Deploying Puppy Power

A puppy helped me lift morale for my adopted soldier “K.” It started with an email. Afghanistan is 9.5 hours ahead of New York so I was usually asleep when his messages came. But this one arrived while I rode the train to Long Island to visit my cousin Laura. In it, K talked about how much he missed his puppy. This “puppy” was a 100-pound Italian Mastiff named Angus.  It was clear from the way he wrote that K was Dog People.

Dog People

You know them. You might even be one. I think dogs are awesome but Dog People have a special connection. And now that I knew K did, what kind of care package could I come up with? Sometimes I liked to go beyond beef jerky and canned ravioli. I was still wondering exactly what and how when Laura picked me up at the train station.

LAURA:  I’m thinking of drawing again. I haven’t sketched anything in ten years but I’m thinking of doing portraits of dogs.

ME:  What????

Laura is Dog People too. I informed her that her first portrait would be my adopted soldier’s dog.

LAURA: What????  You adopted someone? How old is he? How does that work? How did you meet him?

ME: He signed up. I signed up. I send one letter a week and one care package a month. It impacts morale. Mail call is like Christmas morning for them. No, we never met. But he’s awesome. I’ll get pictures from his wife. It’ll be great.

Laura did not think it would be great. Only because she didn’t think her drawing would be good enough. I explained that the thought, time and effort would meet that threshold and then some. He was in a remote base with limited internet access and few entertainment options. It would be a really nice surprise to “bring” Angus to him this way, to bring some warm fuzzy puppy love here:

Combat Outpost in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan

K’s Combat Outpost in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan

Picture this

K’s wife sent me a bunch of pictures and Laura chose one where K and Angus were connecting. Laura’s teenaged children had never seen her draw before and said, “Wow Mom!” I was excited too. For privacy/security, I had to blur part of the image. But I hope you can still get a sense of it.

My adopted soldier and his 100-pound "puppy"

Angus and K

Sketch of my soldier and his 100-pound "puppy"

Angus and K. Again.

I put it in a glass frame because it’s not like there’s a store nearby where he can pick one up. Then I worried, what if it shatters? Mail goes through a lot to get to his base. I didn’t want to be the volunteer that actually harms troop strength! So I bought a large roll of bubble wrap and used all of it. You could bounce this thing when I was done.

Real power

K loved it and couldn’t believe someone would take the time and trouble to do this for him. Especially someone he had never met. His wife loved it. Her parents loved that my family (well, really just Laura) did this for him. K’s battle buddies got to see that strangers care. Laura got to re-debut her artistic side in a meaningful way.

This was not the first or last mail call I asked for help with. At times I would simply ask someone to fill out a postcard. But no matter what, the results were always the same. K was moved and it helped him during a very difficult time. Those helping me were moved too. It feels good to do good. To know that you’ve made a difference for someone. That’s a real power we all have. One that we can “deploy” at any time.

Dog treat

Love is a powerful thing. On fours legs as well as two. Here are a few dogs welcoming soldiers home. Enjoy!

© Gina left the mall, 2012

15 thoughts on “Deploying Puppy Power

    • Very glad it’s the story having an effect on you 🙂 And thank you. I think one of the awesome things about putting care into action is how both sides (giver and receiver) gain from the experience in some way. I know I have.

  1. Oh, those videos made me cry! And that sketch of K and Angus is amazing! What a thoughtful and unique gift for a soldier. I think the work you’re doing is amazing, Gina. I’ve got 2 dogs at home, and every time I walk in the door, they greet me as if I’ve been away forever! They love me no matter what. That’s what I call true unconditional love.

    • The videos made me cry too. Dogs are real pros at that whole unconditional love thing. I can’t imagine a better greeting! And I’m so happy you liked the sketch! Now I can tell Laura, “See? I told you so” and she won’t think I’m being biased 🙂

  2. This story is so touching! My boyfriend is deployed and I make it a point to play with my dog on skype so he can see. He talks to her too, it’s actually pretty cute! His friends even come look if they’re nearby. I rescued my dog from a shelter my senior year of high school when I was going through my first encounters with depression, she’s a blessing in disguise! Thank you for this post! It made me smile! And also gave me an idea for my adopt a soldier…I never thought to ask someone else to write him a letter as well. May give him a break from my rambles! lol

    • Glad you like it! I’m also happy to hear that your dog is spreading the love both home and away 🙂 It’s great that you rescued her. Sounds like she has a wonderful way of paying you back.

      Please tell both your soldiers that I thank them for their service. And I thank you for your efforts as well. One thing I did you may like- I went to a party and brought pics of my soldier and his family. I “introduced” them to the guests and put down a stack of postcards and a bag of different colored pens. I said if anyone wanted to write him a note, I would address and send it. Almost everyone did and the folks ranged in age from 7 to 70 so all the messages were very different. Then I mailed them all at once so he’d get a lot at one mail call. It was a hit.

      • That’s brilliant! Especially with the holidays coming up and I’m sure I’ll at least be at one holiday party lol! I’m getting a head start on their Christmas packages and I think the postcards from others would be a good addition 🙂

  3. Gina, I can see I’m not the only one who cried at those videos. Your posts are always so moving. It’s so important for all of us to know we’re loved and not alone in this world. Laura’s drawing is just perfect.

    • Thank you! I think you are so right about the importance of knowing “we’re loved and not alone in this world.” What’s amazing is how easy it is to convey that message and how we build each other up in the process. A few kind words or even a small act can have a great impact. And yes, I too think Laura’s drawing is just perfect.

  4. Found a link to your blog post from Reddit. Didn’t know that I’d land on such a heartwarming story. Not only do I love big dogs (my childhood buddy was a big ol’ English Mastiff), but I love people who support our soldiers (that means you)! Thank you so much for making this soldier’s day, and I’m totally subscribing to your blog!

    • Thank you so much for reading and following!! Angus helped out without even trying. But then, dogs just have to “be” and love follows. This care package was a pleasure to put together. Well…especially since Laura did most of the work 🙂

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