Last weekend started out bad and just got worse. It left a massive hole in my heart that’s just now starting to scab over.
Every dog owner lays claim to theirs being the world’s greatest four-legged family member. Ours was the undisputed champion. Be it a couch, rug or dog bed, he had his run of the house.
Chester the English Crème Retriever’s weekend plans barely included us. The dog who never met a person, chewie or other dog he didn’t love, trekked across the Rainbow Bridge last Friday.
I have no doubt that it was a raucous good time. Sam, his adopted brother who also hailed from Alabama, probably woofed “Roll Tide.”
Just like when as a puppy, Chester relied on Sam to show him the best place to chase deer, run through a creek and orchestrate a good-time dog riot.
No doubt, if given the opportunity, Chester would have been a perfect host. While on walks, he relished meeting old friends and making new ones. Aurora, from the neighborhood, Zeke, an overnight guest and Papa Kenny’s sweetheart, Gracie the Great Pyrenees, spent a few holidays with Chester.
Condolences on Facebook are pouring in. Neighbors saw Chester as a member of the neighborhood, stopping to rest and greet others in his gregarious, “I love everybody” way. Our mail carrier always had a biscuit handy.
Chester would have visited for hours if the biscuit supply and the carrier’s duties hadn’t interfered.
Upon his arrival to the land of no cancer or hip dysplasia, it’s a safe bet that Papa Kenny was manning the Traeger with beef, chicken or ribs being served. Luckily, there’s no such thing as a vegan canine.
While thinking about Chester’s culinary preferences, I have always found it amusing whenever veterinarians have told me that dogs don’t have taste buds. That brings up a question I always ask: “How do you know?”
Given a choice between red meat and green vegetables, any dog I’ve known will take a burger every time.
Chester was no exception. Sunday grilling meant steak for the family. And make no mistake, he was family. Had he not had anything placed in his bowl, none of us could have stomached his forlorn, Droopy Dog expression.
Sadly, Ferguson’s Meat Market is down one passionate customer.
Dr. Amy Crowder was instrumental in helping us begin the grieving process. Her business, Sweet Dreams, euthanizes a pet at home. She came up with the idea when a packed schedule at an emergency clinic didn’t allow sufficient time to assure a family that “it’s time.”
Dr. Crowder and her tech, Alison, made an emotionally painful procedure painless for the Tasos family. Unbelievably generous with her time, she immediately connected with us.
True to his character, despite being a lot sicker than we knew, Chester never complained. His tail wagged and wagged, even though an X-ray and bloodwork revealed a massive tumor behind his heart.
Chester’s ticker was breaking way before we knew it and he never let on. So typical of him, not wanting us to worry until, at the 11th hour, Dr. Crowder delivered the bad news.
It was time for Chester to go where he wouldn’t be sick any longer. We had him for a month shy of 12 years. We were so fortunate to have him in our family for that long. We would have kept him forever.
A week later, force of habit has me entering a room and wondering: “Where’s Chessie?”
He never let on that he was so sick, the ultimate “taking one for the team” gesture. It was as if his eyes said: “It’s OK. It was a great run. I’ll be around, probably near the treats. Please keep feeding the deer. If you wouldn’t mind, please tell the cats and vultures it was nothing personal.”
He was nothing but pure love and we loved him so.
Sweet Dreams old friend.
Mike Tasos’ column is published every other week. He believes anyone who would say “It was just a dog” should be forced to watch 100 rebroadcasts of last week’s Academy Awards 24/7 while eating rawhide treats. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also on Facebook.