Memorial Day 2015 is now history. The establishment of that day, originally called Decoration Day, was initiated to honor the soldiers who died during the American Civil War, and by the late 19th century, the holiday became known as Memorial Day, and was expanded to include all deceased veterans. In 1971 it was declared a federal holiday, and most of us enjoyed the three-day weekend with parties, celebrations, and various events honoring the brave men and women who gave the ultimate price for our nation.
One of my favorite “memorial” stories is a poignant tale that’s been around for years, about an adopted lab named Reggie, which according to Snopes, isn’t true . The story of Paul Mallory may not be literal truth, but that doesn’t prevent it from being figurative truth to remind us all that kind words and thoughtful gestures, whether on Memorial Day or any day, are always appreciated. Even if you’ve heard it before, it is still a wonderful reminder of the amazing bond that is possible between humans and canines:
James had moved to a new location and was lonely, so he decided to adopt a dog. The local shelter showed him numerous dogs, but he was drawn to a dog stretched out quietly in a cage near the back. The note on his kennel said “Reggie doesn’t respond well to shelter life. His only interest is in tennis balls… not eating well…very lethargic.”
Somehow James felt he had found his dog. The shelter placed all the dog’s belongings, except for a few tennis balls, into a bag, and off they went. Once home, the dog’s stuff was put in a cupboard and the new caregiver struggled to build a relationship with Reggie. Nothing worked. The dog didn’t even respond to his name, and finally James sadly made the decision to return the dog to the shelter. As he packed up the dog’s possessions, he noticed an envelope that the shelter had given to him, and he had forgotten about. The envelope was addressed to “WHOEVER GETS MY DOG”
The letter read:
“Well I can’t say that I am happy you’re reading this….I’m not happy writing it. Let me tell you about my dog in the hopes it will help you bond with each other. First he loves tennis balls. He hoards them. He usually has two in his mouth and tries to get a third one in there. He loves car rides. He hates vets. He loves people. His name is Tank, because that’s what I drive. I made arrangements with my company commander that, if something happened to me, that Tank should be put up for adoption. It was my only real request of the Army on my deployment to Iraq, and my CO said he’d do it personally, so if you are reading this, then he made good on his word. Tank has been my only family for the last six years, and now I hope and pray that you make him a part of your family too, and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me. Tank is my example of service and of love, and I hope I have honored him by my service to my country and comrades. Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home, and give him an extra hug every night from me.
Signed: Paul Mallory”
James folded the letter and slipped it back into the envelope. Everyone knew about Paul Mallory, local kid, killed in the line of duty when he gave his life to save three buddies. He leaned forward in his chair, and rested his elbows on his knees, and stared at the dog. “Hey, Tank,” he said quietly. The dog looked up, his ears cocked. “C’mere, Tank.” The dog jumped up, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor as he went toward James, who kept whispering his name, over and over. A wave of relief seemed to flood over both of them, as James buried his face into the dog’s scruff and hugged him…”It’s you and me now, Tank. Just you and me. “
Tank reached up and licked James’ cheek. “So what’daya say we play some ball?” Tank’s ears perked again, and he disappeared into the next room. When he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.