I want you to know how much I miss you. I am almost in tears writing to you. Who would have ever thought that I would be writing to a dog?
But you were not just a dog.
You were so much more than a dog. You were a little piece of Ramapo Way history. Everyone who ever met you in your almost-fourteen years loved you deeper than you know. Every businessman that walked past you on his way home from the train station, every mother with kids on sparkling pink bicycles and Razor scooters, every mailman — everybody loved you. No one could resist stopping to pet a happy dog with a waggly tail, down at the curb, happily barking "Hello!"
Speaking of barking, Mom's favorite story of you is your very first snow. I was five, and do not remember this, but I am so glad she does. You went outside, the ground was white, and you just could not believe it — you could not stop barking. You were precious, Reese.
We grew up together, you and I. You helped me conquer my fear of dogs (I cannot imagine my life without dogs, and for that, I thank you), and you were a constant companion. All the way on the other side of the driveway, you were always there. Your bark meant that we were home. I remember, before we had our own dogs, on vacation, we would always talk about what you were doing while we were not there. What you were doing while Dad was away with us, and not out in the garage, working away on his motorcycle; or Mom, also on vacation, not playing outside with Alexis and me, on the driveway, with chalk. Alexis and I had such an incredible childhood, and I am so glad you were such a huge part of it.
I have many memories of us over the years. I remember getting to take you for a walk before we had our own dogs, and Alexis, Dad, and I laughed the whole time. I remember your little friendship with the other Basset, Opus, down the street. I remember you would spend every sunny day sprawled out at the bottom of your driveway.
I remember getting so excited to pick out Milk-Bone dog treats for you at the supermarket; it was such a treat, for you and for us, to have our own stash of treats from which to give you a cookie every time we saw you outside. It became a routine: come home, pull into the garage, go inside, put everything down, and run as fast as we could from the cabinet back outside to you, to give you a cookie and a pat on the head. I remember brushing you with pine cones that fell from the huge tree in your yard.
I remember saying to Mom that every time we gave you a cookie, you were in the same spot, in the same position: your long body curled up, looked like the letter 'C', for cookie, and made an indent in the grass. I remember you tripping over your ears when you were a puppy, because, well, your ears hung low, and they wobbled to and fro. I remember from stories Mom has told me that when you were brand new, you wore a little path into the grass, from going around and around the perimeter of your house, because that is just how much you loved to be outside.
I remember playing with you and Dad in your front yard with tennis balls, baseballs, and street hockey balls — all belonging to your boys. I remember learning about how you got your name: you found a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in the car on the way home from Shake-A-Paw, and you looked just like one. I remember your intense love of cheese sticks.
I remember so much of you, and every memory makes me smile. I wish there could have been more time to make more memories.
There are a few memories that stand out more clearly in my mind, than others:
I remember, way back when your boys still had yet to grow out of their swing set, Alexis and I would play on it all the time. Mom would always come with us, and you would be buzzing around on the ground below, happy to have some visitors from next door. Alexis sent her stuffed caterpillar down the slide, and you, an energetic Basset puppy, took 'Catty' and ran like somebody left the gate open. Of course, the tears from Alexis did not stop flowing until your boys' mother came outside and helped us retrieve Catty from the slimy clutches of your puppy jaws.
One of my favorite memories of you, by far — in fact, I may even go as far as to say that it is my absolute favorite — is when Dad went to Singapore for three weeks, on a business trip. You loved Dad. I used to wonder if you still remembered him. He left years ago without saying goodbye to you, and now he is in Florida, and will never get to say goodbye to you. You and Dad were best buddies. He would come home in his blue car, and roll down the window as he was coming up the driveway. We knew Dad was home when we could hear you trying to bark over the sound of the car struggling to climb the Everest that is our steep driveway.
When he went to Singapore so many years ago, he called to say goodnight to us every day — every day because of the time difference. One of the days, we brought him on the phone outside, put the phone on speaker, and you had a conversation with him, of sorts. He was talking to you, and you knew his voice through the phone, and you were barking, and wagging your tail, and just so happy to hear from your friend who you had not seen come home in a couple of weeks. Dad has not come home in a long, long time. He left us, but I am even more sorry that he left you.
Next, on the timeline of our growing up, Chloe joined my family. Just like everyone else, she fell instantly in love with you. She still looks over to your front porch when I ask her if she wants to go see you. She does not understand that you are not there anymore, and I think she misses you. You two were best buddies, too, but Chloe could never take Dad's place.
Photo Courtesy of Caroline Gutierrez
Finally, over the last two years, your boys have gone off to college, and there was not going to be anyone home to let you out to your beloved outdoors, after school, every day. Alexis and Caroline to the rescue! We are so grateful your people let us take care of you every single day of the last two school years. We got to spend so much of the end of your life with you and helped you make the most of it. We watched as you slowed down, little by little, and it broke our hearts just as slowly. It gave me such joy to know that I was entrusted to be one of your caretakers as you were coming to the end of your road. The hours spent with you on your front porch are times I will cherish forever, and they are hours that Alexis and I would, otherwise, not have gotten to spend with you. You waited with puppy-like anticipation for a cookie out of your own cookie jar, every day, and I am forever thankful that I was the one to give each one to you.
It is so hard to know that I will never again see you come around the corner of your house, from your backyard, when I call you. I will never again race you to the front door, from your bed in the kitchen. I made sure to always tell you I loved you and to be good when I left, and even though I never knew if I really would, I always told you I would see you tomorrow. And now, there are no more tomorrows for you.
No dog will ever take your place, Reese. You did not belong to us, but you were absolutely my first dog. Thank you for letting the sound of your bark be the sound that meant I was home. Thank you for taking that Milk-Bone out of my hand ever-so-gently that day we conquered my fear of dogs. Thank you for being such a noisy neighbor, I hate this quiet. Thank you for being such a good friend to Chloe, it means so much to me that you loved my little white fluff ball. Thank you for being there every day when I stepped off the school bus at the bottom of my driveway. Thank you for everything.
I miss you, Reese. Good boy.
I love you,