A second chance for a loyal friend
They told me the big black Lab's name was Reggie as I looked
at him lying in his pen.  the shelter was clean, 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 advice.".........

"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

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 to 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

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

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 earning the Silver Star when he gave his
life to save three buddies.  Flags had  been at half-mast all

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 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 in the next room.
And when he  came back......he had three tennis balls in his

Janice Jenkins