Staff Sgt. Ammo, part 2

Saturday, December 19

On Saturday morning we finished packing, loaded the Jeep and drove to Oceanside. We were spending one night, then would drive to Tucson, to Pete’s sister’s ranch, on Sunday. We’d be back at Dad’s late Christmas Day.

When we walked onto Dad’s front porch, we heard a deep “woof” from the other side of the door. I heard Dad say something muffled, then he opened the front door, leaving the screened wrought-iron gate closed. “Hey, guys. Say hello to Ammo.”

Ammo was beautiful, a classic, stocky, English Lab. He approached the door, tail wagging. I squatted down and put my hand on the screen; he sniffed it then licked it.

I grinned. “Hi, Ammo. Aren’t you a handsome boy?”

Pete followed my suit and got an even more enthusiastic lick from Ammo through the screen. Dad said, “I think he approves.”

He unlatched the door and we went inside. Dad said, “Ammo, sit.”

Ammo sat while we carried our bags to the bedroom. Dad poured iced tea and we gathered around the kitchen table. Ammo sat beside Pete and rested his head on Pete’s knee.

I laughed. “Oh, boy, are you in trouble now.”

Dad said, “He knows who the cook is.”

Pete grinned. “Ammo, I have something for you.” He’d brought the Unleashed bag; he opened it and handed Ammo the rope bone.

Ammo’s tail expressed his joy. He accepted the bone and vigorously shook it a couple of times, then retreated to a bed in the corner of the kitchen and began to chew.

Dad said, “So. What do you think?”

Pete said, “We haven’t come up with a reason not to take him yet.”

I said, “Pete’s already decided.”

Pete rolled his eyes. “No, I haven’t. We’re still talking about it.”

Dad said, “When you’re gone over the holidays like this, you can leave him here.”

Pete said, “In spite of Barb’s objections?”

Dad sighed. “I hate to say it, but I’ll be surprised if we’re still seeing each other by this time next year.”

I asked, “Then why don’t you just keep Ammo?”

“I’m not ready to pull the plug. I told you, she doesn’t think anything’s wrong yet. Besides, she’s extremely excited about going to Tyler’s wedding. She talked to him for quite a while at your reception.”

I pointed out, “You said Barb didn’t mind being around Jeff’s dogs for short periods. She’s not living with you, so she would only be with Ammo for shortish periods. I’m still not entirely clear on why you aren’t keeping him.”

Dad said shortly, “She asked me not to.”

Pete and I looked at each other. I said, “Oh.”

Pete said, “Not to play psychologist with you, Dave, but you’re making a sacrifice here. A pretty big sacrifice, if you’d rather keep Ammo. What’s she sacrificing for you?”

Dad sighed. “Not a thing.”

We were quiet for a minute. Pete and I looked at each other, then at Ammo, who was happily gnawing on the rope bone’s thick knot. I said, “We have six more days to decide, right?”

Dad said, “Right. He’s not going anywhere until then.”


Mid-afternoon we drove to Jeff’s to switch cars. We didn’t trust the 17-year-old Jeep to make the trip to Tucson, and Jeff had two new CR-Vs, one for him and one for Val. When we got to the house Ralphie, and Jeff’s border collie, Phoebe, bounded up then stopped, their joyful welcome interrupted by the enticing scent of another dog. They sniffed all over our pants legs as we tried to get into the house.


The original Ralphie. My towel-stealing, phone book-shredding, 98-pound cuddlebug. 1996-2012.

Val opened the door for us, laughing. “Getting the doggie third degree, I see.”

“Haven’t they met Ammo?”

“Only once. Come on in.”

Gabe, Colin and Jeff were sprawled in the family room, watching the original Ghostbusters. I said, “Hey, guys.”

At least the boys both looked up. Gabe said, “Hi, Uncle Jamie.” Colin just waved.

Jeff got to his feet and joined us in the kitchen. I said, “Ah, for the days when Gabe would jump into my arms when I walked through the door.”

“Tell me about it.” Jeff opened the fridge. “Beer?”

We accepted a bottle and sat at the table. I said, “We met Ammo. Dad says he’s healthy.”

“Completely. His hips are good, everything’s fine. Have you decided to take him?”

“Not yet. We’re discussing it.”

Pete said, “So far we haven’t thought of a reason not to.”

Val put a couple of loaves of bread into the oven and joined us. “Can you believe Barb asked Dave not to keep him?”

I said, “I can believe that she asked him more than I can believe he agreed to give him up.”

Val and Jeff exchanged a look. Val said, “I asked him why he didn’t just break up with her.”

Pete said, “So did we. He says he’s got to build a case.”

I said, “I guess I haven’t been paying attention. I didn’t realize they were having problems.”

Jeff said, “I wouldn’t say they’re problems, exactly. Dad’s bored. I’m not sure that Barb realizes that.”

Val said, “She’s not the most insightful person I’ve ever met.”



Dad had been keeping Ammo’s primary bed in his own room. For tonight, he moved the kitchen bed into the guest room. When we went to bed, Ammo followed us into the room and settled onto his bed with a sigh.

I said, “Where would we put his bed in our room?”

“Hm.” Pete considered that for a minute. “Beside the door to the deck, I guess. There’s not another good place.”

“Would we let him on the furniture?”

“I’d rather not, if we can keep him off of it.”

I said, “I think he’ll stay off if we tell him to.”

Pete chuckled. “As you said on Wednesday – you hope.”

“Yeah, I know.” I got into bed and looked at Ammo, already snoozing. He looked like he belonged.

Pete climbed into bed. “Do you think your dad is hesitating to break up with Barb only out of fairness and having to build a case?”

“I’m sure that’s part of it.” I rubbed my face. “But – as much as I don’t like to think about the fact that my dad has a sex life, I bet that’s the primary reason for his reluctance. He went through a long dry spell before he met her.”

“You think they’re sexually compatible?”

“I think that and inertia is what’s holding them together.”

“Well.” Pete slid down under the covers. “Inertia won’t last forever.”


Sunday, December 20

The next morning we said goodbye to Dad and Ammo at 6:00 and headed east. I drove while Pete read Labs for Dummies. Once he laughed, and I said, “What?”

“This cartoon. You’ll have to look at it later.” He closed the book and slid it into the door pocket. “How many Labs did you have, growing up?”

“Three. Not at the same time. Mom and Dad had a black Lab when we were all born. He lived until I was six. We got another black one when I was about ten, and a yellow one when I was fifteen.” I smiled, remembering. “He was named Charger, but he was the laziest Lab I’ve ever seen.”

“Did he live a long time? I seem to remember hearing that name.”

“Yeah. Dad still had him when I met you. He lived to be fourteen.”

“So you’ve had plenty of experience with Labs.”

“And with military dogs. We had a couple of German shepherds along the way that were retired Marines.”

Pete took a sip of his coffee and made a face. “Ugh. Cold. It occurs to me, except for deciding how to use the inheritance money, this is our first big decision since we’ve been married.”


“And it’s playing out like most of our decisions do.”

I glanced at him. “How so?”

“I’m ready to jump in, and you’re the hesitant one.”

“When have we done that?”

“I fell in love with you faster. I wanted to move in together immediately and you were not thrilled with the idea.”

“It grew on me.”

“Uh huh. When you got the money, I said we could move to Scotland. You said, ‘How about New Mexico?’”

I laughed.

“You’re the more deliberate decision maker. You make your lists of pros and cons.” Pete smiled. “I go with my gut – which, I have to say, has not always worked out for me.”

I said, “It did with me.”

He patted my knee. “Luckiest gut decision ever.”


We got to the ranch shortly after noon. We carried gifts into the house and gathered around the dining room table, where Chris had lunch ready. As we ate, Pete told his family about Ammo.

Samantha, who was planning to attend UCLA in a year and a half, was excited. “I’ll be able to come over and play with him.”

Chris said, “When you’re driving here, you could certainly bring him with you. It’s been a while since we’ve had a dog.”

I said, “I’m surprised you don’t.”

Andy frowned. “When we started the guest house business, we had two elderly pit bulls. We lost a couple of bookings because of it. Once the dogs had passed on, we decided not to get another one.”

Chris said, “Any guest that objects to a Lab probably shouldn’t vacation at a ranch.”


Monday, December 21

We spent Monday hanging out with Pete’s dad. Pete took him grocery shopping then cooked a pot of vegetarian chili and froze portions for Jack’s meals. We told Jack about the dog, and he told stories of dogs he’d had growing up.

We saw Jack every couple of months, and he didn’t seem to be growing stronger, as we’d all expected after his heart attack. He wasn’t getting worse anymore, but had plateaued at a much lower level of cardiac fitness than his doctors had predicted. Pete was concerned, but I knew Chris and the girls were keeping as close watch as possible over Jack and his health.

We were on Jack’s back porch after lunch, the afternoon sun warm enough if we wore sweatshirts. I brought a pen and Pete’s copy of Labs for Dummies with me. Pete said, “What are you up to?”

“Making my list of pros and cons.” I turned to the first chapter. “They’re not terrific guard dogs.”

“We don’t need a guard dog. Besides, he barked when we walked onto Dave’s porch. He might be better than you think.”

“We have no yard.”

“We have a dog park. And he can swim at Kristen’s.”

“Have you asked Kristen about that?”

“She won’t mind.”

“Uh huh.” I flipped through the pages. “We live in a very small house.”

“So does your dad. You had two or three dogs at a time growing up, right?”

“Yeah… Labs are shedding machines.”

“We’ll brush him outside every day. And you enjoy vacuuming.”

“With a dog, you have to go outside regardless of weather. If it’s bucketing down rain, the dog still has to go out.”

Pete gave me a look. “Bucketing down rain? In LA? Once this El Nino dissipates, how often will buckets of rain happen?”

Someone will have to brush his teeth.”


Jack laughed. “I reckon you can find one of those YouTube videos to teach you how to do that, Pete.”

Now it was my turn to laugh. “What an excellent idea.”

Pete rolled his eyes. “Look at all those chapters about issues that are already solved for us. We already have an excellent vet.”

“We’ll have to find a local vet for emergencies.”

“I’m sure Jeff can recommend someone. Ammo’s already fully trained.”

“He’ll need daily reinforcement.”

“He’ll get it. And, we can afford him.”

I couldn’t argue with that. “You’ve already decided.”

Pete sighed. “If we put it to a vote right now, I’d say yes. But the vote has to be unanimous.”

Jack said, “Sounds like you’ve got all the angles worked out.”

I gave him a mock frown. “You’re not helping, Jack.”

He and Pete both just grinned at me.



Filed under Short Stories

4 responses to “Staff Sgt. Ammo, part 2

  1. Sharon cox

    I’m really enjoying this story so thanks for writing it.

  2. melody

    I love Jamie and Pete. I bought all your books and can hardly wait for the next one to come out. But I can’t believe that Jamie is borrowing Jeff’s car when he has 38 million dollars. If the Jeep is in that bad shape, why are they not buying a new car or renting one? It makes no sense to me. I love these short stories! Keep writing

    • Hi, Melody, I’m glad you’re enjoying the stories! I think that Jamie and Pete are still not used to thinking “rich.” They had to economize for so long, and old habits die hard. Stay tuned… The Jeep is not long for this world. 😉

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