We may forget what someone said to us; we may forget what someone did to us; but will not forget how that someone made us feel. It is not how much we feel happy with a person or something, but it is the emptiness that we feel without that person or something that hurts.

Here's a beautiful story of a dog whose former owner turns out to be a soldier killed in Iraq. The story may or may not be literally true but doesn't prevent it from being figuratively true. Those who serve overseas do so at the cost of great personal sacrifice. A tale such as this, literally true or not, serves to remind us all of how much they give and how much we owe them.

They told me the big black Lab's name was Reggie, as I looked at him lying in his pen. I'd only been in the area for six months but something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life, and I thought a dog couldn't hurt. 

I had just seen Reggie's advertisement on the local news. 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. 

We struggled for two weeks which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home. 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. 

Never ignore a person who loves and cares for you. One day you may realize you've lost the moon while counting the stars.

 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. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there. Hasn't done it yet.

Reggie knows the obvious commands: "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. 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 nor complain. He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.  

I need to share one more bit of info with you... His name's not Reggie. I just couldn't bear to give them his real name. But if someone is reading this ....  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. 

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've honored him by my service to my country and comrades. 

Never take your loved ones for granted because you never know when their hearts will stop beating, and, you won't have a chance to say goodbye.

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.  

If you can read this without getting a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye, something is not right. We should never ignore a person who loves and cares for us. One day we may realize we've lost the moon while counting the stars.

By Tim Pedrosa

Related dog stories (Click a page): The Dog Called FaithA Dog's Purpose The Dog Nubs and the Major

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.-G. K. Chesterton