He read every sentence carefully, feeling a mix of sadness and disbelief. The last two weeks had been almost torture, and he’d had enough. He thought what he was doing would be the best thing for both of them. But once he found the letter and finally discovered what was really going on, everything changed. He knew he couldn’t go ahead with his plan, but he also didn’t have a new plan. He didn’t know what to do. And then he spoke the word that gave him the answer.
But he would have never received this letter had he not serendipitously moved to a new town six months earlier. This man, let’s call him Anthony, had just been offered a new job so he was forced to relocate. Luckily, his new home was in a small, sleepy college town that seemed like a great place to live. People were friendly and welcoming, everyone he met would wave to him if they saw him on the street. But something was still missing from his life.
City of Henderson
Despite having a good job and a nice house in a friendly neighborhood, Anthony still couldn’t settle into his new life. He felt lonely and yet he was having difficulty meeting people and making friends. He knew he had to find a way to adjust, and decided perhaps a pet wouldn’t hurt. It would keep him company at home and help him socialize around town. So he headed to the local shelter, where they told him they had the perfect dog for him.
The shelter introduced him to a black Lab, around six years old, whose name was Reggie. When the shelter began advertising that Reggie was for adoption, many people came to see him and expressed their interest. But they were all turned away, as the shelter staff thought they “didn’t look like Lab people.” But with Anthony, it was different. They said he and Reggie looked like they could be the perfect match. Trusting their judgment, he took the dog home. But soon he started to think they’d made a mistake.
Fine Art America
When the adoption was finalized, the shelter gave Anthony Reggie’s belongings: a dog pad, food and water bowls, a bag of toys - most of which were brand-new tennis balls - and a letter from his previous owner. He took the dog home and put his things next to all of the unpacked boxes. He decided he’d figure out later where to put everything, including Reggie’s things. And so he set out to try and get to know his new dog.
YouTube/Harry Naughty Black Labrador
A few days passed, and Anthony realized he and Reggie just weren’t hitting it off. The dog would carry around two tennis balls in his mouth everywhere he went - but when Anthony tried to get him to play, he seemed to lose interest. He tried a few commands that the shelter said Reggie knew, like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “heel.” The dog would obey, but only when he felt like it. He also chewed up some shoes and cardboard boxes. Anthony began to regret bringing him home.
Anthony had the feeling that things just weren’t going to work out with Reggie. But the shelter had told him to give him time to adjust and said two weeks was usually the time it took for things to start to settle. That deadline was coming up soon, and Anthony had seen no progress. He thought perhaps he himself wasn’t fully adjusted to his new life either and the two of them were more alike than he realized. Feeling defeated, he got ready to give the shelter a call.
Doves and Serpents
Two weeks after adopting Reggie, Anthony decided he had no choice but to bring him back to the shelter. He looked for his phone to call them, but he couldn’t find it among all his unpacked things. In a moment of grumpiness, he thought “darn dog probably hid it on me.” Then he remembered he’d left it in the guest room among a bunch of boxes. He went in, not expecting to find what he did.
Anthony found his cellphone, but he also found all of Reggie’s belongings that he’d brought with him from the shelter. He had forgotten he’d left them there since he had bought him a bunch of new stuff. He noticed a rare moment of enthusiasm in Reggie when he saw his dog pad. Then Anthony saw the letter from his previous owner. He opened it, started reading, and was shocked by what he found out.
The letter contained a few pieces of advice to help him understand Reggie, like which commands he knew and what treats he loved best. But it also revealed a secret that blindsided Anthony. “His name’s not Reggie,” it said. He had given the shelter a different name for reasons he couldn’t fully explain. “His real name is Tank. Because that’s what I drive.” And that’s when Anthony realized Reggie’s previous owner was a soldier.
“I told the shelter that they couldn’t make ‘Reggie’ available for adoption until they received word from my company commander,” continued the letter. “See, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could’ve left Tank with.” Now Anthony knew why Tank had been left at the shelter when it seemed his owner really cared about him. So did that mean what he was thinking?
The letter was signed “Paul Mallory,” and that’s when everything clicked for Anthony. Even being new to town, he had already heard of Paul Mallory. He’d been a local kid who joined the army and was killed in Iraq while saving three fellow soldiers. He had been on the local news because he had posthumously earned the Silver Star for his heroic actions. All around town, flags had been flying at half-mast all summer. Fighting back the tears, Anthony turned to Tank.
“Hey, Tank,” said Anthony quietly. The dog immediately looked up and his ears perked up. Anthony called him and Tank ran up to him, seemingly excited. Anthony said his name a few more times and he saw the dog relax for the first time in two weeks. He pet him and hug him and asked him if he wanted to play ball. Tank ran into the next room and came back with three tennis balls in his mouth. Anthony knew things were going to be different from now on.
Anthony decided to keep Tank after he learned what he’d been through. He also wanted to honor the request that Paul had made in his letter. “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,” he wrote. “Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight - every night - from me.” The shelter had been right about Anthony. But there are other ways to help dogs of deployed soldiers.
Facebook/Dogs on Deployment
Just like Paul, not every soldier has someone to leave their pets with when they are deployed overseas. Luckily, there are services that help find temporary homes for their beloved furry companions. Dogs On Deployment and Guardian Angels For Soldier’s Pet are two such organizations. If you have room in your life for a temporary new pet, please consider taking one in. Soldiers like Paul will be forever grateful.