Hello from Montana:
My friend sent me this story this morning because she knew I was collecting stories about death of pets. This is a great story. Have your Kleenex handy.
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
> 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 cellphone 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
> 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
> 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 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 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 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
> “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
> “Tank,” I
> 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