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.

35 Responses

  1. Greg Johnson

    My son is currently in basic training at Ft. Benning in Columbus GA. He left us with his yellow, 10 month old, 80lb lab named Rogue. We’ve always been a lab family, we currently have Kai a 5 year old black lab and recently had to put Roxy, our 11 year old black lab to sleep due to illness. Reading this story sure hit home. Thanks

  2. Jill Evans

    Wow, I read that story to my husband and had to stop several times to compose myself. What a beautiful story. <3

  3. Elaine Whitby

    this is such a wonderful story, sad I know but in the end the dog will have a wonderful life, lets be glad the man opened the letter or Tank would be back in the Home,

    My Megan is a rescue dog, we know a bit about her back ground, she as now been with us 2 years, she will be three in January, we always have a party with a cake and candles, she was abounded at birth, thrown in the street, luckly the kennels picked her up,
    after that she had one owner that took her back to the kennels after 3 months,
    she is with us now till the end of her days

  4. Linda Coyne

    What an amazing story. I’m so happy that Tank will have a wonderful life with his new owner, but sad that his original owner lost his life. Writing that letter was an act of love like no other.

  5. Marg

    An amazing story, what a lucky dog to have found love after losing his first. It sounds as if he has landed with a fantastic future for him. Congratulations to Tank’s new human.

  6. christine

    by the time I had read this thetears were rolling down my face I am so glad there are people like this out there who will take in a Lab because they can be a hand full but they give you so much love,

  7. tracey hemmings

    Such a beautiful story , so sad but happy at the same time xx

  8. Daisydoo

    Oh you have to be a very special person to be a labby person! We always feel sad when we come across an unfriendly labby owner as they are likely to have unhappy labbys. I hope ‘Tank’ brings many hours of joy to your life!

  9. RealityBites

    Too bad there were so many tears flowing around this story that folks completely missed the fact that the final photo of “Tank” is a complete PhotoShop. And lets be honest…..he calls the dog by his *real* name, and “Tank” then leaves the room and returns with the one thing he never could do with his previous owner…hold 3 balls in his mouth??

    Additionally: A Platoon is a group of 26 to 50 soldiers divided into 4 squads. Platoon Leaders are the lowest ranking Commissioned Officer – usually a 1st Lieutenant. A CO – or Commanding Officer is a high ranking Officer – say, a Lieutenant General or a Brigidier General…in command of 3000 – 5000 soldiers.

    I put all of this out there to ask: Name ONE Brigidier General who would take a personal request from one of his 5000 soldiers, and personally call a dog shelter. Besides, if one goes overseas, they ALL go overseas…including the General.

    Oops, no-one to call the shelter.

    Forgive me for the needle in the balloon, but it is this type of sappy story that tries its best to tug the heartstrings and glamorize the brutal fact that in war, many do not come home. Take the story for what is is, and get out of it whatever you can…but remember that its fiction.

    • kay fitzgerald

      Fiction or not ,wonderful story ,Made me have tear;s too.Hope it was true!