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War Dog

In thirty-eight my German Shepherd, loved to learn new tricks
He’d run and catch them in mid air whenever I threw sticks
No other German Shepherd dog could ever hope to beat
The way my Benji caught those sticks and dropped them at my feet

We call them German Shepherds now but war-time defamation
Meant that since the first great war his breed was called alsation
I couldn’t go to war, they told me, “Not with just one leg.”
But Benji ticked their boxes and it didn’t help to beg

So Benji was still young when I was forced to let him go
The army took him from me, “There’s a war on, don’t you know?”
I knew about war horses but that poor young pup of mine
Was so quick and so skilful he was sent to the front line

When the air raid sirens sounded and I fled my bed
I couldn't get my Benji boy out of my worried head
I knew he’d do his duty while he helped to fight the war
But how I craved the day that he might fetch me sticks once more

                                   ***

Benji looked up smartly when he heard a sudden thud
A hand grenade had landed right beside him in the mud
He grabbed it and ignoring all the bullets and the flak
His tail was wagging wildly as he quickly took it back

Whilst gone for only seconds no one knew how he returned
Though when his ‘stick’ exploded Benji’s tail was slightly burned
They say he sat - tail wagging - for an hour or more that day
Before he figured out the thrower didn’t want to play

                                   ***

By taking out that pill box, Benji saved a dozen men
In forty-four they brought my hero back to me again
Twas six more years we shared before I laid my boy to rest
And of my hundred years and some, those six they were the best

His ashes sleep within a walnut casket on my shelf
A casket that with younger hands I made for him myself
So he’ll be coming with me when I wave this world goodnight
And Benji, my new leg and I will race into the light

Copyright © Terry Flood

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