Monday, April 3, 2017


This story comes to us from a friend - Lee is a 'Nam vet, this is not my story . . . S.L.

Back when I was 20, in the midst of a war, could speak the language, and was on my own most of the time when not on a mission, life was exciting, and I wanted to taste all that I could. Lots of times I went out on my own, but early in my deployment I hooked up with a like-minded LRRP in the 101 Airborne Division. Walt is not in this photo, but it serves to help in remembering. This is a longer story, but I promise you some laughs . . . - Lee B.

A Little Rest & Recreation Becomes a Lot of Escape & Evasion

"Give me another one of those beers, Lee."

"Here ya go, Walt, but the party's almost over. There's less than a case left."

Walt grimaced and asked, "Wonder if this old gook knew he'd party more after he was buried than he ever did while he was alive?"

Walt Smith was blonde, medium height, blue-eyed and heavily muscled. A real American Golden Boy. How a corporal in the 101st Airborne's elite Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) and a Vietnamese Linguist in America's elite Army Security Agency (ASA) became close is something even we hadn't figured out. We just enjoyed each other's company.

As usual, we were partying with a dozen other guys in the sand around North Air Field a mile inland from Tuy Hoa and the coast of the South China Sea. Our favorite drinking spot was a solitary gravesite. Vietnamese graves are interesting in that a low masonry wall surrounds the individual burial plot. We would sit on the wall, legs straight out into the sand, and trade stories, some from the war, but most from civilian life. This grave was kind of a boundary at the foot of a sand hill. LRRP was at the top of the hill, and, since officially there were no Army Security Agency units in Vietnam, our “Radio Research Unit” sat at the bottom.


More than one partier asked, "What the heck was that", or words to that effect, as we reached for our weapons.

"No problem," someone shouted, "Lt. Castleman just tripped over his own feet again. He was running with his .45 cocked because he heard us
partying and thought Charlie had broken through the wire."

Walt said, "Hey man, let's go to my hooch. I've got almost half a bottle of vodka and some more beer up there."

And so we departed the august company of our fellow revelers to start a night destined to live in ASA and LRRP infamy.

We trudged on up the hill, entered Walt’s hooch, and started on the vodka. That stuff must have been watered down because it disappeared pretty quickly. Then we started on the few beers he had.

Very carefully Walt placed two beers on the table.


“Don’t mention it,” Walt replied in a tone that sounded like he meant exactly that. Walt was very serious about his drinking. He flipped the chair around and sat down John Wayne style. A three-day patrol had left him with sunken hollows beneath his eyes and a patchwork of insect bites on his neck and face. Sort of an old man’s face set on the compact and muscular body of a nineteen-year-old athlete’s body.

Sweat rolled off his sun-reddened face as he threw his head back to drink. Most of the beer went pretty near his mouth. I laughed.

“So, all you do is sit in your hooch all day long and listen to your radio?”

I nodded. Walt laughed silently.

“Must be a real important part of the war effort.”

“It is, Walt. I report directly to General Westmoreland. It’s not my fault the fuckin’ VC haven’t learned to use radios yet. Anyhow, tell me about the 14 year-old you captured. You guys raid the Ho Chi Minh nursery or what?”

As if he’d suddenly discovered a great truth, Walt said, “This place really sucks!”

Of course he was right. North Field was a shit hole. The GP Medium I was living in was always hot, smelling of stale sweat. I ran into some extraordinary officers in Vietnam, but the MI officers we reported to were proof positive that “Military Intelligence” was an oxymoron. And after a year studying Vietnamese at Defense Language Institute, pretty much all I was picking up in my intercept work was static.

“Let’s go to Papa San’s for some tiger piss,” Walt urged. It didn’t take much urging on his part. Beer LaRue, I think, was the official French name. The bottle had a picture of a tiger on it, hence the moniker “tiger piss.”

Now Papa San’s was outside the wire on the west side of North Field. Walt was pretty sure he knew where the machine gun positions were, so we headed to the perimeter. I could just barely see him ahead of me running easily in the dark, half couched with his arms at his sides.
Sonofabitch! The ground rose up, and I fell again. Walt stopped.

“Nice going,” he said sweetly.

“I don’t do much of this shit when I’m sitting in my hooch,” I spat back.

Walt laughed and helped me up. “You okay?”

“I’m pretty sure both my kneecaps are broken.”

Walt was deeply concerned. “How’s your dick?”

“Okay,” I said.

“Good. Then you really have nothing to bitch about! Let’s go.”

We crawled into a drainage ditch and moved to within fifty meters of the first machine gun position. Walt said to wait, climbed out of the ditch, and moved to the position. The ditch started spinning, and I closed my eyes.

Walt came back and said, “I know where we can get through the wire.”

“And we’re not going to get shot, right?”

“Probably not,” Walt said over his shoulder. I climbed out of the ditch and followed him. This was actually starting to feel like fun.

We crawled to three more foxholes to alert them that we were going through the fence to get a few brews.

Trip flares occasionally lighted up the sky, but that was typical so it was a pretty uneventful trip. We got a couple of what appeared to be quart bottles, found a comfortable place in the dunes, leaned back, and enjoyed the first cold beer we had consumed in nearly an hour. Unfortunately those were our last cold brews for awhile because they were the last two that Papa San had.

Mission accomplished, we went back in the way we came out only to realize that our internal clocks were announcing that the party was just getting started. Walt asked; “Why don’t we go for a little Rest and Recreation downtown, Lee?”

“Right, Walt. Where do we go for our evening passes? I’m sure they’re going to let us bust curfew.”

“No, man. We don’t need any passes. We’ll go out the north side of the perimeter the same way we went to Papa San’s. Nobody’s going to do anything. All we have to do is dodge the MPs.”

“I don’t know, Walt. People with security clearances aren’t supposed to be as adventurous as you LRRPs. If we get caught, I’m going to be in deeper shit than you’ll ever have to think about.”

“To hell with that! Put on your party face, buddy, because we’re going to get drunk and get happy all night long!”

Somewhere in that colloquy there must have been some magic words because I shook my head and said, “Let’s do it to it, Walt.” And we were off.

Again, Walt maneuvered us through the barbed wire and concertina as well as the machine gun positions so that we were able to exit the perimeter on the north side. Now we had to get across a black top road, through an area of tin hooches occupied by Vietnamese, and down a country lane about a mile to Tuy Hoa.

As we crossed the road we saw jeep headlights coming straight at us. “MP’s!” I yelled, and Walt and I sped into the hooch area hoping to lose them. I got the bright idea of ducking into one of the hooches and was greeted by the timid stares of an entire Vietnamese family. Actually Walt and I were both fixed by those stares because he was right on my heels.

I quickly told the family that we were being chased by the military police and asked if they would help us. They got big smiles and told us to stay as long as we wanted ... which wasn’t very long because we were definitely wrapped up in the idea of more beer and meeting some ladies.
When the coast looked clear, we were off. The moon was bright and full so we could see pretty well as we walked down the dirt lane that led to Tuy Hoa and the objects of our affections.

The lane into Tuy Hoa was dusty and rutted from the daily traffic of trucks and jeeps. On either side of the road the jungle edged in with tree branches bending far out over the side ditches filled with stubby cactus. In the daylight, from a distance, the jungle could be beautiful in endlessly intricate patterns of differing shades of green. Up close at night it was simply black.

Tuy Hoa was off limits at night so Walt and I pretty much had the road to ourselves. Still, we stayed close to the edge remembering the sniper fire we’d experienced on other trips. There was a jungle trail that paralleled the road that was known to have considerable Viet Cong traffic.
I pointed that out to Walt.

“Every jungle trail in the whole damned country has considerable gook traffic,” he whispered back.

We came into town on the far west side. The lane we were on was bordered on the left by the backs of various shops and on the right by about a six-foot drop-off into what looked like sand and vegetation. We heard a jeep coming up behind us.

“MP’s!” Walt croaked in a whispered shout as he shoved me over the embankment and jumped himself.

“Oh, crap, man”, I whispered loudly. “We’re in a patch of cacti. This is killing me!” And then I started laughing.

“Be quiet, you dummy! We’re going to get caught if you don’t shut up. Don’t move and don’t say anything until the MP’s are gone.”
So we lay there, choking off our laughter, convulsing in silence, and wanting to scream, not breathing another word as the MPs’ open jeep slowly drove by.

We struggled up the shifting sand of the embankment wanting nothing more for the moment than to stop the pain. We pulled spines out of each other’s backs and butts for several minutes, and then it was off to partake of the pleasures of the flesh.

Suddenly we didn’t give a shit about the cacti, the snipers, or the MPs. We started laughing and talking out loud. This was our own private little battle, and no one else was invited.

“Except the whores,” Walt solemnly reminded me. He was right. Whores were invited.

As we headed east down the road we fell in behind a Vietnamese girl about whom Walt declared, "Boy, I'd like a little of that!"

As we got closer, it turned out to be a friend of mine named Huong. Now Huong was well known to a lot of the guys, but respected because she dated an ARVN assigned to work with us. Beh was a good guy, and he and the other ARVN support person, Vi, helped us through a lot of tight spots. However, while we were in the field at Phuc My, Beh told us that he was no longer dating Huong because she had been dating GIs and they tended to stretch out a girl’s pussy.

Anyhow, I had no more than said hello to Huong than Walt yelled; “MPs, run man!” And we took off through the alleys. But they were really on us this time so we split up. I dodged into a couple of different stores with the same story I had used in Tin Town and got the same supportive reaction. After losing sight of the MP’s, I circled back. No Walt, but Huong was still in the vicinity.

I told her what was going on so she took me to her grandparents’ home telling me that the MP’s would be doing a house-to-house search for us. Her grandparents hid me under their bed until the search was over. I thanked everyone and meandered through town looking for Walt and downing a few Cognacs and Coca-Colas.

Now I couldn’t find Walt, but I was feeling no pain. I was, however, cognizant enough to know that I’d better get my tail back inside North Field before dawn, or I’d be living with some consequences that I did not want. Or the VC would nail me, and I wouldn’t be living at all. So I started wandering back up the country lane toward Tin Town at a less than a steady pace.

Not far into my new quest, three schoolboys surround me and start yelling, “You teach me English! You teach me English!”

I said, “I can’t boys. I’ve got to get back inside the compound, or I’m in big trouble.”

They offered me a deal. “You come my house, teach English one hour, and we get you back inside. No problem.”

At this point I’m thinking, “Nothing from nothing leaves nothing, so what the hell.”

“Okay, boys! I’m your man!” And off we went to their house.

After meeting mom, dad, an aunt, and grandpa and grandma, I sat down with a book the boys provided and gave them what I suspect was the worst English lesson of their lives.

But, true to their word, they escorted me back to the east side of North Field. By this point, it was a very dark and stormy night. The rains had started, it was kind of foggy, and, with the moon behind the clouds, it was very dark.

I was facing an eight-foot high tornado fence, reinforced with a pyramid of concertina wire; big, round roles of razor wire set in a row three deep, topped by a row two deep, topped by a single row. I figured things weren’t looking too good. At the same time, I couldn’t see much more than ten yards in front of me and knew the guards couldn’t see any better.

One of the boys whispered, “You come here, GI. Here is hole. You crawl through. Nobody see.”

And in my stupor I’m thinking, “Jeez, I’m not even old enough to legally drink hard liquor yet, and here I’m probably going to die because of it!” But there were no viable alternatives. In I went, it was an easy crawl, and I was snug in my sleeping bag within ten minutes never having received a single challenge.

With even the kids knowing how to get into a supposedly secure position, I did have some questions about how protected we were. Of course, that was a question that I had to keep to myself, since I would have been forced to give the whole story and that would have gotten me court-marshaled.

Walt found me the next day and asked how I’d fared. I gave him a general run down and then asked, “Where did you disappear?”

“Oh, man, I thought I slipped them when I ducked up an alley. Except it dead-ended against a wall. The MP Jeep pulls up to block the only way out, and an MP captain got out with his .45 drawn and shouted; “Come out of there soldier! Right now!”

“I figured he knew what he was doing, so I walked out, cold-cocked the SOB and took off running like the devil. I found an all-night pleasure house and left part of my brains there on the sheets. Man, you should have stayed with me. I had a hell of a good time, Lee!”

So now you see how a little Rest and Recreation (R&R) became a lot of Escape and Evasion (E&E).

Several months later, after some training up in Phu Bai on the DMZ I heard that Walt bought it in a firefight. Losing friends was always difficult. I’m glad we had our adventure together -Lee B.


Sunday, April 2, 2017


The plight of American missionary Rev. Andrew Brunson has recently come to my attention . . . S.L.

Pastor Andrew Brunson – a U.S. citizen from Black Mountain, North Carolina – was summoned to the local police station in Izmir, Turkey on the morning of October 7, 2016. He believed he would be receiving a long awaited permanent residence card. Pastor Brunson, who is a U.S. citizen, has been living in Turkey for 23 years, running a Christian church with the full knowledge of local authorities.

Upon arriving at the station, he was informed he was being deported based on being a “threat to national security,” a common excuse for deportation in Turkey. It became clear that he was being arrested and would be detained until deportation. He was fingerprinted, searched, and had his phone, pen, etc. taken away. He was denied a Bible. But instead of being deported, he was held with no charges.

During the initial 63 days of his detention, Brunson was denied access to his Turkish attorney. He was placed in solitary confinement for part of this time, with his glasses and watch confiscated.

On December 8th, after being detained for 63 days, things took a dire turn. In the middle of the night, Pastor Andrew was taken to a counter terrorism center in Izmir and then on to court. He was questioned and has been falsely charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” The charging documents state no “evidence has been gathered” against him. A Turkish judge had the option to deport Pastor Andrew, release him on weekly sign-ins at the local police station, or imprison him. The judge chose to remand Pastor Andrew to prison.”

Senator James Lankford (Republican - Oklahoma) traveled to the Turkish capital Ankara in December where he met with the Department of Justice officials, Fox News reported: “For the first time, we learned what these charges are,” Lankford told Fox News. “They were given to me orally.”

Lankford told Fox News that Turkish authorities alleged Brunson had helped Kurdish refugees — Turkey labels the Kurds an insurgent group — and that the pastor attended a conference put on by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government accused of plotting the 2016 coup from Pennsylvania where he now lives.

Reverend Andrew Brunson remains in Turkish custody at the time of this writing.


WHY I WRITE - 40 Question Challenge

I've been doing a lot of writing lately and some of its actually getting printed. The book keeps growing legs but is certainly at the 99% level. This thing came across the Twitter timeline, so I'm doing it as a mental exercise. Something more creative & entertaining coming soon - cheers, S.L.

1) I Write because I’m compelled to.

2) I write to be remembered. To leave something of myself behind.

3) I write to reveal my truest thoughts.

4) I write to feel love.

5) I write to release anger.
I write as a release, yes. Anger, no - thank God.

6) I write to be me.

7) I write because I have stories to tell.

8) I write to change lives.
My writing is not about changing lives, influence perhaps, and the only lives I wish to influence are the people I love.

9) I write to find my way.

10) I write to connect.

11) I write to live a purposeful life beyond the daily grind of 9 to 5.

12) When someone asks me my profession, I can say I’m a writer.
(And yes, I’m proud to be a writer!)

13) I write to inspire others.

14) I write because I’m inspired by others.

15) I write for clarity.

16) I write because it’s liberating.

17) I write because I crack myself up and I want to make others laugh, too.

18) I write because I’m fortunate enough that I can and I want to respect the Creator for giving me this gift.

19) I write to express my uniqueness and that’s something no one can take away from any of us.

20) I write to feel awesome. It makes me feel like a badass.
I am a card-carrying member of the Badass Society - I don't need to write or do anything else to make me feel like what I already am.

21) I write in the hopes that others will follow my lead as I have followed the lead of so many others.

22) I write because the haters force me to continue and I secretly love pissing them off. I know, that’s juvenile, and I don’t care. At least I’m being honest.
Why I write has nothing to do with this.

23) Because I think a lot and if I didn’t have a journal to write in I would go crazy or my head would explode, and those outcomes are not acceptable.

24) I write because it’s the audacious thing to do.

Yes, darn it, I have the audacity to be a writer. Hell, I helped write the book! Call yourself a writer if you own it, read it and have it in your bathroom next to the toilet, for you know . . . those precious alone moments.

25) I write because I’ve failed at so many things to the point of moving on from them, but writing isn’t one of ’em. Slush piles be damned, I keep writing. I mean, common, don’t they realize I’m creating magic with my words? Magic, I say!

26) My words deserve to be written. (And, by the way, so do yours!)

27) Writing makes me happy.

28) Writing makes me better.

29) I watched Star Wars and was taken in by The Force to start writing. True story.
I’m a Trekkie - Star Wars in interesting special effects, but Star Trek has the philosophical/analytical side to it.

30) Writing is my creative outlet.

31) Writing is my thoughts outlet.

32) I write because it is cathartic and empowering.

33) I write to repeat myself and readers will notice. That’s when you know they’re paying attention.

34) I write because I’m always fascinated and writing allows me to explore what fascinates me.

35) Writing is my chi.

36) My Id is always talking in my head and I feel compelled to record his wants, needs, and his inexhaustible ramblings.

37) I write to shed my doubts, and I tell ya, I have plenty. So there are always words for my journal.
Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world, but the truth is, Green Berets don't have this problem.

38) I write to stop and smell the roses to discover the positives. Once I started writing them I discovered there are so many more than I realized. Give it a try. There’s another world out there that we walk past every day without noticing.

39) Because someone once told me writers are hot. It’s a shameful admission, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. When you’re hot, you’re hot!

40) I write because I love to write, always have. Always will.

36 out of the 40 above - I guess I should add a few of my own:

I write about Honor, items of military interest, literary and artistic themes, and the international security situation. These days I am writing more and more about the latter and my creative endeavors are suffering accordingly. I am a professional soldier, a writer and a thinker. I try not to let politics intrude. My influences are Somerset Maugham for the tropical locales where his stories take place and his subtle sense of irony, Conrad for the dark, introspective ambiance of his works, and of course Hemingway for his brevity and style.

I write because I have a story to tell,
a fantastic tale of adventures that start in the here and now and vector off in other-worldly directions. Humans interface with spiritual beings, often without even being aware of it, and karma drives the action to ironic conclusions. Think Somerset Maugham meets The Twilight Zone. Or rather, YOURSELF - meeting ME - in a traditional pub, at an exotic hotel on a jungled cliff overlooking the Andaman Sea, in southern Thailand


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Historical Perspective: The Conflicts In The Middle East

If karma is real, we are certainly experiencing it on an international scale in the Middle East . . . S.L.

The Middle East is a mess, but despite our recent involvement in Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere, the United States is not solely responsible for the current state of affairs. The challenges inherited by the Trump Administration are complex; any solutions are elusive at best. A review is necessary.

Apart from the oil-rich Gulf nations, three countries in the Middle East stand out politically and culturally. Syria is a traditional society with a long cultural history. Damascus - one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world - has long been one of the Arab world's centers for cultural and artistic innovation, especially in the field of classical Arab music.

Iraq was the center of the Arab caliphate during the "Golden Age of Islam"; the 9th and 10th centuries. Baghdad was the largest city in the world at the beginning of the 10th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, both Syria and Iraq were part of the Ottoman Empire.

Egypt is the most populous and most cosmopolitan Arab nation. Egypt’s interaction with the West goes back as far as ancient Greece, when Alexander the Great made one of his generals – Ptolemy – pharaoh, in 305 BCE. Cleopatra (51-30 BCE) was Ptolemy ‘s direct descendent. Like Syria and Iraq, Egypt was also a part of the Ottoman Empire. During World War I, Egypt became a British protectorate.

From 1958 to 1961 an entity existed, the United Arab Republic, a union between Egypt and Syria. Tripartite Unity Talks occurred between Egypt, Iraq and Syria in 1963, but these failed after ba'athist-nasserist clashes in Syria. Egypt continued to use the name UAR from 1961 to 1972. In 1972 Iraq proposed a restored union with Egypt and Syria, but this also failed to coalesce. These three nations, however, became Soviet client states and focused their energies against Israel, the American proxy.

To understand the vectors of the current conflict, we can look to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1919 as a historic point. At that time, Britain moved into Palestine, Trans-Jordan, and Iraq while France took the lands of Lebanon and Syria (the Levant).

Read the rest of it HERE

These days I'm writing for American Military News - AMN reports on global affairs, terrorism, American national security and military, politics and other happenings. Anything you'd like to see my perspective on, please contact me via the email link, and thank you for your support!


Monday, December 26, 2016


Russian agitprop? . . . S.L.

I have been advised that this event: NATO Auditor General found shot dead in suspicious circumstances is likely Russian disinformation, and quite possibly did not even occur.

After posting the link on my twitterfeed, I was informed that this story emerged three days ago through Russian-linked channels. My anonymous source has been tracking, his suspicions are unconfirmed as of yet.

Confused, I asked, "You're saying the killing itself did not occur?"

Anon: "Seen no reports from West confirming this story. Only people linked to Moscow, Ankara or Tehran, who are critical of US/NATO. Just wanted to let you know . . . I'm glad you retweeted it."

Anon: I saw this on Friday. It's unconfirmed. May be Russian agitprop as you saw in the pics. Sibel Edmonds - a known former FBI "whistleblower" who has links to Turkey and Iran, was fired for national security reasons. The ex-Soviets are both too happy to push info coming from the east. Russia wants to split NATO; this is just them trying to cause fear.

Anon: I'm saying is that the sources are all coming from Moscow. I have no evidence from western channels to corroborate that the incident in question did occur.

S.L: You're saying this killing did not occur?

Anon: Look at the images. The description and the titles keep changing. This is the signature of disinfo not a real news scoop. If a NATO officer had really been killed, you would hear about it thru military and diplomatic channels, and the news wires wouldn't be so silent.

Anon: I sent the images to you so you can also see my math and why I flagged it. No evidence this killing took place and the sources of origin are all linked to Moscow or Moscow client states. Sibel was burned for espionage. Ex-Soviets . . . well . . . 'Nuff said.

S.L: Hang on - I will check my (work) security report, see if there is mention of this event . . . (Later) . . . No mention as of Friday a.m. . . . today is a Fed holiday, so I won't have an updated sec report until tomorrow.

Anon: This story first came out on/around 23 1630Z DEC 16. I've been tracking it closely and running into bear fur each time.
have a good holiday sir, this owl is watching as owls do.

Guess we'll just have to wait & see on this one . . .


Monday, December 19, 2016


Today's Electoral College vote is a good opportunity to present a lesson in how our Republic works . . . S.L.

Trump Won 3084 of 3141 Counties, Clinton Won 57. The number of votes that Clinton beat Trump by - 1.3 million - could all be contained in the five boroughs of New York City, or within the State of California. In other words, without the Electoral College, the entire United States could be ruled by the majority of the citizen within a single state, or in the case of New York, within a single city. The overwhelming victory of Republican candidates in both Houses of Congress and in State legislatures across the country does not represent the end of the Republic, but rather that our Republic - based on democratic principles - WORKS and is in remarkably shape for two centuries.


Sunday, December 18, 2016


What a week . . . whew . . . S.L.

Monday morning I let Puppy Dog out at 0400 - about the time I start my Mondays, because I have a two hour drive down to D.C., where I stay Monday thru Thursday. Puppy Dog goes on these adventures and usually shows back up around dawn, when Mrs. Stormbringer will let him in. Nobody knows where Puppy Dog goes on his adventures, but he's been spotted as far away as the Amish farm, a couple of miles up the road. Sometimes he goes over to the neighbor's house and hangs out with them, scarfs up some snacks during their breakfast routine. Puppy Dog is a border collie and he ranges far and wide.

Only on this Monday, Puppy Dog didn't show up at dawn.

Around eleven, Mrs. Stormbringer rustled up Daughter #1 and they went out to find Puppy Dog. That's when a very bedraggled Puppy Dog emerged from beneath the fir trees at the edge of the property. He was wet, covered in mud and pine needles, shivering, and not at all himself. They took him in, dried him off, and offered him food, which he did not eat. Puppy Dog went to his place on the sofa, lay down and shivered. He was not at all himself.

I didn't become aware of any of this until much later in the day, of course. I wondered what it may be. Sounded like he got a cold. Anyway there was nothing I could do about it, not until Thursday evening at the earliest.

Puppy Dog did not get better. I showed up late Friday afternoon and he was still off his food. I inspected him; there was no sign of contusions or internal injuries. There was no indication he'd been poisoned either - his eyes were clear, bright and shiny as always, no redness, no excess slobbering or tongue lolling out. It was a complete mystery what had come over him.

I put him outside so he could relieve himself and when he didn't come back after the better part of an hour, I went out to look for him. He was standing by the carriage house, wet in the rain and behaving in a strange manner, very confused. When I brought Puppy Dog inside I put water in his bowl, which he drank and then regurgitated. Water in, water out, right there on the floor by his bowl. He was shivering, so I wrapped him in a poncho liner and stoked the fire. Puppy Dog finally warmed up and stopped shivering.

Saturday morning Puppy Dog stayed on the leather sofa down in the Jungle Room, where the wood burning stove kept him warm. I offered him food, which he declined, no interest in even smelling a piece of meat or cheese, his favorite snack. Around mid-morning, Puppy Dog moved to the floor in front of the wood burning stove, and I stroked his face, said nice words, "Oh, you want to be warm!" At that point I had no idea the kind of cold that was creeping over him.

About a half an hour later I was in the garage and Mrs. Stormbringer came to me, she was in tears. "I think Puppy Dog is DYING!" I went to Puppy Dog by the fire, put my hands on him. He was very still, barely a pulse, I could barely see he was breathing. Puppy Dog twitched, moved his head twice like he was trying to bite something, and then he was gone.

Puppy Dog was eleven years old.

Puppy Dog and his best friend Tiny in their favorite place, on top of a poncho liner down in the Jungle Room.

It was right after we transferred back to Fort Bragg from Germany, in the fall of 2005. I took the kids to see the Halloween Parade downtown Pinehurst, and the Moore County Animal Shelter had some rescue dogs for adoption. He was eight weeks old, looking very smart with his distinctive black & white markings. The kids couldn't believe it when I said, "We'll take him!" On the drive home, Daughter #2 had her arms around the dog, and she kept saying, "I can't believe we got a dog!" It was like she was in a trance. We named him after a stuffed toy an old friend had given the girls, years before.

Puppy Dog had an almost magical effect on those around him. He could do all the dog tricks and nobody ever trained him, he trained himself. He could even do 'heel'; all I had to do was point to my feet and he'd heel, and he wouldn't even chase a rabbit unless I gave the word. He was agile, fast, gentle although known to nip at a stranger's legs if they took their eyes off of him, and he displayed human-like emotions. If I didn't take him for his daily run, he'd sulk. If people spoke good of him, he'd put his paw out, indicating he knew we were talking about him. He used to tug at the girls sleeves as he walked them down the driveway to wait for the school bus. I'd say, "Puppy Dog! Best Dog!" and out would come the paw again. He knew. He could understand.

Puppy Dog was an amazing dog. Everybody loved Puppy Dog.

As the years rolled by, Puppy Dog never showed the effects of age. At eleven, he still ran like a deer, and there's plenty of room around here for him to run, and plenty of deer for him to chase. And then there were his adventures. Off he'd go and we never knew where he went. The only thing that worried me was he'd go down to the road and get hit by a car, but the road is several properties over, and if he ever went there at least he never got hit. Puppy Dog was a country dog and he lived the best life any dog could ever ask for.

Recently, Puppy Dog's pal Tiny, the Jack Russell, was stricken by a severe bout of rheumatoid arthritis. It comes every winter but this was the worst its ever been. She's been in pain, could barely move, and not happy at all. It was so bad she would go to a corner of the Jungle Room to relieve herself, not wanting to deal with the cold air outside. We began discussing the dreadful option that all dog people must face, for an aging pet. I'd remember how Tiny used to bound through the woods, working with Puppy Dog to slay rabbits and squirrels, and it was heartbreaking to see this one-time bundle of energy lay around in a weakened state with the saddest look on her face.

Puppy Dog & Tiny with their first kill.

But this week, after Puppy Dog returned with his mysterious malady, Tiny experienced a miracle rebound. It was almost as if Puppy was an empath dog, and had given his energy and health to her. Tiny has been up and jumping around, wagging her tail and wiggling her body as if to say, "Look at me! I'm all better! I'm like a new dog all over again!" She's even been running out to the front yard and barking her head off, letting everyone in the neighborhood know who's boss. It's incredible, and in retrospect, its like Puppy Dog really did some extra special Puppy Dog magic to help his old friend.

Old Friends.

At least, that's what I believe happened. As incredible as it sounds, it makes absolute sense. Puppy Dog's last act of class was to help his lifelong friend and hunting companion with that special kind magic he had.

Sayonara, Old Friend. See you at the Bridge . . .

I called a close friend over and we dug the grave down by the creek, which is the property line and the starting point for Puppy Dog's many adventures. A cold, light rain fell as we dug. The ground isn't yet frozen, the clods came up quite easily as I swung the mattock. I could have done it all by myself but I simply didn't want to be alone as I dug that grave. We held off from burying him until #2 could come home to say her farewell. I've got him wrapped in a blanket in the garage, which for now is the morgue. Today I'll put Puppy Dog in the ground, and put a flagstone on top to mark the spot.

There will never be another dog like Puppy Dog. Never in a million years . . .