WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP | He lived the first year of his life at the end of a chain, tethered to a dog house in Gary.
Thursday and Friday, he was center stage at the 4-H Dog Project at the Porter County Fair.
Tank, a 2-year-old black and white pit bull, competed for the first time in obedience, showmanship and agility at the end of a leash held by Abbie Bobele, 12.
Abbie and her parents, Janice and Mickey Bobele, of Union Township, adopted Tank in 2012 — after an event that could have ended the dog’s life, instead, gave him a new one.
In November 2011, the Gary home behind which Tank was chained caught fire. The next morning, a kind woman who fed the neighborhood cats — and Tank, when his owners forgot — went to tend to the animals.
But Tank was gone, his chain axed during the fire by a compassionate firefighter who saw the dog was in danger of perishing in the flames.
Then, that morning, out of nowhere, the dog appeared, with burns on his flanks and head.
“He came running up, tail wagging,” said Ann Llamas, a volunteer for Castaway Critters, the rescue that saved Tank. “But he had to be in pain.”
For the next six weeks, Tank was treated at Westchester Animal Clinic, in Porter. He then spent two months recuperating at Llamas’s Valparaiso home – until the Bobeles saw his picture.
“We felt sorry for him,” said Mickey Bobele, Abbie’s father. “We just had to give him a good home.”
In April 2012, Tank joined the Bobeles and their two other dogs — a beagle, Lola, and a yellow lab, Joey.
In his former life, Tank likely baked in the sun watching kids ride their bikes and jump through the sprinkler. In his new life, Tank, in his doggie life vest, swims with the Bobeles in their in-ground pool. On the weekends, Lola and Joey stay home while Tank canoes and kayaks on family camping trips.
As it turns out, Tank is more easygoing than the other two dogs.
“Lola is shy around other people and Joey doesn’t like other dogs,” said Abbie. “So we just take Tank.”
Now a veteran 4-H'er after winning 7th place last year with Lola, Abbie taught Tank to heel, sit, stay, shake, high five and roll over.
“He’s really easy to train. It makes me feel really good because I get to spend time with my dog and makes me enjoy dogs even more,” said Abbie, who considers Tank her “best friend.”
Tank is also clearly smitten with Abbie.
“He doesn’t like to leave my side. If I’m in the bathroom he’ll wait by the door until I come out. When he hears the (school) bus coming, my dad said he jumps to the window,” said Abbie. “One morning I was laying on the couch and fell asleep, and when I woke up, his nose was touching my nose. It was adorable.”
Tank has better manners with his new obedience skills, though Abbie said when he’s left alone he’ll still “tear up the garage.”
And although Abbie said Tank is “spoiled rotten,” she doesn’t begrudge him all the attention he deserves.
“I just think how lucky he is now,” said Abbie. “From being chained to a leash in an alley to now is just crazy.”