Mascots

While we were based among the ARVN infantry near Loc Giang, I befriended a little pooch. He was a Heinz-57 variety and a cute, friendly little guy. He walked with a gimp of sorts. It appeared that something was amiss with his back, resulting in short, painful steps with his hind quarters. But, he could still wag his tail.

He would visit me every day, so I started feeding him little bits of our C-Rations. In fact, I often gave him a whole can of Ham & Lima Beans. Any soldier who has survived on C-Rations well knows that the Ham & Lima Beans (Ham and Mother F***ers in Army jargon) were horrible. No one wanted them, and for good reason.

The little dog scarfed up the Ham & Lima Beans enthusiastically. After a few weeks it became apparent that his back problem was improving, plus he was actually gaining a little weight. I grew pretty fond of the little guy.

One day I heard a yelp. I looked around for the dog. There was a gathering of ARVN troops about 50 feet away, so I walked over to see what the fuss was about. They had killed the dog and were already busy dressing him down for their dinner. I was so disgusted that I actually considered pointing my M-16 at them. After I calmed down for a few minutes, I well knew that plan would go no where good.

I went back to our tent and sat down on the edge my cot. I couldn’t believe how upset I was. I seemed to have no control over the tears welling up in my eyes. I hoped my buddies didn’t notice. Perhaps the little pooch was simply a representation of a lot more – feelings I could ill afford to visit for the past 11 months. I found myself deeply resenting the very people I was fighting for. In the end, I had to force myself to let it go.

At the same camp, a Green Beret 1st Lt. had two mascot dogs. Both of them proved to be very useful guard dogs.  I lost count of the times one of them would cold-nose us awake when they heard something suspicious.  They were naturals and an added comfort during times of sleep. I think the dogs were better guards than the ARVN infantry posted around the perimeter of our little camp.

The ARVN’s gave me two orange kittens one day.  I love cats, so I could not turn them down. I seem to recall the ARVN interpreter telling me that the Vietnamese consider orange cats bad luck.  So, I gave the gorgeous little kittens milk that I brought back from nearby FSB Jackson, plus little bits from various C-Ration meals. I received orders for home a couple of weeks later and had to leave those cute little kittens behind. I have been forever sad contemplating their eventual fate.