I learned much about my dog’s behavior over the summer. One of the most surprising was my dog Chester wasn't as submissive as I thought. He was actually rather dominant. Even though he was 16 years old he was the quiet gentle leader, allowing Wyatt and Josie to roughhouse with him, but quietly letting them know when they over stepped their bounds. I also learned that Josie had a dominant personality and even though she was half Wyatt's size she could take what she wanted when she wanted and Wyatt would let her. Wyatt's boundary issues were mainly with the human pack and I was working on that through training and reading anything I could get my hands on about dog behavior.
By August Josie appeared to have a handle on her potty issues. She was more pronounced in her pacing behavior and started approaching us if the need was dire. We humans learned not to ignore the behavior and that was half the battle. Wyatt's behavior had improved dramatically too. His training had become a favorite time and he looked forward to puppy class as I called it. He had the basic commands down, our main reason for continuing classes was socialization. The more he was around strangers and unfamiliar dogs the less he barked. He still had trouble with supervised separation from me during the class but each week that was improving. By September we had completed 12 weeks of training with Wyatt and countless hours at home. He'd become an expert at fetch and a few tricks like play dead, shake and high five. Josie had also completed her first six weeks of training and she posed challenges of a different sort.
Josie's training was more for me to learn how to get her nose off the ground and attention focused on me. I also had to deal with her social nature. She loves people and people love her and she would disregard any of my attempts to gain her attention if she had the affections of another. By the end of her six weeks I learned how to be a complete fool to retain her attention. Being openly affectionate and playful was not and is still not the easiest thing for me but with each passing day, week and month it is becoming second nature. I love my dogs like my children and just as I'd do almost anything for my kids, I'd do the same for my dogs even if it meant that strangers would look at me like I was a crazy lady.
While the training for Wyatt and Josie was going well, Chester wasn't doing well. One week he was fine with the exception of his arthritis and the next week he's declining to the point I had to start thinking about his quality of life. What made this particularly difficult was we were in the process of adopting Dexter. I started feeling guilty about adding another dog with Chester's quality of life in my hands. Dexter arrived and that seemed to energize Chester for a couple of weeks, but it was not a cure. While Dexter, Josie and Wyatt were bonding Chester was failing and I spent much of the next two weeks on the phone with my vet. No one not even your vet can tell you when your beloved pets life must end. Only you your pets owner and trusted leader know.
The day I knew it was time to let Chester go was like most days. The sun was high in the sky, the temperature was comfortable and W, J and D were playing in the back yard. I went back inside to get Chester and found him laying quietly in his own urine. My heart broke right at that moment. He looked at me with a look only I knew and then
wagged his tail as I pet him. It mattered not that he was wet and smelled horrible. I gently moved him and cleaned up the mess and then filled a bucket with warm water and cleaned Chester as best I could not caring that my wood floor was getting wet. I called my husband and told him what was happening and then I called my vet. We talked and he explained a few more options but the final decision rested with me. I told him I would call back after I passed the information on to my husband but I knew in my heart what had to be done.
I called my vet's office and scheduled Chester for euthanasia the next day. I needed to give my children the chance to say goodbye and give myself the same. The next day was even more beautiful than the day before and Chester had a glow that made me think I'd made the wrong decision. I knew I hadn't but it's human nature to question ones decisions. I sent my husband off to work and my kids off to school like any other day only it wasn't just any other day, it was Chester's last. I took D, J and W out for their usual playtime and came back in an hour later an kenneled them and grabbed Chester's leash and watched him scramble to his feet and walk to the garage door.
I opened the door and Chester ambled down the two stairs and outside. He stood at the end of the driveway waiting for me and I asked him which way. He turned left and off we went. We didn't walk far before he turned and started back home. When we arrived back home he walked around the front yard and found a comfy spot and laid down. He looked at me as if to say come and sit beside me. I did and he smiled his retriever smile and then placed his head in my lap. I stroked his head and couldn't tell you how long we sat there or when the tears began to fall from my eyes. Nothing mattered more at that moment than Chester. If the neighbors were watching I didn't notice, nor did I care because my faithful companion was dying and so was a part of my heart.
He came into my life when he was six years old to be my golden retrievers companion and we lost her first. Chester put up with us brining a puppy home in his last year with us, but more than that he trusted us with his life for ten wonderful years. If he ever doubted our love and commitment he never showed it. Not even on this day.
By the afternoon my husband had come home from work to drive Chester and me to the vet. I walked in the office with Chester and he greeted everyone there with his big wonderful smile and a wag of his tail. The tech whisked us off to a bright room where we waited. We didn't wait long and true to Chester's nature he greets the doctor with his trademark smile and swishing tail. Some owners can't stay and I understand that, but I felt I owed it to Chester to be there until the end. I cradled his head in my lap, kissed him and as he took his last breath I said, "I love you."
To Be Continued...
Until next time Woof, Woof and a Roo.