At twenty four years I was confronted with a terrible situation. My lady friend with whom I had recently had a child, was attacked in an attempted sexual assault situation. She was, needless to say, devastated. The attacker threatened to punch our infant son in the head in order to gain my lady friends cooperation. She kept her head, and managed to get our son out of harms way by convincing the attacker that she would be cooperative. Then, fighting him literally "tooth and nail", and screaming with all her might, she managed to foil his attack and save our son and herself. However, the assailant, in the process of the attack" kicked her" directly in the eye, causing an injury that it took two separate optical surgeries to repair.
At this time she made the "polite request" for us to procure a dog, as a deterrent to the possible recurrence of this situation. We then proceeded to obtain a "doberman pincher", a dog I had a healthy respect for, as I was bitten by one when I was a child. I, at that time obtained a book entitled "The Paul Loeb Complete Book of Dog Training" and read it religiously, then applying to the best of my ability, its prescribed concepts as well as my own experimentation's, got results beyond any that I could have expected, and my dog became my new "best friend".
My subsequent experience with my new "best friend", was among my most rewarding.
After my lady friend and I had a parting of ways, my dog became my exclusive family and companion, participating in every activity in my life. I was extremely athletic and used to roller-skate every day, all day, and my dog "Reef" would run with me all day tirelessly.
His resemblance to a thoroughbred racehorse was a constant source of comment almost as much as our obvious relationship. He became a more or less trademark of my presence, and I would often joke that Reef was invited to parties and events that I was not, because he was better behaved than I was. His ability to introduce me to romantic situations was uncanny, eliminating a lot of the usual work associated with this activity, so getting over my recent breakup was made easier. However, my lady friend demanded that I send Reef to her, so as to protect her and our son, as she was moving to a "questionable" area, and unfortunately I complied.
For the next one and one half years I lived without my "Reef", and suffered from a kind of co-dependent withdrawal. When she notified me that she was returning him to me, a few friends of mine said not to take him back because he probably wouldn't remember me. However, I got him back anyway.
The meeting of Reefs plane was an absolutely unprecedented emotional event. The baggage handler said "watch out, he looks mean" but once I took his lead out of his kennel, he was very compliant. Although still under the influence of the tranquilizers, he listened to me, though at that moment, he didn't know who I was. As I had him sit, I proceeded to say to him "Reef, its me "daddy". As his eyes blinked in comprehension, he shot off the ground and kissed me in mid-air.
As we ran together down the asphalt parking lot, I was crazed with happiness. The emotion of the moment was so intense, that my present ladyfriend "Kitti" and my pro football player, macho friend "Rodney", were utterly reduced to tears, as 'Reef" leaped and whined and pawed me, like he just "couldn't get enough". Kitti, wonderful woman that she was, (and still is), completely understood when I sat in the back seat with Reef and held him for the whole ride home. I guess I just couldn't get enough of him either.
Reef fit in almost immediately, and although had initially showed signs of neglect, almost instantly transformed into the always magnificent creature that he was. Kitti was very understanding about the time I spent with him, as she had her own dog (Lady Barquelotte) or "Barky", for short. Barky and Reef formed a love relationship similar to Kitty's and my own. A lot of bitching and biting ("only kidding") as they became known in the park circles in a (Tracy-Hepburn, Gable-Lombard) sort of way. As Kitti and I were more or less an institution, so were they.
Even after Kitti and I eventually parted (to remain the closest of friends), a relationship I cherish; we very cooperatively worked out "joint custody" of our respective "children" to of course both of they're delights. It was very therapeutic for Kitty's and my relationship as well, as it were. We lived close to each other, so it was easy for us to arrange and schedule our various custodians. It worked out beautifully for all, and the dogs continued on as always. I always felt much gratitude toward Kitti for that, for I loved "Barky" as much as "Reef" did. "Thank heaven for little girls".
As a single man, life was an adventure starring Reef and Ken.
We were a team that made our mark wherever we went. I would demonstrate his incredible obedience prowess at the drop of a hat, and he loved to work. To a certain extent, he was my reason to live, more or less like a son. We were devoted to each other to a fault. I was very attentive to his veterinary care, but the vet we attended was slow to admit that his knowledge was limited at best, which I found out the hard way.
At the approximate age of six, Reef began to show signs of cancer of the prostate, which the vet said was a tract infection. As these symptoms would reoccur, the vet kept prescribing antibiotics, which would alleviate or (mask) the symptoms. As time went on, Reef didn't even slow down. Our life was a charm, as we traveled through it as best friends and partners. There seemed to be no stopping us. Until one day a friend commented that Reef appeared to be losing weight; a gradual process that I hadn't noticed. At that point I went to the vet who took an x-ray. Finding a mass, he proceeded to run test after test, all of which, as he said were inconclusive.
After much heartache, precious time when time was short, and money I didn't have, they couldn't even give me an answer. Finally I heard them from the next room talking about a specialist. When I walked in and demanded to know who this man was, all these "doctors" looked at the floor. So I grabbed my Reefs x-ray from my doctors hand. The head Dr., said that the x-ray was property of the hospital so I invited him to remove it from my "hand". For whatever reasons they finally gave me the "specialists" office location so I went there. He was an "oncoligist", or cancer doctor, to whom they should have referred me as soon as they had discovered the "mass". In one visit, for only an office visit fee, he gave me my diagnosis, and gave my Reef only days to live.
I was devestated.This was so unexpected. He was always so strong, and was my first canine experience in my adult life. The specialist felt since he looked so sick that I must have been neglecting him, so when I asked him what his prognosis was, he said" Terrible,I've seen dead dogs that look better than this. The only thing keeping him alive is will alone". But as I relayed my story of his vetinary care, he understood what had happend and was very conciliatory. At least he was honest and competent which was better than I'd had.
As I left I felt a sadness like I had never previously experienced. He was in such bad shape that it was recommended that he be put to sleep immediately, but I half carried him out anyway and we went "home". That night all I could do is hold him and cry. I'd never cried so hard in my life, begging him ; please not to leave me, desperately praying, pleading, anything, just please don't go. Finally exhausted, I fell asleep, holding him, as if by doing so he wouldn't leave. It was the dreamless sleep of a broken heart like I'd never known, like I'd never want to wake to face the reality of us.
As I awoke it was like a miracle. There he was at the foot of the bed, wagging away, lets go dad, days started already so get up. I couldn't believe my eyes. This sack of bones was telling me I was lazy. I don't even remember getting up or putting on my skates or anything,but suddenly there we were, doing everything, just like always. He, who I carried just that day previous, ran like the wind in the utter fullness of his life, and we did everything again, just like always. Partners, companions, and friends, unstoppable as usual. This incredible "gift" he gave me for a week. One of the most beautiful weeks of my life. With strength he couldn't have gotten anywhere but from "heaven" he gave me a week's grace. A greater gift I could have never received; nor from a greater heart could it have been given.
Our last day together was restful but typical. We walked around the neighborhood like always, greeting friends who kept inquiring about his condition. As I thanked them for their concern I couldn't help but feel grateful for what I had, for even knowing the inevitable was at hand, I couldn't help but feel lucky. That evening we took a nap, cuddling comfortably with the doors open, the summer breezes flowing through my apartment. I awoke to a knocking at my backdoor.
My sister had decided to visit me for no particular reason. As I greeted her, there was a knocking at my front door. It was my mother who, at my stepfather's suggestion, had also decided to stop in on me. This was at around 9:45 pm, July 16, 1987. Neither of them had been aware of the others arrival. Reef was not in the house, so I called him and waited. For the first time in his life, he didn't come. I got my flashlight and passed the beam through the overgrown weeds in the lot next door, and saw his eyes, shining in the light.
My mother, sister, and I approached him, and as I looked at him, and then them, I realized that he had come outside to die so I wouldn't hurt, to be alone among nature. My close friend Greg was very considerate to drive us to the vet, as he had a car with a hatchback. We drove with the breeze blowing past, like the rush of Reefs life was close at hand. As he had always been there for me, I picked the love of my life up in my arms like a child, and in a procession of honor, took him to the vet and took his pain away. As the life left him all he heard was my voice, saying over and over again "good boy, you're my good boy and I love you As I kept repeating this I felt a strange peace. I kissed him goodbye and went outside.
As I walked in the night I cried, but not as bitterly as before. He "Reef' had deliberately prepared me for this moment. Even as I write this I can't help but feel now as I wrote in my journal recently about my second canine friend "Coral Reef" who unfortunately, is now similarly afflicted. (He is the definition of love of the highest order, and it is my honor and privilage to share it.) His selfless love returned from death for that last week. I called him, and he came... He was almost 10...
A TRUE STORY WRITTEN BY KEN HENRY/GLIXON
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