The Military Dog

I like Ike.

Ike, for those of you unacquainted with the family episodes I write detailing nearly every major and minor humiliating episode we experience (probably further supporting the psychiatric industry by embedding a plethora of emotional problems in my children that are bound to require therapy sometime in their College Student future), Ike is my dog.

A two year old male Staffordshire Terrier/Shar Pei mix.  Sometimes known as a "pit bull".  And, no, we did NOT name him after Ike Turner.  As a proud military family, we had little choice but to name him after General Eisenhower.

We acquired Ike in May of 2005, he was my birthday present from hubby.  I had my heart set on getting a Basset Hound, and we had spent the better part of four months combing rescue organizations, shelters, online listings,  and adoption agencies trying to find a dog that fit our family.

It wasn't working.

In a fit of exasperation, hubby, the four kids,  and I stopped at a shelter about an hour and fifteen minutes away from base.  At the end of one of the rows of barking and frantic dogs was a skinny and dirty little beast that had a tail wagging harder than I'd ever seen in my life.  In fact, there was so much tail wagging going on that the tip of this dog's tail was bloody from smacking continually into the sides of the kennel.

And for some reason, although this dog was frantically trying to get our attention, he was not barking at all.  Not even whining.

We were intrigued.  We took the dog out to the "get acquainted" area.   During the walk past all the cages, as other dogs barked with all their might, Ike ignored them all.  He didn't pull, he didn't bark.  In the play area, he brought my two year old son a ball to throw for him.  The dog begged my youngest child to play ball!

We were a little worried when my son grabbed the dog's tail and pulled as hard as he could and we couldn't get there to stop him in time, but all that happened was a drooly snort and then the dog sat down - effectively ruining my son's fun as it yanked the tail from his hand with the leverage the dog had applied.

The final straw was when the dog went to the food bucket and started chowing down and my son ran over and grabbed it away before we could stop him.  The dog didn't care.  He didn't try to chase the food down, he didn't growl or snap (and he was obviously starved).

This was the dog.  He was definitely a keeper. 

We christened him Ike, had him fixed and took him home.

However, we did not quite know what we were getting ourselves into.  And this is a dangerous situation for a military family to be in when it involves things within their control (as there is so much outside our control already).

A dog lover from birth, and having had the good fortune to have spent every summer and parts of every year on my Grandfather's working ranch, I had no idea that there was such a thing as "Breed Based Restrictions" until I started researching housing around Andrews Air Force Base, where we had been told there was a possibility of hubby getting an assignment.

Apparently, Staff Terriers are considered "pit bulls" in Prince George's County.  If we were to PCS there, Ike could not go with us.

Further research showed that there were far more places than Prince George's County where Ike would not be welcome.  Kirtland Air Force Base, for instance.  The entire state of Ohio.  Little Rock, Arkansas.  Germany.  Australia.   Now that base housing here has been privatized, Ike would be banned here, if he had not already lived on base when privatization took effect.    The list was depressingly long.  And in some places, Ike's Shar Pei 1/4 was also banned.  Some places ban Rottweilers, Dobermans, and Chow Chows.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that some people have abused these breeds terribly, and caused them to behave in ways that have had tragic endings.  And the end result of that is that we, as a military family who will never qualify for any Grandfather clauses in any areas with any legislation, are directly and tremendously affected by a law that seeks to protect some and could possibly take away from us a precious family member.

Ike sleeps with my son every night.  He did quite often before hubby left, but in the time since hubby left for deployment, Ike has made himself my son's security blanket.  He even does his tricks for my son when treats are involved. 

Ike patiently played "horsie" with my nephew three times while we were in California.

Ike whined and scratched at my back door when my #3 daughter was playing outside alone and fell on the concrete patio in our backyard and busted her head.  He wanted to make sure we got out there and took care of the problem.

Ike has had extensive obedience training and has never exhibited any aggression toward any other dog or human - and he's had many chances, as my daughter is the neighborhood dog sitter.

But none of this matters as PCS season comes up again and I start to worry.  Where will they send us?  What will we do if we can't take Ike?

It's funny how things that civilian families never have to think about, like getting a dog from the shelter, can be such huge events for military families.  But it's definitely something we need to be aware of.  It's never as simple as "We just wanted a dog."


Ike with Daughter #1 and our CARE packages in the background

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