Thursday, April 7, 2011
Erin's Positive Impact
Employment and residing in Kosovo was an eye opening experience for both of us. It became quite apparent upon arrival that our life's would not be status quo especially for Erin in an environment where dogs of the friendly ilk are rare and canines are considered feral mongrels for the most part. While life among the locals was occasionally stressful, the bond of the soldiers with my companion was anything but that. The work environment inside the hangar was typical of any other aviation scene with a buzz of maintenance activity being performed upon a various of helicopters but these soldiers are forbidden to bring along family members or pets thus they get very homesick and that's where my girl came in.
Erin's appeal was evident the very first time I took her on base with me as the weekend shift gate guards made such a fuss over her, they petted and stroked her flowing coat while examining my car for contraband. Later on, soldiers pointed and wandered over to say "hello" after spotting us walking around, they inquired as to how I was able to possess a dog in Kosovo and I quickly learned that Erin was one of a kind; no one else was permitted to have their household pet in the region. Tethering her to a post outside the laundry facility, rec center, or the cappuccino bar was akin to tying an impala to a stake amid a pride of lions. Whenever I exited the respective building she would usually have a few soldiers huddled around her spoiling her rotten, she'd look up to me with a huge grin that screamed "this is the good life."
Occasionally I spoke to soldiers in the hangar about their family, friends, and beloved pets and eventually a discussion of Erin would arise therefore they were informed that she lived with me in a downtown apartment. They wanted to know about her life in Kosovo so I talked about life there, her incredible journey across Western Europe, and showed them pics stored on my cell phone. After several months of living there I approached my leadman with the idea of bringing Erin to work with me in order to boost the morale of soldiers in the hangar. My boss had no objection as her reputation for being obedient and friendly was well established but I would have to ask permission from the commanding officer before we proceeded any further.
The idea was pitched to the officer where I ensured him that she would be absolutely no trouble at all, that quality and quantity of work wouldn't suffer and any harm to Erin would be my responsibility, he agreed that it was a good idea and the rest is history. A pack stuffed with food, treats, water bowl and other necessities was brought along as we entered the hangar the following day. On a leash she was but only for a few minutes as my co-workers convinced me to release her to the delight of both the soldiers and civilians, nothing like having an outgoing dog around to enliven the place. It was great being able to have Erin nearby as I worked and she loved all of the attention dished upon her, it was such a positive experience for both of us. The entire hangar was one large playground with many rooms, offices, and work areas to explore, no doubt she wondered why I hadn't thought about this sooner.
The soldiers all doted on her and never tired of calling Erin's name, sometimes it was evident that feelings were hurt when she favored one over another. Many wanted her in their offices so she would venture off with them for some bonding or an opportunity to rest for awhile but before long I could hear the distance jingling of her tags and knew she ws headed my way. "There's Daddy" they would shout to reassure her as she raced toward me for some comforting then Erin would wander off with someone else. This generally continued all day with her appearing at my side then the next moment was lying at the feet of another getting those ears massaged, it was a good life for her and the soldiers certainly appreciated it.
After a few months I stopped bringing Erin to work much to the chagrine of everyone as I feared she would eventually get injured in the hustle and bustle but what an amazing situation it was for all involved. It was a rare opportunity for her and for the many soldiers on that Balkan tour, it's a memory which I'll surely never forget as she touched the hearts of so many U.S. servicemembers. I'm so proud of her as she made a positive difference in the life's of others. RIP Erin!!
“Nobody can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned a dog. A dog can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes.” ~Gene Hill