Photo Credits: Tia Johnson and Holly Hoad of Winter’s Splendor Photography

It’s hard to type with no opposable thumbs, but I felt like it was time someone represented the four legged side of Army life. My name is Toby and I’m an Army Woof (not to be confused with Army Wife) and a soldier’s best friend.

I chose Dave and Tia as my new owners just about three years ago. They like to tell people that they ‘rescued’ me but I don’t see it that way. I could tell they needed me in their lives. That was the spring of 2010 in Memphis, TN and I showed up the day they moved back to stay with Tia’s parents until Dave finished Basic Training. I have to admit that I was not looking or feeling my best when we first met…hair over my eyes, untrimmed nails and breath so bad… even I was ashamed. I don’t remember much about my life before meeting Dave and Tia, but I don’t think it was good. I just remember being lonely and hungry a lot, but in this new house I was never without a warm bed or fresh water and there were always treats being handed out. I staked my claim that night by sleeping at the foot of their bed. Despite some mild protesting by Dave, I was soon groomed and micro-chipped… which made me an official member of the Johnson family! Later that summer Dave left for Basic Training in the Army. I sure did miss him! I watched as Tia wrote letters addressed to SPC Johnson at Ft. Benning, GA. Sometimes she sprayed this stinky flower smelling stuff on the letters and kissed them leaving a big pink mark on the bottom. If it were up to me I’d find something good to rub on the letter to show I cared, you know, like a dead fish or that squished squirrel down the street. Oh well. Eventually Dave came home for Christmas and told me all about the adventures he’d had during his time at Basic Training. He didn’t seem as excited about rolling in the mud as I would have been, but that’s another difference between me and my humans.

Before I knew it, it was 2011 and Dave was finishing OCS and ready to graduate as an officer in Army. I was really proud of all he had accomplished and looking forward to our first duty station. After a long weekend visiting Dave, Tia came home and told me that we were moving to Ft.Sill, OK so Dave could do more training. I admit that I couldn’t get too excited until I Googled where this Oklahoma place was. Turns out it was in the middle of the country and Ft. Sill was a long way from anything else. It took two days to load up one U-Haul and we were off to our next adventure. We lived there 6 months and I had lots of fun. Tia made new friends with other ladies whose husbands were training too. My favorite was going to the buffalo place. I don’t know what it’s really called but I loved getting out and smelling all the great smells. Buffalo are these huge dog looking animals that smell more like cows. Tia never let me get close to one so I can’t confirm exactly what they are. On days when Dave was home we’d also go to this park that had prairie dogs. I don’t know who came up with that name, but these are not dogs. They look more like big rats and they are fast! I almost caught one a few times, but Tia just had to keep me on the leash so I could only go down their little burrow holes so far. It was still fun to hear them chattering at me when I’d rush up to them.

Eventually our time at Ft. Sill was over. Dave and Tia were really excited about the next place we were moving: Germany. During the last few weeks in Oklahoma, Tia was constantly on her computer speaking this weird language. She said she was learning German so she could get around town in Germany. I didn’t really care what language she was speaking as long as I didn’t get left behind. I didn’t let her leave my sight over the next few weeks. You would have thought she was wearing filet mignon flavored socks, I was following her so close I didn’t get packed up with the couch (a fear of mine), and soon we were on our way to Europe!

It was a long flight to get to Germany. Luckily Tia was able to bring me with her and stick me under the seat. I’m not a very active dog and I do love my naps, but being cooped up for 12 hours was not fun. I was really glad to see green grass and smell fresh air once we landed but I was not ready for the weather. It was only October and I was shivering after a few minutes outside. As embarrassing as they are, I’m glad Tia packed some coats for me. I won’t wear anything too crazy, but a nice fleece argyle sweater sure does the trick when you have to go out at 6am in the middle of a German winter. Dave and Tia found us a great apartment about 20 minutes from the base where Dave works. It’s a little city that has old churches, castle walls, and great shopping. The best part is that I get to go everywhere! No one seems to mind if I come with Dave and Tia to dinner (as long as I stay on the floor), and I even help Tia pick out new outfits in H&M. The only places I’m not welcome are grocery stores and churches. That’s ok though, I need time to myself some days. We’ve been here a little over a year now and I am really starting to feel at home in our little city. Aside from the vet and the grumpy German Shepard down the street, everyone is friendly to me and I like them too. I have to say… Germany is a pretty great place to be an Army Woof.

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