Many animal shelters encourage their neighborhood to adopt their pets rather than buy from breeders. Anthony agreed and decided to adopt a black lab named Reggie. But, it wasn’t an easy adjustment for either of them.
Anthony got to a breaking point where he figured it’d just be better for everyone if he took the dog back to the shelter. But just as Anthony was ready to throw in the towel and return Reggie, he found a letter from Reggie’s old owner that flipped everything upside down.
The animal shelter that Anthony adopted Reggie from gave him very specific instructions on the adjustment period with a newly adopted dog. They suggested that he give the black lab about two weeks to adjust to its new surroundings, but it didn’t seem to be a good fit.
Anthony didn’t want to put all the blame on Reggie since he was also going through some adjustments of his own. But he was ready to return the dog until he read a letter written by Reggie’s old owner.
Being the new guy in town, Anthony was having a tough adjustment period. He felt like something in his life was missing despite all of the support he was getting from the college town locals. In an effort to look for a companion, Anthony drove to the neighborhood animal shelter to look into taking an animal home.
When he arrived, he met a black lab named Reggie, and they just clicked. Anthony knew that adopting a dog was a lot of responsibility but hadn’t prepared for this dog.
Anthony had seen an ad for a black lab named Reggie on television. The shelter had gotten several calls from people who were interested in bringing Reggie, but none of them proved to be a good fit.
Anthony must have had the magic touch because the minute staff members saw him with Reggie, they basically threw the dog at him. Along with the dog, Anthony got to bring home Reggie’s bed, a food bowl, new tennis balls, and a sealed envelope from the original dog owner.
When they got in the car to go home, both Reggie and Anthony were in good spirits. But, once they arrived at Anthony’s home, Reggie turned into a different dog, and the two of them started to have issues.
Anthony was expecting to come home to a happy dog who would be eager to cuddle and play outside. But this dog did not seem happy and didn’t change his attitude when Anthony would come home with new toys. Both Reggie and Anthony seemed just as lonely as they were before.
It soon became obvious that Reggie was having difficulty adjusting. Anthony tried out some typical commands, like “come” and “heel” and “sit,” all with the expectation that he’d follow them. But Reggie never seemed to recognize his own name when Anthony called him.
Granted, he’d glance in Anthony’s direction after hearing “Reggie” a couple of times, but then he’d return to whatever he was doing before. Anthony started to doubt himself and his abilities – was he the reason that the dog didn’t feel at home?
Reggie was showing obvious signs of discontentment in his new home. He was chewing up Anthony’s shoes and some of the boxes that Anthony hadn’t unpacked yet. Anthony started getting stricter with Reggie, who didn’t respond well to the change.
Neither of them seemed to get into a groove with the other, and after the initial two weeks were over, Anthony felt like it wasn’t a good fit. He went to look for the shelter’s phone number, which he put in one of his unpacked boxes.
After rummaging through a few boxes, Anthony finally found all of Reggie’s stuff at the bottom of a box in the back of the room. Admittedly, he had forgotten that he had so many of the dog’s old things since he had been buying Reggie new toys.
Reggie had followed Anthony into the room and seemed to perk up when he saw some of his old items. Anthony continued digging, and that’s when he saw the envelope. It was sealed and was addressed to the next owner. Anthony had totally forgotten about it.
Anthony sat down with Reggie and opened the envelope. He wasn’t sure why he was so nervous, but Anthony was hopeful that there would be something helpful in the letter. The minute he opened the letter, he saw that the previous owner had put a lot of thought into the lengthy message.
The letter opened with a message to the new owner, letting them know that the previous owner wasn’t thrilled to be writing. It. In fact, they had written it right after leaving the black lab at the shelter.
The letter continued as the previous owner described what that last car ride with Reggie was like. They wrote that it seemed that the dog knew this ride was different than other ones they had taken before.
The owner had packed up all of Reggie’s toys, beds, and other belongings and set them out just as they had when they took trips together. But there was something in the air that signaled that it’d be a different type of trip. The owner was heartbroken, which led him to write the letter of advice.
The previous owner continued his letter with more facts about Reggie. They wrote about the dog’s love of tennis balls and how he liked to hide large amounts of them. Apparently, Reggie liked them so much that he was always carrying at least two of them in his mouth around the house.
The owner wrote about how the black lab will race to return any tennis ball that is thrown for him no matter where it is. They warned against doing this near a street.
It turned out that Reggie had actually been trained and knew basic commands. The owner had also taught the dog a number of hand signals, including back, over, shake, paw, and down. The writer explained how to do each signal and which behavior to expect from it.
Apparently, he even knew what the words food and treats were. This made Anthony question everything. What was he doing wrong? Why wasn’t the dog listening to any of Anthony’s commands? He continued reading the letter to see if there was anything else.
This letter was proving to be much more helpful than Anthony had expected. He learned that Reggie hated going to the vet and that it’s always a long process to get the dog inside of the car.
The previous owner recalled his own confusion about how Reggie just seemed to always sense when the veterinary office was their destination. Now, this wasn’t earth-shattering news since it’s safe to say that most pets dislike going to the vet, but it was thoughtful to include the warning anyway.
The previous owner and Reggie had such a strong bond because it was only just the two of them for so long. They had only lived with each other for the dog’s entire life. They would go everywhere and do everything together.
The letter suggested to Anthony that he take Reggie on daily drives if his car was big enough. The owner continued by sharing that Reggie is very social and enjoys being around people. Living with a new person would be a difficult transition for the dog.
Nothing up to this had truly shocked Anthony until he got to the end of the letter when he found out that the dog wasn’t actually named Reggie! The previous owner had no idea why, but when they dropped “Reggie” off at the animal shelter, he just instinctively gave the staff the wrong name.
The owner just couldn’t bring themself to give them the dog’s real name because the whole thing would’ve felt so much more real and final. So, what was Reggie’s real name?
It was obvious how tough and gut-wrenching it was for the previous owner to have written this letter and given up their dog. But the note continued with their wishes for the new owner. They wrote that despite not wanting to give up the black lab in the first place, they figured that it’d be better to help.
Knowing his real name would help build the bond between the dog and his new owner. The owner even alluded to the fact that knowing his real name might make “Reggie” more comfortable.
The dog Anthony knew as Reggie was actually named Tank. The previous owner had given him that name because it was what he drove in the Army. The animal shelter was given very specific instructions that the black lab couldn’t be adopted until they got permission from the owner’s commander.
He had no other family that could’ve taken care of Tank, so the shelter was it. When he was deployed to Iraq, the previous owner asked the Army to contact the shelter if something happened to him.
By this point in the letter, it was clear to Anthony just how much Tank meant to this guy and how strong a bond they shared. The letter only continued to get sadder, and the writer even wrote how depressing it was going to get.
Tank was the only family that the previous owner had after he lost both of his parents, and he was an only child. The man and Tank had been together for six years, right around the same time that he was drafted into the Army.
The unbreakable bond and level of love that the previous owner had with his dog fueled and inspired him when he was deployed. When he was in Iraq, Tank inspired him to watch out for the innocent civilians and put his life on the line for others.
Anthony was floored by the sacrifice this man took to give up his dog. The previous owner continued by sharing how he hoped that his military service had honored Tank, even though it meant having to leave him behind.
The previous owner finished the letter by revealing that he was shipping out to Iraq that night and was driving to drop off the letter at the animal shelter. During his first goodbye to Tank, he had cried so much that he wasn’t sure if he could bear a second one.
He considered peeking in to see how many tennis balls he had managed to fit in his mouth but decided against it. He wished the new owner luck and asked that the new owner give Tank kisses from him. He signed the note, “Thank you, Paul Mallory.”
When Anthony read that Paul Mallory had been the previous owner, everything in his head clicked and made perfect sense. Anthony had heard about Paul around town as a local soldier who had been in the Army.
When he was over in Iraq, he was killed in the line of duty while saving three other United States soldiers. After his funeral, Paul was on the news for posthumously being awarded a Silver Star for his bravery. All of the flags in town had been flying at half-mast during that summer.
Anthony was overcome with emotion when he made the connection and understood what it meant. Fighting back the tears, Anthony turned and called Tank by his actual name. The dog immediately perked up, and his whole body reacted.
When Anthony called the dog over to him, Tank excitedly ran up to him. With a tail wagging and ears perked, it was like Anthony was looking at a new dog. When Anthony asked Tank if he wanted to play fetch, the dog ran and returned with three tennis balls.
After reading the letter and learning more about Tank, Anthony felt a sense of clarity. He was overwhelmed by a feeling that he needed to keep Tank with him. Anthony knew that he wanted to follow through with Paul’s requests and have the dog become part of his family.
Anthony was more emotionally invested than ever. If the difference in his name could make Tank change his behavior in a matter of minutes, there’s no telling what Anthony could accomplish with him in the months ahead.
Paul is not an isolated case. Many people serving in the military run into similar problems where they don’t have people that they can have take care of their animals when they’re overseas. Luckily, there are a number of organizations whose goal is to help pair foster homes with these loving animals.
Dogs On Deployment and Guardian Angels For Soldier’s Pets are two of those groups that have this mission. These organizations are always looking for more foster homes, so consider signing up if you are able to!
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