Note: This is part two of the story. You may wish to read Part I prior to reading this piece.
At 5:00 AM Sergeant Daniel Sandoval’s alarm clock barely started buzzing before he clicked it off. He looked over at his pregnant wife Sabrina who hadn’t stirred.
“Good,” thought Daniel. “She needs her sleep.”
He’d been lying in bed, mind racing and deep in thought for the past two hours. Today was his first day back at the kennels in over three years. Today was the day he would meet a lot of the other handlers. Today was the day he started training with Military Working Dog Bony—Bony the Grey Wolf.
Had he lost his touch as a dog handler?
Would the rest of the handlers accept him?
Would he bond with Bony?
Three years was a long time to be away from the dog world. Of course he hadn’t wanted to be away. He’d been sent away. But that was a long time ago, at a different Army installation, and with different leadership. Now it appeared that at Fort Bragg, North Carolina he was going to get his a second chance at redemption. Or so he hoped.
He dressed in the darkness. Just as he prepared to leave the bedroom, the bed covers stirred. He looked over at his smiling wife Sabrina. She reached for his hand and he placed the other on her growing belly.
“I believe in you, Sandy,” she told him. “Screw all the doubters and disbelievers. Go do this for yourself.”
He nodded, kissed her on the cheek, and then kissed their unborn son through Sabrina’s belly.
30 minutes later he got out of his car and looked over at the Fort Bragg Military Working Dog kennels. He smiled. He could hear dogs barking, a dog team was already out running the obstacle course, and he could hear the 82d Airborne Chorus singing cadence for morning physical fitness training. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1IjaJwLz58[/youtube]
He held his head high, forced his shoulder upright, and pushed out his chest. He was Sergeant Daniel Sandoval and he was here for redemption—redemption for himself and for his family.
“Bony is a 95- pound, furry asshole, Sandoval. He is stubborn, doesn’t listen, and will try to alpha you,” said the kennel master.
“Roger, Sergeant.” He’d dealt with stubborn dogs before, but could he break Bony down and show him who was boss?
“He should be fully recovered from his Pexi surgery. As you know the surgery will prevent him from getting bloat. The vet said he can come out of his kennel and start limited training. So get to work,” his kennel master told him.
He watched Bony race up and down the chain linked fence perimeter of the training area. Bony was powerful and quick for his size. Daniel wondered about his nose as the dog sniffed the damp ground curiously.
“Hey! Come,” called out Daniel.
Bony looked up from the blades of grass he was “inspecting” and craned his neck forward towards Daniel.
Out of the corner of his eye Daniels saw the kennelmaster and head trainer watching the scene unfold. Crap.
He sucked in his bottom lip and stared at Bony intently. He was trying to will Bony into listening to him. That was his first command Daniel had given Bony when he was off of the leash. Would Bony listen? Bony stared back at him. They were now locked in a showdown.
“Woof, woof,” bellowed Bony the Grey Wolf.
Daniel released his lip, opened his mouth and started to command him to come again.
He didn’t have to finish though. Bony was already streaking across the training area like a freight train heading right towards Daniel. Daniel knelt and watched the heavy-footed Bony spew sandy dirty everywhere.
Bony tried to stop, but his momentum took him right into the waiting arms of Daniel. Bony groaned as Daniel rubbed his head. Daniel knew that he and Bony would work out just fine as a team.
Over the next few months three incredible things happened in Daniel’s life. The first and most important was the birth of his baby boy. The second was that he and Bony developed into a formidable dog team and he was confident going into certification. Bony had a terrific nose and outstanding drive. The third was that he received notification just days before his certification that he and Bony were on orders to deploy to Afghanistan.
Daniel’s son was having trouble breathing. He needed to be there to support his wife and take care of his son. But the kennel and command expected him to certify and deploy. He didn’t want to be portrayed as looking to get out of a deployment again. It had taken him too long to get back into a kennel. Now he was back in and was being ripped apart at the same time, forced to choose between his family and his career.
What do you think Daniel should do?
Part III of this story is now published!
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