Lately though, I have not been the best owner. I must admit that while standing at the window watching the snow blow all around I am not at all excited to bundle up and take her for a walk. She though, looks out the window, and sees something totally different; I wish I knew what she saw. Watching her tail wagging crazy, I roll my eyes and realize no matter how much I wish someone else could walk her, I need to take her out. Snow or no snow, I must go so I go to the closet, grab my coat and start the bundling process.
Maybe this time the wind will not be blowing so hard, it might not be all that bad out there, forget wearing socks, just put the boots on are all thoughts that race thru my head as she dances around pulling on her leash to get me to hurry up and get dress.
I wish I lived in a house, it would be so much easier to let her out. It would only be a quick opening of a door to a fenced in yard and then a quick call back to the door. But no, I live on the third floor of an apartment building complex. I know that there are other owners and every dog thinks they own the place. Dog fights are common and yes, you would be happy to know, my Lyndie is always the winner. This little factoid does not make us popular among the other dog families in the community and well, I am constantly trying to dodge other owners.
See, Lyndie is the top dog, a protector and really does not want other dogs approaching us. She is a single kind of dog. No matter how many times I tell other owners to keep their dogs a safe comfortable distance they always seem to think that they have a better understanding of what is best. It use to bother me beyond belief that they would not listen but now I just let Lyndie go at it. And well, the other owner and the dog learn quickly that they were wrong.
So, when I get dress I am thinking about what other owner might be walking by the door, may be outside and well, socks may be the best idea, as my feet will really get cold.
With Lyndie biting her leash, me all set to go and yes, making sure I have the keys to get back in the building, I venture out the door into the hallway and down the stairs. Each minute wondering what will this walk bring. Most walks are uneventful because I try to go out when I know other owners would not even be thinking about going out.
I bet they are looking out the window and instead of getting a coat on, pull the blinds.
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. I saw the sealed envelope. I had completely forgotten about that.
“Okay, Reggie,” I said out loud, “let’s see if your previous owner has any advice.”
To Whomever 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. He knew something was different. 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 hoards 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 them, so be careful. Don’t do it by any roads.
Next, commands. Reggie knows the obvious ones —“sit,” “stay,” “come,” “heel.” He knows hand signals, too: He knows “ball” and “food” and “bone” and “treat” like nobody’s business.
Feeding schedule: twice a day, regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand. He’s up on his shots. 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. 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. And that’s why I need to share one more bit of info with you…His name’s not 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.
But if someone is reading this … well it means that his new owner should know his real name. His real name is “Tank.” Because, that is what I drive. I told the shelter that they couldn’t make “Reggie” available for adoption until they received word from my company commander.
You 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 to the shelter … in the “event” … to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption.
Luckily, my CO 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.
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, too, and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me. If I have to give up Tank to keep those terrible people from coming to the US 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. 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 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.
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?” His ears perked again. “Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?”
Tank tore from my hands and disappeared into the next room.
And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.
When I say something, I mean it. All I wanted to do is walk my dog, look around and feel like I somehow do not live with a bunch of self-absorbed, halo-wearing twenty-year old entitlement ridden brats.
I was enjoying walking my dog, my day was going fine until I saw Little Miss Bouncy coming towards me with her dog.
Here’s the exchange:
Little Miss Bouncy: Hello! Oh, you have a dog too… My dog LOVES to play.
Me: (Flat toned) Hello. Please stop there, my dog will eat your dog.
Little Miss Bouncy: No way… that is not true. Here, let’s let them play – all dogs like to play together!
Me: (A bit annoyed but still polite) No! My dog does not play well with others. Please stop walking towards me.
Little Miss Bouncy: Ah, but they would like to play together. MY DOG LOVES other dogs. (Starts letting her dog get closer….)
Me: (Now, I have had it!) Stop the F*** there! My dog DOES NOT LIKE YOUR DOG!
Here’s the Thing…. to that self-absorbed, halo-wearing person, when you are talking to someone…. LISTEN or that halo will be bitten off.
Here’s the Thing, I live in tight Army housing and the dog next door is barking, not a little but a consistent bark that seems to say, ” I really do not like being tied to this tree. Come bring me inside and play with me.” I hear him, I feel his pain. I too would not want to be tied to a tree with no one to play with or nothing to drink. My bark would be loud too.
Even as I write this, he is barking and my mind tells me to go and inform the owners that they are imposing on my desire to have quiet. I should be able to at least think about how I am going to tell you all about their obnoxious behavior of letting their dog bark without being interrupted. I wonder if they even thought about how I felt about the dog barking? Did they think, ” If my dog keeps barking my neighbors would find it disturbing?” I think not, since he is still going at it.
I bet you are wondering why don’t I go and stop the barking. Why not give the owners a piece of my mind….here I go..I am back and now I sit in quiet, enjoying the summer breeze and smelling flowers…..That is until the baby a few doors down starts whaling like it is being murdered.