He’s the first dog we’ve had.
My childhood history of pets (see Furry Friends-Part 1 and Furry Friends-Part 2) had taught me that a pet’s future could not be predicted any more than a person’s. Required moves every few years had kept us from adding a pet to the family, but the time had arrived when we settled into one place for the foreseeable future. We had three children who would benefit from the experience of having a pet, and we had a child who was afraid of dogs and needed to overcome that fear. So we began our pet adventure.
He joined our family in 2001 soon after he was able to be separated from his mother. He’s been with us ever since. After everyone offered suggestions, we decided to name him Chester.
The kids helped feed him, train him, walk him and play with him, but he and I bonded the most as we went through obedience training together, went for walks in the neighborhood and I was home during the day while he was being housebroken.
His puppy stage lasted well over two years and we still have the chewed furniture to prove it. He has always been full of energy. He has heard every sound – every car door, every door bell and has always excitedly greeted visitors at the door. Our child who was afraid of dogs tolerated his presence and became more comfortable around all dogs over time. Our youngest child grew attached to him. Because of MS, as time passed I was less able to walk him, but others in the family took over. One by one, our kids grew up and left home. During the last years, it has been Mr. Legs who had evening walk duty and took him to doctor and grooming appointments. Still, he would listen to my commands and actually became increasingly protective of me as my abilities waned.
The years passed by. As the kids came back from college breaks and visits, he greeted them with excitement and a wildly wagging tail.
While I was aging at an accelerated pace, Chester still looked and sometimes acted like a puppy. At different speeds perhaps, but we were aging together. During the days, as the number of people and level of activity in our house vacillated, he has been my constant and steady companion.
This is the first dog we have had. We had fun together. Thirteen years is a long time.
Awhile back, he started making shrieking/screaming noises at his food before he ate it. We have no idea why. We asked our friends who show and board animals, but they didn’t know. We asked the vet. He was perplexed. I guessed he was intimidating and killing his prey before eating it. Mr. Legs determined he is praying – that seemed logical in absence of any other explanation. We had developed a tolerance for his quirks over the years and this was just added to the list. He was the first dog we had, so we didn’t have much to compare him to.
He started licking his paw loudly once in awhile, then more until it was almost constant. We couldn’t get him to stop. And one day he couldn’t put weight on that paw. We took him to the Vet but he saw nothing wrong with the paw. We gave him painkillers and antibiotics and waited. No improvement. He took a fall and got worse. Another trip to the vet where x-rays were taken. Nothing was visibly wrong. He hobbled around with the bad paw and three other weak legs. I watched with amazement as he still moved down and up stairs. The vet guessed it could be bone cancer or brain cancer. It must be cancer of some type, or a hideous disease like MS….or worse!
We watched him eat less and less. He could chew milk bones, rawhide chews and other things, but would not eat any of the dry dog food we offered. His weight loss was dramatic. He had quickly become what seemed like only skin and bones with eyes. But those eyes told a story his animal mouth could not communicate to us. They had changed from round to almond shape. They had become cloudy with time and age, but now you could see the pain deep within him. Yes, if I hadn’t been able to hear him whimper in his sleep or watch him struggle to move even a couple of steps, I could see the suffering in his eyes that reflected the hurt deep within him. We didn’t know if his physical condition was caused by hunger or something else, and we were determined to find out.
Before Mr. Legs could make a trip to the store, a friend brought over soft food for him. Chester didn’t question why his luck had changed, he simply ate and we were happy to see him do so.
The rest of the story can be found in Part 2.