Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Story of Tank

I recently received this story in an email from my Aunt and knew I wanted
to share it with all of you. It' s one of the most moving and beautiful things
I've read in a long long time...

The Story of Tank
Thursday, August 6th, 2009

The Story of 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
cell phone 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

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 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 too 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 being awarded the Silver Star because 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

“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

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.


This story, an no doubt there are
many more like this in one way or another, showcase love, loyalty, service
and companionship of both our beloved canine companions and our troops.
Those men and women who put their lives on the line so that others many live
with the freedoms we take for granted.


Marsha @ Tattered Chick said...

My girlfriend had sent me this in an email several months back. I just cried and cried and cried.

I can't bring myself to read it again . . . .


Mama H said...

Thanks, way to make a girl cry at work, when she's supposed to be working! Working at a vet clinic, you learn to not cry when you desperately want to cry, and this is a story that stretches my limits. Can't think about it too long but makes me happy to know people out there care about their animals as much as my family and I do.

Martha's Favorites said...

Sares: What a beautiful letter. I had never heard it before. It was touching. Thanks for your visit and for sharing. Blessings, Martha

Marilyn said...

Having just lost my beloved dog Hanzy...this story nearly did me in...but it was a beautiful story of the love and devotion our furry friends can give..Hopefully Tanks new owner will give him all the love he needs..
Thanks for sharing..now if I can only stop crying...


Jenny said...

Oh my goodness. I am crying like a baby right now. Thank you for sharing that story! Off to blow my nose and hug my doggie!

Lisa said...

Well I had to blow my nose and then write this. Thanks for sharing! But you know me and dogs so I'm really crying. Well it isn't helping that I'm very patriotic too!
Hugs, Lisa

Vicki said...

Such a beautiful story! I really can't add one comment to it because the letter said it all so perfectly! Thank you for sharing this lovely post today! Blessings to you, dear friend! Vicki

Abatevintage said...

Sares, oh what a wonderful story. I have a tear, okay I am crying. Oh it was wonderful. God bless you.


Dusty Devoe said...

What a beautiful story Sares. Amazing!

Gin said...

Wiping tears off of the computer screen...

My brother is in the Army and he had to leave his dog behind with my parents...

Madeleine said...

Oh god... I am in tears. My profile picture is of my furry son, a very special lab. Like the story says, I definetly think there are "Lab people" because I'm one of them! I love Tank and I don't even know him. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story.

Auntie sezzzzzz... said...

Oh I am in tears too!!!!!!!!

And I must link my son, daughter in law, and our granddaughter to it. They have 2 black Labs, whom the whole family love. Oh my, they will cry buckets, over this sweet story.

Aunt Amelia

Debra@CommonGround said...

What an amazing story. Yes, it brings tears, for everything our brave young men and women in service have had to sacrifice. Thank you for sharing this.

Chrisy said...

This is a powerful story...hope Tank's previous owner stayed safe...

The Old Parsonage said...

I got this a few weeks ago too. What a tear jerker!

God Bless the men and woman of our Armed Forces!


Draffin Bears said...

Oh Sares, how very sad.
You had me reaching for my hanky.
What a very beautiful story and thank you for sharing.

Happy weekend

Rebecca Nelson said...

WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! How very very sad. I'm all teary. Such a lovely story sweet Sares. I'm definitely going to send some of my pals over here. It must be shared over and over again.

Bless you~

Love, Rebecca

Desert Rose said...

So...yes...the tears were there, it was truly an amazing story!

Jennifer Swan Hopkins said...

I came by to tell you how much your visit meant to me, thank you so very much. I tell you there is nothing like the uplifting words of angels like you, to help the weary.

Then I read the Tank story. Great, now I'm bawling and bawling thinking how grateful I am for the sacrifice, but grieving for our soldiers. It just broke my heart. I hate war, politics, power hungry motives, and human cruelty. But I love people, animals, and stories that offer us hope for a better world.

I may have to reprint yet another one of your great posts - xJ


Have a great rest of the day, xJ

stefanie said...

well, i now have extremely puffy eyes, i am so sad....but its a wonderful story with a somewhat happy ending, thanks for sharing

Unknown said...

Sares, I hadn't seen the letter before . . . it's very moving and I'm balling my eyes out! I think now is a good time to go to bed and cuddle all three of my dogs!

Thanks for sharing!


Coralie Cederna Johnson said...

The story of "Tank" is a heartfelt wonder...I am deeply deeply touched by how the true message was revealed. Thank you for sharing this amazing and moving story.

blushing rose said...

I have received this several times & love it each time I read it, Sares. Love will work every time. Hugs, Marydon

jane augenstein said...

What a story, I am sitting here wiping tears away!