I wanted a dog for years. I grew up with both cats & dogs. For one reason or another, I was in my early 40s before we finally adopted a dog. We’d been married 20 years!
Chester, the puppy
That dog was Chester. He was an 8 week old, 4 lb, chihuahua mix from Blue Dog Rescue in Austin (I highly recommend them).
I’d never raised a puppy and that first year was tough: gi issues, mange (beware the free puppy: the rescue waived his adoption fee because of the mange, and we paid dearly for him the rest of his life), knee surgery at 9 months, severe separation anxiety that kept me almost housebound.
I seriously wanted to give him back for maybe the first 6 months we had him. My husband was in love with him from day one.
We got through it all, though, and when Chester was a year old we adopted Lola. He was over his separation anxiety by that point, but I just saw her photo on a rescue site and had an overwhelming feeling she was our dog.
They played a bit, and while Lola seemed to adore Chester, Chester’s affections remained mostly with me.
I certainly didn’t feel that way about Chester in the beginning!
Chester’s a smart cookie
We settled into having 2 dogs. Chester passed his Canine Good Citizen test around 1 years old. I thought about making him a therapy dog, but he was so super attached to me that I didn’t think he’d go to anyone if I was around so we never did it.
We did puppy classes at Petsmart, where he was at the head of his class — he was a very smart dog — and then did the intermediate class. Then we started to do agility, just for fun.
For those who don’t know, agility is an obstacle course for dogs. It’s mentally challenging for the dogs and the owner. We enjoyed it so much that Mr. Judy made us some home made obstacles so we could practice at home.
After a year, I started Lola on agility too. I did classes back to back and the dog not being trained would hang out in their crate in the car while the other was doing class.
There was the day I apparently didn’t latch the crate well and Chester got out and was wandering around the parking lot . . .
Chester moves across the country
We lived in Austin, TX when we adopted both Chester & Lola. It’s very dog friendly, and the dogs really enjoyed going to Green Mesquite and Opal Divine’s, where they could sit with us outside while we ate.
Green Mesquite would give the dogs bones to gnaw on; Chester never wanted to give his up!
Unfortunately, we had to move to New York due to Mr. Judy’s job (and I am very thankful that he has a job). With 2 cats and 2 dogs. Let’s just say everyone survived. And Chester got to see snow. Then more snow. Snow so high we had to shovel paths in our backyard for him.
Chester has a heart murmur?
When Chester developed a cough that wouldn’t go away in 2012 (he was a bit over 6), we took him to the holistic vet (who was wonderful to us) that was treating our cat Simba. Eventually she discovered that he had a heart murmur; it was news to us.
For the first few years you wouldn’t know anything was wrong with him — heart murmurs are common in chihuahuas, but they don’t usually appear that early. Chester always was an overachiever. Chester added a cardiologist to his arsenal of vets, but at the time he was on no medications.
One day in 2014, I could hear his heart beating.
From across the room.
Mr. Judy poo-poo’d me when I told him about it. Then when he came to bed, he said you better take him to the vet. He’d heard it too. It was freaky.
We took him to the holistic vet; she’d never heard anything like it before. We took him to the regular vet; he’d never heard anything like it before! You know it’s bad when 2 out of 3 vets have never heard anything like it, but the cardiologist had. He said his heart murmur had moved into the severe category and put him on beta blockers.
Chester in heart failure
At the beginning of 2015, Chester suddenly seemed very tired. There were no other changes; he just seemed super tired. We weren’t due to go to the cardiologist, but I made an appointment.
Good thing, too, because he was now actively in heart failure. More meds, but after that he was much better.
Until the summer. He hadn’t tolerated summers well in a few years, but now he really couldn’t take walking in the heat. I had to walk the dogs before sunrise.
The last time Chester saw the cardiologist was in July, but we continued to communicate via email and phone; he was wonderful. I highly recommend Dr. Sedacca at Upstate Veterinary Specialists (it’s a specialty hospital and you need a vet to refer you).
Things continued to slowly deteriorate, month after month, although he was still eating well and going for walks and playing fetch pretty much right up until mid-December. When he started to not take a treat occasionally, to leave over a little bit of meals occasionally, I just knew it was time.
We could have kept going for a while, I’m sure. But in the end, he was just tired too much of the time. It was time. The day after New Year’s Day we said goodbye for the last time.
That’s Chester’s story in a nutshell. A long nutshell, of course. And there’s so much more. Maybe I will add more over time; maybe I won’t.
Chester was very smart and picked up tricks pretty quickly: he knew sit, sit up, down, “sad” (which was down with his head on the floor), give me your paw, give me 10, go to your bed/crate, go down/upstairs, stay out and, of course, running agility courses, how to hold a treat on his nose until he was told to “take it”.
Chester remained super attached to me all his life. Usually he wanted to be laying on my lap or held like a baby; until he got sick; he no longer wanted to lay on me, but he always wanted to be near me, keeping an eye on me.
He appointed himself my protector, too. He laid on top of the couch waiting for me to come home when I was out — while I was home, he wasn’t allowed on the tops of furniture because that was for the cats.
One memorable night in Austin he ran off someone (we think teenagers) trying to get into our house in the middle of the night with his barking (Mr. Judy was away on a business trip at the time).
He was extremely food motivated. Until he became really sick that last half year, he would actually eat his meds out of my hand! He knew if I dropped something in the kitchen. He would eat almost anything (including rat poison at my parent’s one memorable day). He didn’t really chew food, he simply inhaled it.
He loved to sun himself in our backyard. He loved when Mr. Judy grilled anything. He loved going on walks, “patrolling” the neighborhood, and marking over Lola. He loved fetching his little toys. And he loved being held like a baby.
He was a great dog and we loved him and miss him.
Chester, gone too soon, you are in our hearts, always.
Thank you for being our dog.
Chewing with Chester
(more Chester stories)