By John Preyer:
Despite a brave fight with cancer, Reece finally succumbed to an aggressive sarcoma near her thyroid that ended her life on September 26, 2008. Reece was born outside of Winston Salem in Tobaccoville on April 1st, 1997 with the given name Tar Baby Reece. She had bright blue eyes as a puppy which turned dark brown over time.
Reece worked for six years in the promotional advertising business and for the past four years at Restoration Systems where she was the senior field dog in charge of site visits and office morale. Reece regularly commuted to Raleigh and spent most of her day around people who loved her just as much as she loved them.
I first met Reece on September 18, 2003 when I went to pick up a blind date in Chapel Hill referred to me (and her) by a mutual friend. When I rang the doorbell at 122 Kenan Street that night I was greeted by a deep and loud bark. Any apprehension quickly went away when the door opened and a friendly, overly fed, gorgeous tar black, female Labrador Retriever named Reece greeted me. I quickly patted her thick and shiny coat several times and noticed that despite her ample girth she was a real beauty that combined the best features of both the American and English breeds.
I had helped them with several chores and appointments over the next while. Sometimes there was a vet appointment with noone to take them to, one time there was a house break-in scare, and I happened to know the best locksmith company in North Las Vegas (who was a personal friend) – and let them stay with me while it was being fixed. Time went by so quickly.
A year later to the day, September 18, 2004, Joanie and I were married and that gorgeous black beauty Reece became my joy too. Of course, I had started my love affair with Reece much before then as I used to enjoy throwing one of the half dozen worn out running shoes in the backyard of Joanie’s house to Reece. The fenced backyard filled with giant Gardenia bushes allowed for a good retrieve for Reece and an excellent sundown beverage for Joanie and me.
When we bought our current house on Glenburnie Street the first thing we did was build a fence for Reece, although I had come to learn it was really unnecessary as Reece would never run away or bolt except in the rare circumstance of a thunderstorm which provoked a sheer terror in her that remained through her life.
I have often seen written that the only type of truly unconditional love that one can ever know is with a dog. I didn’t really believe that but I also didn’t know any better. My family never had a dog when I was growing up so I didn’t really have any experience living with one. After about a year of living with Reece I remarked to Joanie that of all the material things I had acquired in the two years I had known Reece, none could remotely compare to the pleasure and happiness that I knew from an 85 pound black dog whose tail would start wagging if I so much as looked directly at her, much less called her name. The thing that people who don’t have dogs don’t understand is that the bond is unlike anything else you will ever know in your life.
Here is part of the reason why: in all the time I spent with Reece she never, not once, was ever anything other than an absolute and complete delight to be in her company.
Ever have a bad day? Ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Ever snap at someone who didn’t deserve it? Reece never did. Not once. Even when she was feeling the effects of her multiple mast cell tumor cancer, the effects of her multiple rounds chemotherapy, even when she had a nearly fatal bout of pancreatitis brought on by the effects of the chemo, never once did Reece have a day when she was anything other than a delight to be around. How many people can you say that about?
The other part of the reason and one which I can’t really explain but have only experienced is this: a truly great dog will be enthusiastically by your side no matter what, period. Reece was always right there (no matter how she may have felt) and that black tail was wagging the whole time.
Along with the challenges presented by her cancer over the past three years, Reece also underwent another challenge of sorts with the birth of our daughter Lacy. I had no fear of Reece being hostile to Lacy but thought she would very possibly resent the source of the attention which was being shown to her at Reece’s expense. I could not have been more wrong. From the day Lacy came home from the hospital Reece greeted her with a lick on the face and only got sweeter and sweeter from there. Reece sat by Lacy’s little carrier as if guarding something very precious but with no way of knowing just how precious. Or did she know?
Aside from her never having had a bad day, imagine how you might respond if a newly walking toddler would occasionally grab your tail, not knowing what she was doing. Reece would never yelp or bark but would deftly just move out of reach. As Lacy got older Joanie and I reinforced the message ‘don’t grab Reece’s tail’ but one day Lacy couldn’t help herself and did. It resulted in Lacy’s first spanking by Joanie and I’m not sure whether it was worse for her or for Joanie. I thought it so sweet that Joanie’s love for Reece was so great that she was willing to spank the cute little person she brought into the world. Don’t mess with a mother bear’s cub or with her dog.
As Lacy has gotten older it has been our routine that when she wakes up, usually at 6:00 sharp, our day starts by going downstairs “to see Reece-dog” and then take her out for a stroll around the yard for the doing of some business. When Lacy comes to wake me up I can already hear Reece’s tail hitting the carpet going thump-thump-thump in expectation of our coming down to see her. The only thing that compares to that in my day is when I pull in the driveway and Joanie has seen me and opened the backdoor so that Reece can run out to greet me as she frequently does. All four legs moving as fast as they can, sometimes limping when the bad hip acts up but always at a quick trot to greet me as I open the car door. If I am too slow to open it, it will on occasion result in that same deep bark I first heard the night we met, as if saying ‘hurry up, I want to lick your hand’.
When my time to go comes I don’t know if I will be going to heaven or hell or will spend a prolonged amount in Purgatory for all the things I should have not done. What I do know though is this: wherever it is that I do go, there will be a beautiful black dog running towards me, all four legs in perfect harmony, and the unmistakable smile of a love that I call Reece.