LEWISTON —  Not long ago, Mike Preston was attending a support group meeting when his service dog, Reece, began pawing at another member of the group.

Mike Preston and his dog Reece walk up Pine Street in Lewiston on March 21 across the street from their apartment. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

First right paw, then left. Then both paws at once.

It was similar to the way she alerted Preston to one of his oncoming seizures, but this guy was not her owner. He looked a bit slumped sitting in the chair, but surely he was fine.

“I didn’t know what the heck was wrong with her,” Preston said. “I leaned forward and I looked over. His eyes were rolled right in the back of his head.”

The guy had diabetes and was having a seizure, Preston said. Reece’s quick action helped save him.

Preston was surprised. But looking back, he figures he probably shouldn’t have been.

“She understands more than what you realize,” said Preston, who lives in Lewiston. “She just blows me away.”

Preston, 61, got Reece about nine years ago, when she was a puppy. She had been a stray, found on the side of the road and taken in by a family that could not keep her long-term.

Part chocolate Labrador retriever, part German shorthaired pointer, she had the makings of a big dog, but she was nervous around strangers. Before he met her, Preston was warned that she might not take to him right away.

Turned out, that was not a problem.

“Reece was right there,” he said.

She has been beside him ever since.

Reece is Preston’s second service dog. His first, Christa, was so special to him that he is writing a book about her, titled “Miracle on Four Paws.”

After Christa died, Preston needed another companion to alert him before a seizure and to help take public focus away from his movement issues when he goes out.

Reece proved to be a natural. Her service dog training could have taken months, Preston said, but it instead took just weeks. The two have been together almost constantly since.

Four years ago, Reece helped Preston with more than seizures.

An alcoholic for decades, Preston was not happy with his drinking when he went fishing with his dog and some beer one mid-April day. When he cracked open one of the cans, Reece seemed to react.

“When she heard that snap, she just stared at me,” he said. “She turned around and she started into the woods. Then I got really angry at myself and I threw the beer in the brook. I got a hold of her. I said, ‘I’m going to make you a promise: If you come home with Papa right now, I’m going to get help.'”

Preston got that help and said has been sober since.

On her collar, Reece carries her own medallion for having attended a support group with Preston for the past three years. Soon, she will get one recognizing her for four years.

While Reece is Preston’s dog, she has also helped others. For years, she was a volunteer therapy dog. She helped the man in crisis at Preston’s support group meeting. And once, when Preston was at a medical facility recovering from a stroke, she kept trotting into another room occupied by a patient with brain cancer.

Recce stayed at the man’s bedside for two hours every day. Staff offered to retrieve her, but Preston asked them to let her go.

“I said obviously Matt needs Reece more than I do,” Preston said.

Today, Reece is about 9 years old and her muzzle is showing the first touches of gray, but age has not slowed her reflexes or changed her focus.

“She’s on alert all the time,” Preston said.

Once, Preston was out with Reece when a girl, smitten with Reece, asked where she could buy a pet like her.

“I said, ‘You can’t buy a dog like that,'” Preston said.

Animal Tales is a recurring Sun Journal feature about animals and their people. Have an idea for Animal Tales? Call Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or email her at [email protected].

 


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