THE DOGS WE LOVED: FOXY
The photogenic and self-possessed Foxy, our unit’s mascot previously mentioned in my remembrance of Tim Fox deserves a more detailed look on a page of her own. She came to us as a very small pup when Tim was on a local Cam Ranh Bay dog-shooting detail with the 981st and spared her life so that she could replace our prior mascot Billy who had died accidentally a short time before. She was beautiful, intelligent, and adept at getting her way.
The thing she loved most was getting her belly rubbed by anyone she could get to perform this service for her. I was chief compliance go-to guy as far as we were both concerned. She would
(probably because she’d been forcibly separated from her mother at a very young age) lie on her back in my arms for as long as I would be able to rub her belly. When I would stop she would open her eyes and lift up her head as if to say “I don’t remember asking you to stop!”, shake herself loose of me, jump down, and hurry off. Our unit commander during the second half of 1970, CPT James M. Bradshaw, loved her just as much as I did and could frequently be seen on the green couch in his office sitting with her cradled in his arms and rubbing that famous belly. His wife had a short time before given birth to their first child, a girl as I recall, and since he could not have her with him in Vietnam, Foxy turned out to be the perfect substitute.
When we used to play football barefoot on the sand, Foxy wanted to participate and waited for her opportunity to do so. She would watch us nestle the ball protectively and run zigzagging to avoid a tackle. She then would pick up someone’s flip-flop and start running like us — disrupting our game in the process — to avoid being tackled. She would do this a few times but each time when she sensed she would be overtaken by one of us she would drop the flip-flop abruptly and roll over onto her back in submission. She knew this meant that one of us would rub her on the belly, a treat she always knew how to make happen.
We also de-loused her at the kennels: we first put salve in her eyes so that the disinfectant would not burn them, and then put her at the top of a slide (similar to what in Brooklyn was called a playground sliding pond) and lightly pushed her down it into a trough of vile disinfecting liquid. All the military working dogs hated this and Foxy was not thrilled about it either. This device was different incidentally from the constricted “trunk bath” used in some of the detachments for the same purpose, and was considerably more safe and roomy especially for large working dogs.
One day I took Foxy to a non-unit veterinarian “up on the hill” in CRB to have her checked for worms and treated preventively with a large pill resembling a jaw breaker. The pill was huge to me and probably monstrously so to her and she hated being made to swallow it, as the vet placed it in her mouth and closed it while I then massaged her throat so that she could get it down. Unsurprisingly this took a long time, whereupon she bolted out of the vet’s back door into a yard of low-lying convoluted brush full of thorns — and refused to come out. The brush was too low for me to get through so down on my knees I first pleaded with, then admonished, and finally threatened her (“OUT. NOW.”) but all to no avail. Some time seemed to go on in stalemate until I realized that the vet was after all a vet and almost certainly had access to treats. Did he? He did. I took a few, waved them in front of the recalcitrant little bitch, and was rewarded with a crawl toward me and her reward. I then grabbed her, took my leave, brought her back to the orderly room, crouched down at her level, and announced to all repeatedly — making a complete fool of myself — that she had been a “BAD BAD DOG!!!” I then became aware that everyone was looking at me, with smiles, and learned from CPT Bradshaw that my promotion to SGT had just come through. It seemed a good ending to what had been a difficult afternoon.
We also sometimes took her to the obstacle course at the kennels so she could walk elevated planks, go through narrow tunnels, jump over stanchions, and engage in other challenges that she liked. She also seemed to like being near the working dogs, was on friendly terms with some of the vet techs and kennel workers, and figured out very early on who was in charge of treats.
As with most dogs she enjoyed being fed and liked a variety of foods. She was particularly fond of beef jerky, which I had on hand for her and for her canine friends as treats when they came to visit. One day during the rainy season in November I was putting some tuna in her large metal bowl on my desk while she was on the floor with her front paws extended upwards to the desktop trying to hurry me along. All of a sudden there was a reverberating KA-BOOOOM from outdoors and our lights went out. It turned out that a heavy wind had torn part of the mess hall’s roof off very near the orderly room. We all ran out to see what had happened — all it seemed except Foxy. Then there was a crash from the area where my desk was and when I ran back to it, Foxy was enjoying her tuna on the floor where she had knocked over the bowl on my desk so she could get to her food.
One day she had a “High Noon” battle of wills with a sizable lizard in the hallway of the orderly room. They seemed to be trying to outstare each other, each poised quiveringly head near head. Neither one would move, nor would either one turn away. This went on for what appeared to be ages. I never saw what may or may not have happened, but I later learned that Foxy won by making a meal of her opponent. Don’t know whether this was true, but we never saw the lizard again.
She was also adept at getting the male non-military dogs in the area to leave her alone when she was in heat. She would merely sit down and that would frustrate the males mightily. If a male was persistent we had a loaded water gun at the ready to discourage him. It always worked. The chief culprit was a small black short-haired bowlegged dog named George, part of the battalion retinue of pet canines. I can still see his waddling rear end and legs running away from the water gun.
I was also very careful to keep Foxy away from the unit’s jeep, usually parked on a large metal road plate in front of the office. Her mascot predecessor Billy had died when he was resting under it as someone started it in motion. Accordingly the first time I saw her resting there I pulled her out and rubbed her nose smartly on one of the tires, while bellowing “NO!!!” She never went near the jeep again.
One other funny story involved Foxy’s penchant for burrowing under our wooden weapons table — a structure with four vertical sides that were embedded in the sand (it looked like a cardboard box opened at the bottom end), with roofed goalpost arrangement on top that provided some protection to the surface of the table from the elements. One day she had burrowed underneath the table but when I tried to coax her out she was not interested. Push quickly came to shove and I got down on hands and knees in the sand trying to reach her with my arm underneath the table (“Foxy, come out of there NOW!”) — but to no avail. I then became aware that someone was standing behind me looking down over my shoulder to see what was going on. When I turned around I was confronted with a “new guy,” very young and wide-eyed with a Southern accent, who enquired quite seriously: “You mean you have a FOX down there?!!” I was annoyed, not so much with him as with the indignity of the situation, but I had to laugh.
Shortly before I went home in January of 1971, the female mascot of the 630th MP Company down the road toward the motor pool had puppies. One was a frisky adorable female the off-white solid color of mushrooms. Foxy was careful not to let this potential young rival come anywhere near our buildings, but one day at the entrance of the mess hall she and the pup were with a group of us who had just exited after dinner. While I crouched down with Foxy very close to my thigh, the pup came up to me and started frisking about and hurling herself toward me in a playful manner. Foxy was having none of this and alternately began whining at and leaning on me, and snorting at the pup and nudging her away. Her eyes were daggers and little did the pup realize the potential danger she was in. Nothing else happened though and Foxy managed to keep the pup away from our company in my remaining days. In theory I could have taken Foxy home with me since she was not an official military working dog, but the quarantine period on various military bases was something like ten months and that was a big discouragement. I was also not ready to take on the responsibility of having a dog in my civilian life, so I left Foxy with those remaining in the orderly room when I left Vietnam. I was not exactly happy with my decision, but I made my peace with it and hoped for the best.
So those were our lives in Vietnam. We were relatively safe (but only in hindsight were we sure of this), our duties were not for the most part taxing, and our innings were good. So thank you Cam Ranh Bay, thank you Tim Fox, and most of all thank you Foxy. You were the best!
Submitted by Steve Dragovich, Company Clerk, 981st, 70/71.