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The Story of Tank

Last night began like most week nights, I made a long list of things that I needed to do, and when the stress of that became too much I began to browse my Tumblr dashboard. It was filled top to endless bottom, like usual, with pretty pictures of things I wish my life contained. I knew immediately when I saw this post that something about it was different, just look at that sweet puppy.
I could not find the original author of the story, but thought I would share anyway. It goes like this:
“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.

“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 into the next room. And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.”
____________ _________ _________ _______

By the end of the whole ordeal I was in tears, which is pretty typical, and thankful for whomever had taken the time to share the story. It was a call to everything I needed to hear in that moment.
I get so unsure about things in my life, people, what I am doing, where I want to live; that it all gets muddled up and stuffed into superficial packages.
But Paul Mallory did not seem like the sort of person who would falter on such silly things.
He said it best when he explained that if he had “to give up Tank to keep those terrible people from coming to the US he was glad to do so. That furthermore, it was his act of service and hopefully Tank would understand his motivation and love.
Sometimes I sit so consumed in my anxiety and fear that I let it takeover my mind completely. I become like “Reggie,” fearful and not wanting anything to do with those around me. It is at those times that I have to be reminded of those things that motivate me.
I am strong in my conviction to make a difference in the lives of children through nursing, sure that I am a good person in the end and a steadfast friend. I am also grounded in faith in God and his plans.
What I need to learn from Paul Mallory is that these convictions should guide me in all that I do. At times when I get lost feeling sorry for myself and unsure of what to do next, I must remember that I have these things to fall back on. No matter the sacrifices I make, or bumps in the journey, as long as I do what I know in my heart is true I will be honoring my own example of service and love.

P.S. I just finished listening to Taylor Swift’s new song “Begin Again.” I cannot decide if I like it or not. Its very Taylor and pretty but I just don’t know! What do you think?

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  • I'm in tears. I can't even…

  • So many tears…

  • sSe

    Oh my goodness…so beautiful!