Man Decides To Return Restless Shelter Dog, Then Stumbles Upon A Strange Letter
He looked down at the sad Labrador, and his hands shook as he held onto the letter he had been reading. He couldn’t get the words “final” and “never see him again” out of his head.
He realized now that this was a dog like no other, and he couldn’t believe he had been so close to returning him to the shelter.
Antony had just moved to town and soon started feeling the effects. He was far from home and began to feel lonely. He thought about getting himself a pet.
As though it was meant to be, the local shelter was looking for a new home for a Labrador they were sheltering. Antony was over the moon when he found out but would never have thought how much it would change his life.
Antony turned to goop when he looked at the pup and wondered why “Reggie” hadn’t found a home sooner. He had excellent manners and was the cutest dog Antony had ever seen.
When he asked the staff about it, they told him Reggie had trouble bonding with the previous applicants. Antony wondered if he would be any different and thought himself up for the challenge.
Taking Him Home
They advised Antony to start with a two-week trial period and handed him an old box. It would allow both of them time to adapt and see if it would work in the long run.
Antony was bubbling with excitement as he drove Reggie home. He was happy to have a new dog, but his feelings soon changed when things didn’t start as well as he’d hoped.
It Wasn’t Easy
Antony tried training the dog but he barely responded and acted out instead. To make matters worse, Reggie seemed miserable. He refused to come out of his shell no matter how many hours Antony spent with him.
Antony had spent his childhood with dogs and knew how to care for them. He couldn’t understand why he was having so much trouble with Reggie. What made him so different from the other dogs?
Antony worked hard to try and build a relationship with Reggie, but nothing seemed to work. He began thinking that it was time to give up.
He thought maybe neither of them was ready and made his mind up to take Reggie back to the shelter. But that’s when he found something that would change the course of everything.
Searching For Something To Help
Antony recalled the shelter giving him an old box and wondered if he would find anything inside that could help him.
He tipped everything out when he found the box and sifted through the contents. There was an old sleeping pad and some old toys. Antony was curious when he saw a letter and wondered what it was about.
Praying For Answers
Antony cautiously picked up the letter and paused before opening it. That’s when he caught Reggie looking at him with his big brown eyes. Antony wanted the best for him and longed for them to build a relationship.
Antony prayed that there would be some answers from him in the letter. But he never anticipated what he would find.
He started reading the letter, which said, “If you’re reading this letter, it means I have just gotten back from my last drive with my Lab. I have just dropped him off at the shelter.”
“He could tell something had changed. I want to tell you about him so that, hopefully, the two of you can bond. I especially want him to bond with you.”
Antony thought this was precisely what he needed and eagerly read on. He felt relieved in the hopes that he could save his relationship with Reggie!
The letter described Reggie’s love for tennis balls and how he tried to see how many he could fit in his mouth. But he found himself reading words that made up a warning as he continued.
Playing With The Ball
“Doesn’t matter where you throw the balls, he’ll bounce after it, so be careful — really don’t do it by any roads. I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.”
Antony picked up one of the worn, green balls. Reggie jumped up, tail wagging. It was the first sign of real energy. But Antony had no idea things were about to get even more strange.
Teaching Him Tricks
The sleeping pad worked too, and he snuggled in. There was also useful information about past training techniques. “He knows ‘ball’ and ‘food’ and ‘bone’ and ‘treat’ like nobody’s business.”
“I trained Reggie with small food treats,” the letter continued, “Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.” But the next piece of advice that Antony read hit hard.
A Heartbreaking Revelation
“Finally, give him some time. I’ve never been married, so it’s only been Reggie and me for his whole life,” the letter continued.
“He’s gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. It will be hard. And that’s why I need to share one more bit of info with you.” Antony was not expecting what the owner would say next.
Not His Name
“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,” the letter continued.
“He’s a smart dog, and 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.” The letter then revealed why.
“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,” the previous owner confessed.
“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…”
His Real Name
“His name’s not Reggie. His real name is Tank. Because that is what I drive,” the letter revealed. Anthony’s eyes widened. It turns out that the previous owner was a soldier deployed to Iraq.
Antony was lost for words at the truth. But the situation with the soldier and his dog was about to get even more heartbreaking.
“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,” the letter continued.
“… 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.”
Making Good On His Word
“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,” Antony read.
“Well, this letter is getting too downright depressing, even though, frankly, I’m just writing it for my dog.”
His Only Family
“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 family.”
“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.”
To Serve And Protect
“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,” the soldier wrote.
“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.”
The Weight Of His Words
“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 goodbye to Tank, though,” the letter continued.
“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.”
More Questions Answered
Having no family or friends to leave Tank with, the heartbroken soldier was forced to leave his beloved dog in a shelter. Antony stopped reading to let the weight of his words sink in.
The letter was signed off by a man named Paul Mallory, and as soon as Antony read the name, he knew it sounded familiar. Suddenly, a terrible feeling hit the pit of his stomach.
A Familiar Name
During the first couple of months in Antony’s new home, he had heard that familiar name.
There had been a story about a young man who would have received a Silver Star for heroically saving three fellow soldiers during his deployment in Iraq – and sadly, he was a soldier who didn’t make it back home.
Antony looked at the Labrador and whispered, “Tank?” The dog’s tail wagged, ears perked, and he came in for a snuggle. The transformation was astounding. Antony couldn’t believe it!
He was happy he found the letter from Tank’s previous owner, but what he read next would make his eyes well up and rip his heart in two.
Antony picked up all the tennis balls from the box and tossed them down the hallway. Tank jumped around, clearly bursting with excitement when he saw the balls – he was acting like a puppy!
As the dog quickly dashed after the balls, Antony read the final part of the letter. These last words shattered his heart into a million tiny pieces.
A Goodnight Kiss
“All the best of luck with Tank. Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight from me every night. Thank you.”
Out of all the dogs at the shelter, Antony had ended up with this one. The best friend of a fallen hero. Tank returned … with three tennis balls in his mouth.
Antony folded the letter back up and slipped it back into its envelope. He sat in silence for a few minutes, thinking about all the flags that had been flown at half-mast all summer.
He leaned forward in his chair, wiped the tears from his eyes, and looked at Tank. “Hey, Tank,” he said quietly.
1.9 Million Americans
Since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, more than 1.9 million Americans have been deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
These brave men and women had to give up their lives and families to serve and protect their country. As of 2019, more than 7,000 of those 1.9 million never made it home. That much is true.
There have been several articles that debate whether or not this story is true. Aside from inconsistencies about not opening the letter sooner, database searches have not shown anyone that fits Mallory’s description.
There also appears to be no record of a Silver Star going to that name. There is, however, one thing that everyone agrees on.
A Happy Ending
Tank’s story doesn’t have to be true to be important or impactful. There are countless soldiers who have had to give up their pets. Dogs on Deployment and Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet are places that help with fostering or finding forever homes. Reach out. Maybe you’ll find a special friend and fulfill someone’s wish.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.