He’d had his twentieth birthday; he was young and fancy
a job he liked, a loving home and family,
was taken from them with no recourse to debate.
on a marble was the instrument of fate.
His plans to build a future were at best now put on hold,
to the army, he would do as he was told.
trained to be a soldier and sent to fight a war
clear understanding of what he was fighting for.
The killing fields of Vietnam had trip wires, traps and pits
land mines lay in wait to blow a man to bits.
had decided dogs were needed in this war.
train the dogs and use them in a way not done before.
They had no breeding programs and dogs must be got with speed
the nearby pound came dogs bought cheap to fill the need.
was one that caught their eye that they could not ignore.
row for a pittance came this matchless dog of war.
When from a helicopter he was winched down though the air
in the trucks and tanks, he’d never turn a hair.
colours while he trained, that dog passed every test
they teamed the man and dog, he knew he’d got the best.
The dog with its keen senses picked up trails he could not
learned to follow on and trust implicitly.
of distraction with his nose down to the ground
drag his handler onward till the quarry had been found.
At times the dog would look at him, head over to one side
the way he did it could encourage or deride.
sit upon the soldier’s foot when danger lay ahead.
that often, often, if he hadn’t they’d be dead.
And sometimes in the night when there were shells exploding
stayed beside the dog to calm him in his fear,
it meant he’d have to stay with him the whole night
think it duty; it was what a mate would do.
And every night the soldier checked his dog from nose to tail
the little injuries he’d picked up on the trail.
could soon turn septic, as did stinging insect bites,
jungle spawning ground for bugs and parasites.
The dog would always play a game when it was time to eat.
bring his dish across and lay it at the soldier’s feet.
the soldier made the meal he’d talk and tease his mate,
would wait, tongue lolling out for him to fill the plate.
His tour of duty almost done and counting down the days
planned to keep the dog, a team of two always.
dog had earned a rest the tired soldier knew,
was battle weary so his canine mate was too.
His safe return back home the answer to his parents’
dog the guardian that kept him in its care.
his world turned upside down the day he was to find
he was going home, his faithful dog would stay behind.
He begged and argued for the dog but no reprieve could gain,
was inflexible; his efforts were in vain.
he went to see the dog the day he went away
planned to give him one last meal and one last game to play.
Before he got inside the fence, the dog saw him and came
picking up its empty dish and eager for a game.
he looked into its eyes it looked into his mind.
the dog could tell that he was being left behind.
couldn’t hold that gaze and had to turn away
was nothing he could change and nothing he could say.
between the shoulder blades it hit him as he went,
sound of metal as it’s dropped onto cement.
When later on that day he left upon an Army plane
a vow that one day he would find his dog again.
of going home was gone and seeking for relief,
from a bottle helped to numb the soldier’s grief.
Back home again and in a job, small peace could this man find.
a lasting legacy, a restless, switched on mind.
the war was over though he tried to trace his mate
unsuccessful and still wonders on its fate.
And still he thinks about the dog, although by now it’s
the sound of metal on cement plays in his head.
when he drinks too much, he thinks that sound to kill,
it follows him around; he thinks it always will.
to always hold copyright.
© Rita Diplock