like this for a wife and kids, but Tank has been my family for the last six years. That’s almost as long as I have been in the Army. I call him ‘Tank’ because I drive one in the Army.
I told the shelter they couldn’t place Tank for adoption unless they received word from my company commander that I won’t be coming home. My parents are gone, I have no brothers or sisters or wife or children … nobody to leave Tank with. This was my only request of the Army when I was being deployed to Iraq … that they make one call to the shelter to have Tank put up for adoption. My colonel said he would do it personally.
And now, I hope and pray you and Tank will make the adjustment, and he will come to love you the same as he has loved me.
I deploy tonight and have to take this letter to the shelter. I won’t say another good-bye to Tank, though, I cried too much the first time. But, I might peek in to see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.
Please give Tank a good home and an extra kiss every night from me.
Jim recognized the signature on the letter. Even a newcomer like him knew the name. He was a local, killed in Iraq, giving his life to save three buddies and earning the Silver Star for his heroism.
Jim looked at that dog and quietly said, ‘Hey, Tank.’ His head whipped up. His eyes were bright, and his ears were cocked. ‘Come here, boy’ he said, and he came to him right away having not heard that name in months.
He kept whispering his name, again and again. Each time, his eyes softened, his posture relaxed and his ears lowered. Contentment seemed to take over. Jim rubbed his shoulders, stroked his ears and buried his face into his neck and hugged him.
“It’s just you and me, now Tank,” Jim said. “So, should we play some ball?”. Tank tore away from him and disappeared to get his balls. When he came back Jim knew they were going to be just fine … because in his mouth were three tennis balls. ,