Honoring Our Vets
By Glenda Reynolds
I hear a splash in the water which rouses me from my sleep as I lay sprawled out on the back porch. What a beautiful, tranquil autumn day. The big fish must be feasting on little bait fish. The ripples travel the length of the bayou, splashing against tupelo and cypress trees. At least I wasn’t having bad dreams, fueled by memories of my military service in a foreign hot land. The humans call it Afghanistan. I call it hot-as-hell-with-no-doggy-bone-land.
They say that I am the best breed for military operations that involved parachuting out of military planes, secret operations, and sniffing out IEDs. I’m a Belgian Malinois which some humans mistake me for a regular German shepherd. My fine, wiry coat is a more universal color with black shading to my face; this sets me apart from that breed. We are also lighter and stubbier. I heard that there are some Malinois dogs that guard what the humans call the White House. If it’s true, it’s because crazy humans can sneak in there too easily. They finally got wise to my kind.
My handler and my beloved master is Gene LaBlanc. We served together in Afghanistan. We used to play find-the-tennis-ball games in the early days of my training. Next I found things that were scented with explosive materials. Soon all of those games stopped. I was only finding the scents, and I was good at it. But there was always a slight chance that I could miss one. It was just such a time that I missed one that my master was injured very badly. He lost one of his legs above the knee. A helicopter took him far away to heal. He would later petition the military to adopt me into his home.
After many months of being away from my master, we have been finally reunited. I now live in the Louisiana bayou with Gene and Marie LaBlanc. Sometimes I fall asleep on the couch with Gene. He suffers terrible nightmares about things that happened over there in that dry desert land. He whimpers and moans. I cuddle close to him, placing my paw on him to wake him up to the land of the living. He is grateful to have me with him as I am to have him.
“What would I do without my Zagnut?” he would ask me.
“Wuff!” is my only reply as I look him in the eyes with my tail wagging. I know just what to say and how to say it.
Gene occasionally helps his LeBlanc brothers trap alligators for a living. It is a family tradition on the bayou and helps put meat on the table too. It is almost as exciting as dodging Taliban bullets. It is a little difficult to manage a boat or haul gators in while wearing a prosthetic leg, but Gene does just fine. I am just bursting with pride. There goes my tail again.
An old-timer has come to our house to talk to Gene. They enjoy smoking on the front porch in the late morning. The sound of creaky rocking chairs accompanies stories of days gone by. The two of them walk over to a covered flatbed hauler. The old man pulls the tarp off to reveal a turquoise and white Indian motorcycle.
“I want to give you this motorcycle in honor of your years of service to our country. And I would love it if you would ride it in the Thanksgiving Day parade this Thursday with the other vets,” said the old man in a feeble voice, obviously choked up.
My master is overcome with emotion as he reaches out to touch the chrome handlebars, the shiny gas tank, and the fringed buckskin seat covers. His eyes are leaking which causes me some concern.
“I have never owned anything so fine in my life,” he said as he wipes tears away. “Yes, sir, you can bet I will be at the parade,” replies Gene. “You can also bet that Zagnut will be there for his years of service too.” I stare intently at both men as if I understand that they are talking about me. I stand with my front legs on the flatbed as I sniff the air near the motorcycle. Gene watches me sit back down, satisfied that the motorcycle is safe. “No bombs here,” he says with a smile.
The two men shake hands and then give each other a quick heartfelt hug. They unload the motorcycle and park it in the over-sized shed. The old-timer gives one more look before he heads home.
As promised, Gene and I are seated on the sparkling Indian motorcycle as we await our turn to ride in the parade. Many vets young and old welcome us into their traditional Thanksgiving procession. We finally get underway. Many are delighted at seeing me, proudly seated behind my master. The children point and wave and call out to me. There is so much to see as we ride down the long street. It makes me dizzier than a mutt chasing his own tail.
The parade may be over, but the day just got better. Gene and I ride into the local park where there are many Thanksgiving banquet tables set up. My master and his mate, Marie, sit at the head of a table laden with a big roasted bird and casseroles. I caught the scent of fruit pies, fresh from the oven. “What about you?” you ask. I am given my own little doggy cornucopia with all kinds of doggy treats, chewy bones, bacon Beggin’ Strips, and plush toys. You name it, it was in there. I remember all those days eating survival food in the desert with not a doggy bone in sight. It is like I won the lottery. This is the best day of my life. And to think, I helped fight for the freedom of these people here today. Hoo-rah!
Want more stories by Glenda Reynolds? Go to Write On (an Amazon writers' platform) and read Short & Twisted Tales. http://amzn.to/2iS2fId