With feelings of sadness and disbelief, the man read every sentence carefully. He was done with the last two weeks, which had been torture. He believed that the choices he made would be the best for both of them. As soon as he found the letter, and realized what was truly going on, everything was different. He understood that he couldn’t continue with his plan, but he didn’t exactly have a different one. He had no clue on how to handle things, but then he spoke one word that gave him the answer he was looking for.
If he never would have moved to a new town, he never would have received the letter. The man, who we can call Anthony, was forced to relocate because he was offered a new job. Fortunately, his new job was located in a small college town that really looked like a nice place to live. Everyone was warm and friendly. People he met would wave to him when they saw him around town. But something was still missing from his life.
Even though Anthony had a good job and a nice house in a friendly neighborhood, he was struggling with adjusting to his life. He began to feel lonely, and seemed to be having a pretty rough time meeting new people to become friends with. He knew that things needed to change, so he decided that getting a pet might help. Not only would it keep him company at home, it could also help him socialize with other people in town. He went to the local shelter and he was told that they had the perfect dog for him.
Anthony was introduced to a six-year-old black Labrador named Reggie. The shelter advertised that Reggie was up for adoption, and people had gone to the shelter to express interest in him, but the shelter turned them away because they “didn’t look like Lab people.” But Anthony was different. The shelter believed that Anthony and Reggie would be a great match. He trusted their judgment and brought Reggie home. But it didn’t take long for Anthony to feel like they were wrong.
As soon as the adoption was finalized, Anthony was given Reggie’s things: food and water bowls, a dog pad, a bag of toys – which mostly consisted of tennis balls – and a letter from his former family. He brought Reggie home and Anthony placed his belongings next to the unpacked boxes. Anthony figured he could find a place for everything a bit later, but first, it was time for Anthony and Reggie to get to know each other.
After a few days had gone by, Anthony didn’t think that he and Reggie were hitting it off. No matter where he went, Reggie would carry two tennis balls around in his mouth. But if Anthony tried to play with him, Reggie would just lose interest. The shelter told Anthony that Reggie knew some basic commands, such as “sit,” “stay,” and “come.” But Reggie only seemed to obey if he felt like doing it. He also enjoyed chewing up cardboard boxes and shoes. Soon, Anthony wasn’t so sure that he had made the right decision.
Anthony began to feel that things weren’t going to work out with his new pup. The shelter had told Anthony to give Reggie some time to adjust, which they said typically took two weeks. The deadline was quickly approaching and Anthony wasn’t seeing any sort of progress. Anthony began to think that maybe he wasn’t adjusted to his new life either, and perhaps they were more alike than he thought. Anthony prepared himself to make the phone call to the shelter.
Anthony let the two weeks pass, but he decided that there was no other option than to bring Reggie back to the shelter. He began to search for the phone, but it was nowhere to be found among all of the boxes. Anthony began to feel grumpy and he thought “darn dog probably hid it from me.” Finally, Anthony remembered that he had placed it in the guest room with a bunch of boxes. As he went into the guest room, he found something unexpected.
Anthony finally found his cellphone, but he found Reggie’s belongings from the shelter, as well. He had completely forgotten about them because he had purchased Reggie a bunch of new stuff. When Reggie noticed his dog pad, Anthony saw a rare moment of enthusiasm in the dog. That was when Anthony found the letter from Reggie’s previous owners. Anthony opened the letter and began to read it. He couldn’t believe what the letter contained.
Inside of the letter was a bit of advice that would help Anthony understand Reggie, like the treats he loved and the commands he knew. But the letter also contained a secret that completely threw Anthony for a curve. “His name’s not Reggie,” the letter said. The owner had given the shelter a different name for reasons he couldn’t exactly explain. “His real name is Tank. Because that’s what I drive.” That’s when Anthony realized that Anthony’s owner was in the military.
“I told the shelter that they couldn’t make ‘Reggie’ available for adoption until they received word from my company commander,” said the letter. “See, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could’ve left Tank with.” Anthony finally realized why Tank was left at the shelter even though his owner had obviously loved him. So did that mean what Anthony was thinking?
The letter ended with a signature from Paul Mallory, and that’s when everything fell into place. Even though he was new to town, Anthony knew about Paul Mallory. Paul was a local kid who had joined the army and was killed while saving three fellow soldiers in Iraq. Paul had even been on the news for posthumously earning a Silver Star for being a hero. All summer, flags have been flying at half-mast all over town. As Anthony was fighting back tears, he turned to Tank.
Anthony quietly said, “Hey, Tank.” The pup quickly looked at Anthony and his ears began to perk up. Anthony called Tank over to him, and the dog took off in excitement. Anthony said Tank’s name a few more times, and for the first time in two weeks, the pup began to relax. Anthony hugged him and pet him and asked him if he wanted to play ball. Tank immediately ran to the next room and grabbed three tennis balls. Anthony immediately knew things would never be the same.
Once he learned what Tank had been through, Anthony knew that he had to keep him. He also knew that he wanted to honor Paul’s request. “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,” Paul wrote. “Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight – every night – from me.” The shelter was right about Anthony, but there are other ways to help the dogs of deployed soldiers.
Just like Paul, there are many soldiers that don’t have anyone to leave their pets with when they’re deployed. Fortunately, there are organizations that help find foster homes for their loved fur babies. Guardian Angels For Soldier’s Pets and Dogs On Deployment are two of those organizations. If you have the room in your home, and your life, for a temporary fur baby, then consider taking in a soldier’s dog. Soldiers just like Paul with be more than grateful.