Sunday, May 08, 2005


The company had a second mascot. A mongrel dog named, believe it or not, Tiger. The dog had been with some Special Forces guys and was a veteran of many parachute jumps. When his comrades rotated to the States, the dog joined the helicopter company.

The dog treated the new mascot with suspicion to say the least. He sniffed at the tiger from fifty feet away or farther, sometimes upwind. Some pilots, anxious to bring the two together, held the tiger (four or five volunteered) while others carried the terror stricken dog for a close-up sniff.

The dog wanted no part of it. He struggled so furiously he probably didn’t even get a sniff. Or perhaps he did get a sniff and struggled all the more.

When freed, the dog zipped a hundred feet away before turning to give some parting, face saving, barks. Tuffy appeared disinterested throughout.

Next day, the dog had figured just about the limits of the tiger’s chain and sniffed from there. He tried a few tentative barks. When these weren’t met with massive retaliation, he took heart. For two solid hours, always staying beyond the length of the chain, he barked at the tiger. Tuffy did not acknowledge the dog’s existence with so much as a glance. Finally the canine type tiger was chased away by off duty pilots who got fed up.

The day after Tuffy was lying in the sun alongside the concrete walk about ten feet inside the furthermost limits of his chain when the dog returned. He took up his previous days post just out of chain range and, after a few introductory sniffs and warm up barks, resumed his full scale barking.

After ten minutes of that, the tiger, displaying indifference which bordered on contempt, rose and walked twenty feet further into his area. Without a glance at the dog, he again sprawled.

The dog was heartened by the apparent victory. He advanced to within fifteen feet of the tiger and resumed parking.

Tuffy again rose and retreated twenty feet farther to about the center of his area. He again sprawled, paying no attention to the dog. The dog didn’t miss a bark as he advanced to his post about fifteen feet away.

The tiger was up in a flash. The dog turned immediately and raced for safety but the tiger was much too fast for him. Tuffy caught him with room to spare and pinned him to the ground with a great fore paw. The dog yelped at the top of his lungs while the tiger took a long, leisurely close up sniff. Apparently satisfied, he let the dog up and returned to the more important business of basking in the sun.

Shortly after the two began playing with each other regularly. Tiger seemed to bully Tuffy. He barked and growled and leaped on the tiger and gnawed away at various parts of Tuffy’s anatomy. Tuffy seemed inept in defense.

They worked out a subtle signal to signify the end of the play period. Tuffy would pin Tiger with a fore paw. Tiger would yelp until released and then take off on a dead run. Play was over for the day. Next day they would be back at it.

One evening in the club a couple of guys decided to play a game with the tiger who was just outside a window. They peeked at him and then ducked away. Tuffy entered into the spirit of the game immediately. When they peeked he crouched down, tail sweeping, all alert. When they ducked away he became slightly confused. He came out of his crouch a bit but watched the window just as closely. When they reappeared he resumed his crouch, muscles tensing. About the fifth peek, the clowns had a tiger in their laps. He leaped right through the screen window.

Now they had a problem. The tiger was inside but still chained up to the outside. Worse, alcohol had clouded their thought processes somewhat. Their first instinct was to lift the tiger and push him out the window.

You ever try to push a tiger out a window when he didn’t want to go out that window?

Probably not.

I wouldn’t have tried that, but I was in no position to give advice having less experience with a tiger than anyone there. That was the reason I kept far away. If they had asked me I would have advised to try peeking at him from outside the window, but my judgment was also clouded.

Finally some genius undid his chain and walked him out the door and around to his area.

My job ended in a few months. As often happened, I was out of there on the first regular (non-modified) transport plane that was able to land and takeoff.

Some time later I ran into a couple of the pilots in Saigon. Over drinks, they brought me up to date on their pets. Tiger (the dog) had been wounded in an action on their perimeter. It was only a flesh wound. He now wore a purple heart on his collar.

Tuffy’s disposition remained mischievous and friendly, but he grew to unmanageable size. The company finally had to send him to the Toledo zoo.

Footnote: I wrote this story many years ago for my first writing class. If the style seems a little stiff, that’s the reason. I changed a little but very little. It’s not too bad for a beginner though.

UPDATE: I read elsewhere that the tiger had been there much longer than two weeks before my arrival. That seems logical considering how well the animal fit in there. I can’t remember where I got my information. Any comments or corrections from the guys who were there are welcome.

UPDATE: For lots of pictures of Tuffy as well as the Soc Trang base go to

UPDATE: More pictures


Blogger Rodney Zinser said...

I was stationed at Soc Trang from 1962-1963. I was a mamber of the MACV attachment during this time period. I was there when we received TUFFY as our mascot.He was just a small and young animal when he arrived and the Vietmanse did not accept him.

His quarters at this time was located at the Orderly Room Building, we built a small swimming pool for him so at least he had a place to relax and cool off. All of us enjoyed TUFFY'S stay.
The bad part of this, is that he grew to maturity, or at least close to it and we had to ship to the Zoo in Toledo.

One more note the Soc Trang Airfield as I know it is quite smaller than what is shown in the photos that are shown.

July 25, 2016 at 11:15 AM  

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