Monday, 3 August 2009
Thirteen years ago his mom, a Siberian husky, backed up to a snowbank to accommodate his dad, a Shetland sheepdog.
That's what the owner told us when we went to Mount Albert to pick out a puppy.
Seven of them romped around in an enclosed dog run. Some resembled mini-collies, and others looked like grey-furred huskys with blue eyes. We'd Googled "How to pick the perfect puppy" and tried all the tricks:
1) Call the pup. If it comes to you and follows you, it gets points.
2) Pick up the pup and turn it on its back. If it struggles briefly, then settles, it gets points. If it freaks out, no dice.
3) Stroke the pup from nose to tail. If it tries to reach back and bite you, it loses points.
There were more, but I can't remember. Two pups were in the lead. They looked the same - sable tri-colour markings - except the female had a broad strip down her nose and one blue eye. She lost the contest because she was a little nippy (bitchy). We chose the male.
During the drive home, the kids listened while Mark and I discussed names. We went through a list of my former pets - Sabado (Saturday in Spanish) Quasanche (Little Girl in Ojibway) Gidgimidge (Asshole in Mik'Maq), Tippy (well, you know, tippy). Can you tell I'm into languages?
My husband's past name choices were simpler: Morris the cat, Chloe the sausage dog, Chester the other cat, Chester the cockatiel, and Simon and Garfunkle the budgies. And he's the one with English as a second language. Go figure.
While cuddling the puppy in the back seat, my four year old son picked up on the name Chester and declared that should be the puppy's name. And so it was.
Chester passed more tests - housetraining, sit, stay, speak etc. There was one bad habit we couldn't break. He was an excellent escape artist, and when he got loose he ran. He ran and ran. It must have been the sled dog in him because we couldn't get him to stop. Several times, neighbours called to tell us our dog was in their backyard playing with their kids.
During one chase I drove around the neighbourhood in the dark and caught the white tip of his tail waving in my headlights. By that time he was exhausted and glad to get a free ride home. Another time my son (by then about ten years old) chased him for blocks and lost a shoe in the snow. He didn't take time to stop and kept running through the slush until he caught up with the little bugger. We never recovered the shoe.
I posted a while back about Chester's aversion to loud noises. Lately, it seems his hearing is suffering. When a storm brews, the cat hides behind the furnace but Chester keeps snoozing. This was a welcome relief during the last fireworks display at the end of the street. At least my rugs are now safe from panic pee.
I ask him if he wants to go out, but doesn't respond until I point at the back door. Hand signals I'd taught him years ago are now alternative forms of communication.
He gets up slower and walks bowlegged. I taped squares of carpeting to the hardwood stairs so he could make it to the main floor of our raised bungalow without stumbling. His butt is disappearing. If he was human, he'd look like one of those guys who yells at kids to get off his lawn. He sleeps most of the day and paces around like a Nervous Nelly most of the evening. He's starting to smell like an old couch.
I know he's getting older, and the inevitable scenario approaches, but like Scarlett O'Hara I don't want to think about that right now. His vet says he's healthy considering his age. My daughter, however, worries about every wart and lump and nosebleed.
I always took the logical approach when dealing with pet loss, offering condolences when needed and looking back with affection at the lives of various beloved companions. I took my neigbour's dog for her final journey to the vet when he couldn't. It was a sad event, stroking Gypsy's ears when the life left her eyes, but I didn't cry. She was no longer suffering. She was going to a better place.
When a co-worker recently chose to euthanize her dog due to age and disease, I gave her a hug and wondered why they'd taken so long to make their decision. The dog had seizures, couldn't stand on her own, didn't eat, etc. They had made repeated visits to the vet with no diagnosis for her various symptoms that had taken away her quality of life.
A couple of weeks ago, I watched Marley and Me against my own advice. I teared up more at Jennifer Aniston's post-natal depression than Marley's decline. I wondered if something was wrong with me. Am I some kind of emotionless bitch?
Yesterday I looked at Chester and called him over to me. He stiffly sauntered close and I stroked his smooth forehead like I always do. The fur on his forehead is so soft unlike the mass of unruly fur that only leaves his body to infest every corner of the house. He closed his eyes and sighed with apparent contentment.
I started to cry.
Pictures: My daughter took these while Chester slept through a yard sale.