HANK THE TANK
By: J.P. Davis
“I just don’t see a way to get through to Sam.”
“Be patient. You are his first pet.”
Hank is living with Sam this time around, but not really living with him. Hank lives alone behind Sam’s mobile home in the middle of nowhere.
“Okay, you’re the boss. You know I’m sick, right?”
“Of course, I do, Hank, what kind of question is that? I am the beginning and the end. I have seen it all. I made it all.”
“Sorry, just having a Job biblical moment, Boss. I mean, I’m feeling old. I’m tired. This has been a tough one. I’m ready to move on.”
Hank looks around. The chain is long. Sam comes out twice a day to give him table scraps. That’s about all the interaction they have.
Hank came to be with Sam through Ginger. She saw Hank and shined her love on him until it glowed through to Sam. For Sam, this was his first feeling of unconditional love.
Sam grew up hard. His Mom had to give him away as a child because she could not afford to take care of him. He lived on a farm with an old man named Mr. Soxx, who had lost his hand in a corn combine accident. All of Mr. Soxx’s tractors and trucks had knobs on the steering wheels so they could be driven with one hand.
Mrs. Soxx was very nice to Sam, letting him eat the nightly meal with them, but otherwise Sam lived alone in one of the old barns with a wood stove for the winter chill and an open barn door for cooling in the summer. A car battery lit his one light bulb.
One day at the end of the harvest season the old man came to Sam. This was after Rosie, the old man’s wife, had died. Sam and Mr. Soxx both took it hard, losing Rosie. Mr. Soxx had a garbage bag with some clothes in it in his hands. He gave the bag to Sam but didn’t say a word. Along with the bag, he handed Sam two 20-dollar bills as they walked to the end of the driveway.
“Good luck,” is all he said to Sam as he turned around and walked back to the house. That was it. Sam’s time with the old man had come to an end.
The girl who befriended Sam, Ginger, was a wounded soul with a pure heart. They almost made a miracle, but they could not hold it together.
The girl came out to see me on the chain.
“I’m sorry this is the kind of life you have. I wish I could take you, but I don’t know where I’m going. At least you will be fed here.”
She kissed me on the nose, as I wagged my tail and smiled at her. I could see tears on her face. She took her bag and walked to the road with her thumb out. She was so pretty and so wounded. In no time at all, a car stopped. She had a brief chat with the man driving. She hopped in, and just like that she was gone. I was alone with Sam.
The next day Sam came out to feed me as usual, and his mood was no different than the day before. I was hopping around as best as I could, trying to show him love. He got angry and hit me with the chain a time or two and went back inside. It was just too painful for him to see me, even though he did not know that was what he was feeling. I forgave him instantly. It wasn’t his fault he was so wounded. Life had just him given him a bad deal. He could not see any joy. Oh, it was there, but the brief times I saw joy in him he pushed it away.
Each day he would come out to feed me and each day I would greet him as if he was the best thing in the entire world, wagging my tail and bouncing around, trying to engage him. But it made matters worse. Maybe the light in him had actually gone out. I don’t know. The pain was too big for him to push through. I could see it in his eyes: the prison time he had served, the difficult circumstances he placed himself in to try to reduce the pain. He didn’t have the tools to turn it around.
“They do not know what they do not know,” the boss said to me.
“It seems unfair, Boss. I mean this place is tough on humans.”
“I cannot explain it to you in a way you will understand, Hank.”
The next day Sam and I had a pretty good interaction. I was getting through to him. The light is there inside of him. I see it. He came out and released me from the chain. I jumped around the yard, even though I was so old and tired. He put me in the car.
“Oh great, a ride. I love to ride.”
He drove me a long way in the car.
We stopped along a quiet paved road with fields on each side. He opened the door and got out.
“I love fields.” I got out and tried to bounce around to engage him.
He looked at me for a long while. I looked back. We both stood there, silently, not moving, staring at each other. He had a choice to make.
Finally, I could tell what was next. I continued to stand there, not wagging my tail, just waiting to see what he had decided. Once the decision was made, he got back into the car, closed the driver’s door, and drove away, leaving me in the field to die.
Minutes passed and a small car with three people, two women and a man, stopped. The younger woman got out. I knew her smell. She was someone I had known long before I met Sam.
“We’re taking him,” she said to the man and woman.
“That dog is too old and flea-bitten,” the man said to both women, but he was smiling as he said it, and I knew I was about to go on another journey. They loaded me into the car and off I went.
“He only has about six weeks to live, I think,” said the veterinarian to Alice, Linda, and John as they all looked at me sitting on the floor smiling up at them through my gray beard.
“He will not live long enough to make the trip to Connecticut,” the vet said to Linda.
“Okay, we will keep him here,” Alice said. Linda smiled approvingly. John looked on, having seen this look in Alice’s eyes many times over their long and wonderful life together, knowing nothing could be said. The dog was coming home. He would have six weeks of bliss and that would be that.
“Hi, Hank. How’s my baby boy?” Alice says to me every day as she comes out to the nice dog run with a house and fenced pen where I now live. I’m right on the edge of the field. Did I tell you I love fields? She puts my food into her hand. I gobble it up quickly and she pulls out another handful. She feeds me by hand, every day. I love the touch of humans, especially this one. She is pure love.
“It’s time for your walk, Hank.”
We go on nice long walks and occasionally she lets me run back and forth across the street even though it kind of freaks her out a little until I come back. She lays down in the field after chasing me for a while and then I run back to her. I so love fields.
“Hank, I need you for another assignment. Your time here is up.”
“Boss, I have a new assignment here now, I can’t leave these two just yet. They need me.”
“You said you were ready to go a month ago.”
“I know, but what do I know, right? These people need me. They have some things coming and she is going to need me to get through them.”
“You’re right. I see it. Okay, stay a little longer if you like, but don’t think that I don’t know. You are enjoying yourself with all the attention. I’m glad you’ve found this kind of love in humans.”
“How’s Sam?” I ask.
“Not something I can cover with you, Hank. You know your journey is different than a human journey. Humans have free will. Some choices create suffering in their lives.”
“Then why give it to them?” I ask.
“Because the lessons stick if they come through the suffering.”
“Always. Eventually. Sometimes they wind up back here with me before they get it.”
Oh, what a life I have now. Alice and John have shown me unconditional love every day of my life. I am so grateful to have been able to stay with them. She needed me, and I didn’t even know it. He needed me too. It’s been a beautiful time.
“Hank, I need you for another assignment.”
“I haven’t been here with these people long, have I?”
“How about ten earth years.”
“Wow. Okay. Let me pick the time. I think they’re doing well. I can find a time to leave them soon. This has been a good one, though, Boss. Thank you. And, if you don’t mind, not an Indian street dog, okay? The whole Hindu Karma thing makes that a really tough gig.”