The best word to describe Chester as a puppy would be: impish. The pup was just full of mischief. Our breeder gave me the warning when I picked him up from her at 8 weeks of age – she said he was the most ‘energetic’ one out of the 5 in the litter (all boys). First-time dog ownership eagerness and a heart full of love for this ball of fur made me ignore that warning. In fact, I was glowing when I was telling my partner about this report and how he had earned the name “Nip in the Air” from our breeder. In truth, I thought she was kind-of full of it, as our 6 hour ride home was peaceful – including a pit stop along the road where he promptly peed and then curled back up on the seat next to me for the rest of the ride home. Our first night at home was the first time I really fell in love with Chester — he cried in his pen at bedtime, so I succumbed to the whines and let him sleep with me, curled around my neck. I barely slept a wink, but I could smell his puppy breath and feel his heart beating on me – I loved him so much I could’ve cried.
Our next clue about Chester’s impishness came as a warning from the veterinarian who sent us home in tears after telling us we had the most defiant puppy he had ever met. How could this little 8 pound Cavalier King Charles Spaniel be more defiant than pit bulls? We went home that afternoon and threw away all of his stuffed toys he had tried to dominate as per the advice of the veterinarian. This didn’t stop Chester – he just started chewing important documents and sponges instead. He mastered the art of escaping from his puppy playpen, giving us a heart attack the first time he did this, as we came home and thought he’d been kidnapped. Instead, we found him sleeping upstairs on our bed (the bed he just loved to pee on).
At almost 8 years of age, Chester is more quirky than impish. He barks at all animals on the television (including animated ones). He cries when he gets physical affection, as if he didn’t have some just moments before. He gets nervous and cries for a treat before we leave the house. He eats cat poo out of litter boxes. Sometimes, he just downright annoys me. But last night, I fell in love with Chester all over again, just like I did that first night he spent at home. I had tied Chester out in the front so he could do his ‘business’, as I do every night when he’s with me. I realized that nearly 20 minutes had passed, so I peaked out the front door to see what he was doing. Like many of the old women who reside in my neighborhood, he was perched on top of the steps watching the people go by. “My sweet little impish puppy is getting old”, I thought to myself. I decided to join him.
Chester and I sat together on the steps for a good 15-20 minutes just watching the world go by on Grace Street. Chester had a particular fondness for girls walking by with brown hair in pony tails – this is what his Mammy Sarah has and every time he saw a girl walk by with this hairstyle, his fluffy tail would thump. I watched Chester as he observed – his eyes carry a deep wisdom coupled with innocence that most humans simply don’t have. Chester’s suggestion (without any words) to just sit and take in the moment was just what I needed last night. As we sat together, I would pet him from time to time, my heart swelling with love for him, just like it did on that first night we spent together. And last night, he slept atop my head, too big for my neck, but still bonded to me. Sometimes I take Chester for granted. He’s been a presence in my life for nearly 8 years – sometimes a responsibility that I grumble about. But the love this dog has brought to my life, the pure joy…all of it is worth it. And in those moments last night, I was reminded. I’ll never live my life without a dog again, this much I know. But it’s hard to imagine any will be as special, or as a loved, as Chester.
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