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Canine Misfits: Chapter 3

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Ralph and Pat Coppola with their canine “misfits.” (Photo by Helen’s Photography)

by Ralph and Pat Coppola

We hope you enjoyed Chapters 1 and 2 of Canine Misfits.  If you missed our columns in the July and August edition of this newspaper, click here.

In Chapter 3, Lt. Tess continues her tale of the troop’s attempt to capture that elusive squirrel, Snappy.  She takes a little time to talk about herself, too.

By the way, we came up with a photo of Corporal Barney in uniform with his bugle in hand.  His army jacket seems a little short for his wiener body, doesn’t it?  And how about that helmet?

As always, we look forward to hearing from you.  We would like to hear what you think about the stories and suggestions you may have for future chapters.  Please address those comments to our email address at  Any comments you would like to share with the Gazette can be sent to  They would also love to hear from you.

Chapter 3: Our soldiers are ready for their big mission.

Corporal Barney

Under the cover of darkness, at precisely 1900 hours, the troops took up their positions.  I thought about the long road it took to get them properly trained and ready for combat.  It took me back to a time when I first joined up with the Captain and the Major.

I remember I was transferred to this troop about twelve years ago from another outfit that was always rescuing dogs and cats.  When the Captain and the Major recruited me, my old outfit told them I was a mixture of a terrier and perhaps a prison guard dog, by the way I acted.  The Major thought they were exaggerating because I appeared to be so happy to meet them.  I have to admit that I probably seemed aggressive to some because I had been shuffled from camp to camp and no one wanted to take on a “challenge” as they often described me.  But the Captain and the Major didn’t see it that way.  They had this gut feeling that I would be a true and loyal solider and always ready to engage the enemy.

Over the years, I had to live up to that gung-ho reputation as more recruits were added to the troop.  I made it clear to all of them that when I look in the mirror, I see a pit bull.   And that’s the way I want them to see me.  It keeps the troops in line.  Sure, now that I had gotten older, some in my troop think I’m just a cranky old lady.  Maybe I am.  But I’m a First Lieutenant and I’m the only field officer in this troop.  It’s my job to ride herd over the others and make sure Maj. Pat is protected.  So, you’ll always hear me barking out orders and keeping the rest of the troops on their toes.

On that particular evening, I donned my red beret, fitting for an officer of my caliber.  My uniform was tailored and crisp, my ribbons and medals exactly in place, my lieutenant’s bars glistened brightly in the glow of the solar lights that had just turned themselves on as the sun set.  I surveyed my troops.

Cpl. Barney left his uniform hanging in his locker, as usual, and wore only a T-shirt emblazoned with his corporal stripes, and a pair of briefs.  Cpl. Barney didn’t realize that it had gotten colder as a sliver of the moon replaced the sun.  He quickly dashed back to his locker for a warm pair of pants and a scarf.

Sgt. Opie was in his camos and wore his Army Ranger cap that he got when he completed special ops training back when he was a young recruit.  His sergeant’s stripes were barely noticeable in the pale moonlight, but his presence was felt by the others.

Pvt. Bella was also in her green and grey camos, the standard issue, still waiting to earn a stripe for her uniform.  She had on her floppy hat that she had gotten for her birthday, tied under her chin like a cowgirl.

Pvt. Ruby was dressed in her whites that she typically wears when she is cooking.   She hadn’t bothered to change into the appropriate fatigues.  I let her slide on that this time.  She also had a NY Yankee baseball cap on, one that she had borrowed from Capt. Ralph’s closet, the beak turned towards the back.

I gazed through my binoculars, up and down, side to side, trained on the enemy’s position in that old oak tree.  No movement.  Anywhere.

Suddenly, Pvt. Bella was distracted by a gecko that had crossed into her line of vision.

“It’s a trap!” Pvt. Bella yelped and immediately started running down the gecko who looked to be in sheer terror.  Sgt. Opie abandoned his position to give chase with Pvt. Bella.  Pvt. Ruby held her position, then sat where she was, not at all interested in joining the chase.

Admittedly, I was startled by Pvt. Bella’s scream.  I dropped my binoculars hitting Cpl. Barney squarely on the top of his head.  Cpl. Barney, dazed for a moment, raised his bugle and blasted out the loudest charge I ever heard.  He then reluctantly joined Pvt. Bella, who had overtaken Sgt. Opie in pursuit of something that everyone first believed was the squirrel.

Meanwhile, as the three soldiers were running around the yard chasing that gecko, Snappy, that sneaky squirrel, jumped out of the old oak tree and gracefully landed on the top rail of the fence.  He scooted past the fracas, made a quick left turn at the intersection where the fence meets the neighbors, and proceeded to run right past me.

I was bewildered.  “What just happened?  And where did that squirrel go?” I said to myself.

“Dang it! My plan has been foiled,” I grumbled, to no one in particular.

Just at the moment, Pvt. Bella followed by Sgt. Opie and Cpl. Barney, captured the gecko and brought him back to the command post.

“Lieutenant,” Pvt. Bella beamed.  “We have ourselves a prisoner.  We should interrogate him to find the squirrel’s other locations, since he retreated from the old oak tree and knows it is not safe to return.”

“Outstanding idea, Private!” I said with a smile.  My newest recruit had lived up to her reputation and made me proud.

“Throw him into one of the cells we have in the barracks and we’ll sweat him out in the morning.  By the way, where is Pvt. Ruby?”

“Here I am,” Pvt. Ruby said as she sauntered into the barracks where the others had already gathered.  Ruby looked over at the gecko.

“Yum,” she said.  “He would make a great soup.  When can I start cooking?”

“Not so fast, Private,” I cautioned.  “You failed to take action when the bugle was sounded and the enemy got away.  So that he doesn’t return to the old oak tree, you’re pulling guard duty all night, Private.”  Knowing Pvt. Ruby needed some extra enforcement, I issued a sterner warning. “You keep a sharp eye on that tree, soldier, and make sure he doesn’t double back.”

“But, but, but…..”

“But nothing, Private.  That’s an order,” I bellowed as loud as I could.

“Yes ma’am,” sighed Ruby, who then turned and headed to her post to watch for that pesky Snappy.

I walked over to Barney, who was rubbing his head.  He seemed disoriented for a moment.

“Are you okay, Corporal?”  You don’t look so good.”

“Oh, I’m alright, Lt. Tess.  For a moment there, I thought I saw two of everything, but I think my vision is back to normal.  Just a headache, is all,” Barney assured me.

“Well, if it gets any worse, don’t hesitate to see me, son.  Maj. Pat would never forgive me if something happened to you.”

“I will. I promise, Lt. Tess.”

“Good,” I replied somewhat relieved.  “Go ahead and hit the hay, and we’ll see how you are tomorrow.”

I was somewhat concerned about my corporal.  Now that we had a prisoner, I knew we could get enough information out of him to create a new battle plan.  I needed all my troops in top shape to carry it out.  Would Barney be up to the task?

Stay tuned for the next chapter of Canine Misfits as the troops interrogate their prisoner.

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