She sat on her porch step watching the morning rise. She did this every morning as part of her routine, and this routine did not vary much. She woke up every morning at 5 am, a habit she’d been unable to kick since the discharge. She did 50 crunches in 1 minute, followed by 27 push ups in one minute – minimum requirements but she’d settle for it. Then she went on her 3 mile run. 3 miles may not seem like much, but when you do it every morning it keeps you fresh. When she returned from her run she’d indulge herself by make pancakes, though sometimes it was waffles. This morning, she sat on her porch step eating a nice soft delicious pile of pancakes with just a hint of syrup. It didn’t matter that she was a native Vermonter, too much syrup made her sick. If you make the batter just right, the fluffy pancake tasted delicious without it. The sun was midway through its ascent into the sky when she saw him. She saw him every morning on her run, and she didn’t know what to make of him. He kept to the shadows of the bushes and trees of the little wood tucked nicely around her home. See, she lived in the country. Not a suburb, but the country, where she could run on dirt roads, or wood paths. Her neighbors were far a few between, and that’s the way she liked it. That aside, she noticed he was getting braver.

She first noticed him a few weeks ago. She was running in the woods, and she felt like she was being followed. She always listened to these feelings – again, habit. She peeked behind her to see a dark brown tail disappear behind a bush. She laughed at herself and thought it was a fox, then she paused. Foxes weren’t that tall, or dark. She brushed it aside and ran home. The next day she noticed him again, but she saw his snout – long, with a wet nose and a mixture of black and gray covering his face. He was a dog. A big dog from what she could glimpse. It kept on like this, her glimpsing pieces and parts of him, until one day he ran right along side of her. His coat was gruff. A German Shephard.  He had a collar though, so she figured he did a morning romp in the woods before running home.

This morning though, she saw that he was poking closer and closer to her porch step where she sat with her pancakes. The wind was warm, the first hints of summer. She decided she wanted to see what the information was on his tags, so she set her plate down on the ground, just beyond her reach. The dogs ears went back, though not in an aggressive manner. He was more scared than aggressive, she could sense that. He tentatively crept forward until his nose was inches away from the plate. She said, “it’s okay boy.” That was all he needed. He ate the pancakes in two big bites, and then licked the plate clean. When he was done, he sat in front of her and looked up, expectantly. She slowly reached her hand forward, and was able to grab the tag. It read, ‘BOB.’ She laughed to herself, Bob was a funny name for a regal dog such as a Shepherd. That’s when she stopped. Her training taught her to pay attention to the way things were spelled – how they were spelled. BOB was all capitalized on his tag. Curious.

She started scratching his ears, trying to get a feel for his temperament. He loved it. She decided she’d take the dog to a vet and get him checked out. She didn’t trust shelters. He followed her obediently, not even a question in his eyes. On the way to the vet she noticed that he laid down without flinching. Not a sound bothered him. He felt more and more like a service dog by the minute. She had been around a couple during her time overseas. He was too calm for a dog who was just picked up by a stranger. She was looking for an address, and she spotted it on a mailbox. She chuckled to herself. Only a small town veterinary office would have a classic mailbox out front with their address number on it. She doubted you’d find that in a big city. She turned in and went in. The vet assistant gave BOB a bath, clipped his nails, and checked all the regular nooks and crannys. No fleas, no ticks. They asked where she found him, and she said in the woods. The scanned him for a microchip, and ding ding ding. They had a match. The vet assistant left to call the pet assistance line the chip was registered to, and left her alone with BOB.

She looked at his face, and suddenly felt sad. She was sure this dog was a service dog, and she wondered how he had ended up alone. He looked at her, and she felt that this dog totally trusted her. Completely. It made her heart ache knowing she’d be giving him back to his owner in a short amount of time. Hopefully they’d be happy to have him back. As she was scratching his neck she noticed his collar had an ink smudge along the edge. Curious, she took it off and looked on the inside. “Retired service dog – 2005-2009. Beloved friend. Beloved Brother.” She stepped back and focused on the tag. BOB. ‘Band of Brothers.’ This dog was not just any ordinary service dog, he was a military dog. And he served when she did. She wondered if he’d lost something as she had, or someone.

The vet assistant came in with a concerned look on her face. “Excuse me ma’am. We were able to connect with this dog’s owner, and discovered that he ran away from home. The family adopted him when his previous owner was killed in combat. They were never able to connect and they don’t want him back. We will have to bring him to the shelter.”

Her mind reeled. She knew what happened in shelters. He wouldn’t find a home in that place. He needed to spend the rest of his days where he could relax. The vet assistant interrupted her thoughts. “If you were interested in adopting, we could make that option available to you. He could easily be trained to be a service dog for you…” Her voice trailed as her gaze trailed to my arm. Though technology has improved significantly, a prosthetic is still not the real thing. “I don’t need a service dog.” Her eyes gazed down. As she looked at this animals face, and thought of his collar, she said, “I could use a friend though. A brother.” The vet assistant glanced up and smiled. “The dog’s name is..” – “His name is BOB.” she cut her off. She didn’t care what name he was given before. She knew who he truly was.

They went home together, after a quick stop at the local pet store. A dog bed, food bowl, toys and bag of food later, they were all set. BOB ran around the yard happily barking as she threw a  tennis ball to him. They were a kindred spirit, BOB and this veteran. A flicker of blue caught her eye and she gasped as a bluejay settled right next to her. It was just a moment before he flew away again. Her mom always told her a bluejay was someone in heaven saying hello. She looked to BOB and smiled. A band of brothers, they truly were.

‘Patriot’ by Joyce Gibson

Check out this wonderfully beautiful nonfiction response: B-O-B, Bob


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