Even fewer puppies than children are planned, wanted, created purposely with the intent of bringing joy into our lives.
But you were, Chester. You were planned and wanted and you brought me great joy.
One night after a dinner I’d hosted for some of my college students at my house, one of my students, Tucker, and I were talking about his dog, a coal black miniature dachshund. He’d brought her to the dinner because in previous conversations I’d told him I grew up with dachshunds and would love to see her. Her name was Annie and she was a bundle of energy. We played with her the whole time we were talking, throwing a tennis ball up and down the hall. She’d run as fast as she could go, scoop the ball up in her mouth, and almost instantly reappear, dropping the ball at our feet. While playing this incessant game of fetch with Annie, Tucker and I talked about the possibility of breeding her so that I could have one of the puppies.
And so we did.
A friend in town had a male miniature dachshund with a solid red coat named Zorro. So then we had a mom and a dad. Soon we had a litter of puppies. And in March of 2004, Tucker appeared at my door with the most adorable red coated dachshund puppy.
I named him Chester, after the dog the little boy in the movie, The Kid, dreams of having some day. “You know, the world’s greatest dog – the dog who rides in my truck, who goes everywhere I go. You know, that dog.”
I guess everyone thinks their dog is the greatest, but Chester truly was.
Within the first couple of months of living together, Chester learned to go no further than the oak tree in the front yard. He learned that venturing onto the driveway that led to the street was a no-no, warranting a stern “NO” from his mama. And if he didn’t mind, he got a swat with the newspaper.
Those swats maybe happened twice in his life.
Usually all it took was saying “no” to him and he stopped whatever he was doing.
In those early months of training Chester, every time I placed my hand in my pocket, as I typically did while teaching, I found dog treats. Most of the time I was exhausted from no sleep because Chester decided it was time to get out of his crate much earlier than I usually got up. He learned quickly, though, and within a year he was sleeping in a bed right next to mine. But every night while I would read, Chester slept on the pillow right next to mine. Then I would gently pick him up and place him in his bed, kiss him on the ears, tell him he was the world’s greatest dog, and cover him with one of his blankets.
I am flooded with memories of a dog I shared my life with for 13 years. Thirteen years full of heartache and joy, loss and discovery, laughter and pain, all made better because a dog was in my life. I’m convinced that Chester understood much more of the things I said to him than we give dogs credit for understanding. Maybe I just needed to felt heard, understood, loved no matter what I said.
And that – feeling heard and understood and loved no matter what – may be why we say dogs are our best friends.
The last thing he did was lick my face. Then he laid his precious little head over my heart.
And that’s where it will stay.
Lover of tennis balls,
Dancing to the music.
Hunter of geckos,
Devouring peanut butter.
Run and jump, chase birds and squirrels,
Roll in the sun-drenched grass.
Bark with no fear, no seizing.
Fetch til your heart’s content
With toys in your teeth
Cheese on your breath
Chasing balls on Morrow Lane.