May 11, 2018

the sighingest dog

Chester isn't going to be with us much longer.  Possibly a day, or two days, or weeks, or months.  Possibly some hours.  Possibly much longer.

He's refusing food now, and more to the point, his pain meds.  Maybe injections will sort it out.  Maybe he's telling us.  We'll know when we know.

I refuse to write a eulogy.  I don't do "was".  I will write "is" today, because right now, Chester still likes ear noogies.  Today, this moment, this hour, he is.

According to the charts that debunk the "seven years" myth, Chester is 93, not 106.  That's still impressively venerable.  His muzzle is gray but it makes him look even more dignified.

Chester is the sighingest dog in the world.  He lies down and sighs audibly and meaningfully.  You can almost detect the ennui in his sighs and the sound of his elbows thunking on the floor.  He sighs in paragraphs.

Chester is a kleptomaniac of the innately talented variety.  He counter-cruises and finds interesting things to steal, for the purposes of either eating them or hoarding them.  The most memorable one was the wad of $45 cash.  Money is money.  We found the $20 bills a few days later and bleached the ever-loving Christ out of them.  Cleanest money you've ever handled.  The fiver wasn't worth it.

Chester is extremely fuzzy.  He looks like a diminutive lion, with a great mane of amber-gold fur around his neck and chest and these little silky, wavy wisps behind his ears and face.  His mother was an Aussie and we're pretty sure, given his disposition and size, that his daddy was a Golden.  He has a thick undercoat and a truly majestic tail.  Sometimes, when he's cruising to find something to steal, you can see just his tail go by, held high.  It looks like the world's fluffiest feather duster, but even more awesome.  When we have him shaved at the beginning of each summer, he loses half his body weight and looks like a very confused sheep that is wondering what the fuck happened.

Chester is too smart for his own good.  Well, actually, too smart for our own good.  It serves him quite well.  Now that he's elderly, if someone comes up our driveway and it becomes the duty of the dogs to go bark at them and announce our territory, Chester will feint and run outside for just a second with Rose, and then immediately come back inside and go to the front door channel of Dog TV and watch Rose do all the work.  It's efficient and gets the job done.

Chester loves to beg at the table.  He knows the precise sound of a spoon or fork being set down in an empty bowl - not a bowl with one bite left in it, but truly empty - and the tell-tale "clink" on the side.  That's his moment.  He's a sucker for cleaning bowls.  He longs for them with a terrible desire.  We've engaged at times in enabling behavior.  We've only ourselves to blame.  But on the nights when we refuse to let him lick the bowls, he sits down and fixes one of us with a piercing gaze and unwavering focus, and flips his ears over puppy-style to strengthen his case, and then begins a series of whines and noises.  They start off high-pitched and pitiful, and if that doesn't work, they gradually drop in pitch until he's grumbling.  This ends up sounding like werewolf howls, and we once recorded him doing it.  I make him make the werewolf noises until he's done a good run of them; only then will I get up from the dinner table and go fetch the dogs' dinner.  This is a family ritual.

Chester is a big, fuzzy ball of love.  He comes and puts his head in P.J.'s lap with the insistence of a cat.  You will stop whatever important thing you are doing and pet me, right now.  No, really.  He raises a paw and puts it on her lap.  Right now, damn it.  Give me all the lurves.  Okay, now the other ear.

I said at least six pictures, didn't I?  Here are some great pics of Chester over the years.  I don't think he'll mind my putting them up.  I'll ask him this afternoon.  He hates having his picture taken, and knows when a phone camera is being aimed at him without possibly being able to know.  He senses it and gets up and leaves.  Probably his crabby old age.  He didn't mind, back in the day.  I mean, check this one out:

This is a one-year-old Chester who got snow
on his nose.  He totally posed for this one.

This is Chester preventing my brother-in-law
from leaving after he came to visit.  Nope, he said.
You're staying here.  You give good ear noogies.

I called this pic "Tao de Chester" when I took it.
He looks wise, or smug.  Maybe both. 
About four years old in this one.

These days, Chester (ignore Rose, who
is too dumb to figure things out on
her own and takes her cues from him)
sleeps with his head hanging off
of his bed.  We don't know why.

See?  I told you.  Head off the bed.  What is with that?

One day not too long ago, when Chester
and Rose were waiting for P.J. to come
home from work.  They always watch for
her car on Dog TV.  See the majestic tail?

Chester is patient and stoic and mild and laid-back.  He has been putting up with bone-on-bone hip pain for what must be quite a long time, and has never once complained or whimpered, until finally he did because it got to be too much.  We want a time machine and a crystal ball and the ability to know just when the pain got bad and the chance to begin taking it away then, not after months or years of silent, tolerated agony.  We want the ability to go back and fix it.

We also want an afterlife.  Not just "always will have been".  For a couple that doesn't believe in an afterlife, there is still the very human temptation to wish there was one, at these times.  If there was any sort of heaven, I have encountered in my life only a few people who would deserve to find themselves there.  Just a small handful.

And I'd hope they were damned well "dog people" because the place would be absolutely teeming, brimming, filled to overflowing with dogs.

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