The Ink Well Prompt #47: Champion, canine merit medal



In 2014, soldiers Arvid Harrinson, Rick Jacobson, Esther Azuaje and Zoraida Alvarado returned from Afghanistan. All had fought in the conflict. Each was happy to be back with their families.

During the fighting, Arvid was always accompanied by his faithful dog, Champion. Champion had been trained to detect landmines and had been assigned to Arvid. Champion was always ahead of the soldiers. He was the one who quickly alerted Arvid to any danger. That way they could change course quickly. The two were inseparable. They had achieved a connection never seen before between an animal and its chief of operations. They spent two years together in combat.

Three weeks before returning to the U.S.A., the soldiers returned to camp to coordinate, with their superiors, the rest of the activities during that time. That day everything seemed normal. Champion went out to inspect the terrain as usual.

He sniffed, again and again, the terrain but did not give the alert signal. Arvid thought it was strange and got out of the military vehicle. When he is walking along the road, his dog unexpectedly stops him from following the road...... Arvid finds this strange. Arvid does not see anything strange...... and thinks that Champion is already old, that this condition is due to the fact that he is losing faculties...... He decides to return to the car and gives the order to his companions to continue...

Surprisingly, a detonation is heard. Everyone is shocked. They see dust, they can't distinguish anything. They do not see the animal...... They had not yet recovered from the shock when, suddenly, they hear a howl.....was Champion. The animal was trying to get up from the ground....Arvid takes the binoculars, locates something moving....Decides to inspect. His companions don't like the idea.

-Go carefully,- his companions reply in chorus.

Arvid receives an unpleasant surprise, his faithful companion has lost a leg. Addressing the animal, he speaks to it as if it were a person:

-Take it easy Champion, we will save you. Hang in there. We'll take you to heal you.

Champion understands...... tries to wag his tail in thanks, but his look reflects pain and sadness.

Arvid carefully picks up the animal and carries it to the cart. Everyone is saddened to see him. They pet it to distract and reassure it.....

When he arrives at the camp his immediate boss, Lieutenant Eliot Sachs, examines him and tells him:

-You have already spent time helping us and, now it is your turn to retire. I am going to give the order to have him treated and return him to the U.S.A. It will be decided there what to do with him.-

An insensitive soldier sees him and says:

-It is better to sacrifice him, he is no longer useful.-

Arvid is furious when he hears this, rushes at him and, without saying a word, hits him.
Lieutenant Sachs separates them and says:

-For today I tolerate such behavior. Next time you won't be so lucky.-

Arvid turns to the lieutenant:

-Please let him live. I could adopt him when I get home.-

-I can't guarantee that request, but I will try to get the dog back to his country.-

Those 3 weeks passed quickly. Champion is recovering. Arvid says goodbye to him and comments:

-I will look for you. I will not leave you alone.-

The day of return arrived. They all boarded the plane. A long flight awaited them.
Upon arrival, they were greeted at their homes as heroes.
Upon arrival in their country, they all established a friendship that they did not have abroad. All the families would bond with each other.

Arvid began to exhibit post-traumatic stress disorder as did Esther. Zoraida and Rick had health problems that required surgery. The friends drifted apart, each having to receive different therapies. The psychologist suggested to Esther that she adopt a dog. She disagreed because the image of Champion was still in her memory...... In the end, she accepted the proposal. She went to the Hope Canine Association. There, a beautiful Dalmatian puppy, abandoned for having a physical defect, received her very happily. Esther's heart skipped a beat, so she decided to pet him and hold him in her arms.

-You are pure love. You convinced me. I adopt you. From now on you will be called Rayo. I promise you that you will be able to run freely in the garden of my house,- she says to the puppy.
She immediately signs the adoption papers and takes the puppy home.

Meanwhile, Arvid had regrets because he had not been able to locate Campeón; besides, he was still having nightmares. Arvid and Esther meet on Tuesday at the Hospital. They are both having their routine medical checkup. Esther tells him that she has adopted a dog and suggests:

-Come on, cheer up. Adopt one. I have improved since I adopted Rayo.

-No. I'm still looking for Champion,- he says.

  • Well, as you wish. This Friday we have an activity at the base. See you there,- says Esther.

They say goodbye and agree to remind Zoraida and Rick about the meeting.

On Wednesday, Zoraida goes out with her 5-year-old son Christian to the supermarket. She parks her car on the avenue and puts the boy down. As she picks up her bags.... Christian hears and observes a beautiful parrot saying:

-Hello! Hello! Hello! My name is Arturo-.

The parrot flies away and Christian goes after it. He doesn't notice that a car is driving by. A lady, dressed in a blue suit, is on the opposite sidewalk watching a dog, with three legs ..... She notices that suddenly the animal starts to run ...... A sound is heard ..... it is the braking of an old Ford car. The dog saves Christian from being run over....

The crowd gathers. Zoraida goes out to look for her son and, running into the crowd, starts shouting .....

-Christian, Christian, where are you?-

At that moment Christian appears happily with the parrot in his hand and the lady in the blue suit says to her:

-You are very lucky..., believe it or not, a three-legged dog saved your son's life.-

-And where is he?- Zoraida asks.

-There, the police have him. They are talking to the driver and are looking for the boy's mother.-

Zoraida turns to the officer. She wants to see the dog. The officer complains about her carelessness. At the bottom.... barking is heard....

-Champion, Champion, is that you?-

The dog runs towards Zoraida. The policeman is surprised by this behavior. Zoraida explains:

-My friend Arvid has been looking for this dog since we returned from the mission in Afghanistan. He saved our lives when we were there.-

The policeman replies:

-You are very lucky.

-Yes, I have to tell Arvid.

Just as the crowd is beginning to disperse, the sergeant, Arnold Clayderman, appears to take the dog away.

-Mrs. Clayderman, the dog has to go back to base. On Friday we have a tribute to all the combatants, including the dogs. That's the surprise we have for our heroes. We invited them but we had not told them the reason for the meeting.

-Yes, I will be there,- answered Zoraida and said goodbye, thanking the policeman.
On Friday, the veterans gather at the base. All are honored. There they would also give awards to the dogs and say goodbye to those who would retire. The surprise is when they award Campeón with the medal for canine merit...

The dog breaks the protocol and goes to Arvid. When Arvid sees him, he is speechless with emotion. He finally got Champion. Now it was his turn to adopt him and take him home, where he would be received like a hero by the whole family.

Champion, canine merit medal by María del Carmen Sánchez Copyright © 2022

Translated with (free version)

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