Chester, the First

Pulled: Tuesday April 12, 2011 from the City of Columbia Animal Shelter

Adoption Commitment: Saturday April 16, 2011

Meet Chester, the first. On a Tuesday, after my six-year-old daughter, Arina, got home from school, we got in the car and drove to the City of Columbia Animal Shelter. I told the shelter worker that we were there to adopt, and I asked him to pick out the dog most in need. He said that all the dogs were in need and was clearly hesitant to identify one in particular.

Finally, I said, “Look, I can’t go back there or I would adopt them all. I don’t care what kind of dog — young or old, large or small — so long as he’s in need, and that he’s good with children and young pups [my mother had just adopted a mini dachshund pup].” I asked the man, whose name I later learned was Howard, to go get the dog he most wanted to see in a home.

And he did. He went through the door to the kennels and came back with a terrified, 6-month-old lab mix. “He’s a good dog,” Howard said, “But he’s not doing well in the kennels. He won’t eat. He doesn’t even get excited to go on walks like the other dogs do. He just cowers.”

“Perfect!” I said. I took Howard brownies later as a thank you.

Chester didn’t have a name. He was identified by his kennel number. He rode with me, in a crouched, terrified position, to take my daughter to dance class and to pick up my seventeen-month-old son, Jack, who was delighted to see a new “pup pup” in the car.

Soon, Chester was eating with relish. He remained skittish for several days, as he navigated his new environment. One memory that sticks is the first time he wagged his tail in the kitchen. He wagged so enthusiastically that his tail made a loud “WHACK” when it hit the oven door, and Chester nearly jumped on the counter-top in fright.

He had to learn everything, including how to walk on a leash. Our first foray, to pick up my daughter from the bus stop, was so fraught with imagined dangers that Chester continually darted between my legs for safety, the result of which was both of us on the cement, bleeding. I scraped my knee, and Chester scraped his chin.

Within the week, though, he was walking on a leash so well that I took him to a rally, in honor of the Chesterfield 22. I carried a sign, courtesy of one of my best friends, Natalie Leppard, which read: “Meet Chester. Adopted in honor of the Chesterfield 22.” He was recognized by the speaker at the rally and was a general hit overall.

Also, within a week, he was doing well with his puppy potty-training. The last accident he had in our house, before going to his new home, was early one morning. He slept on the floor in our room, on a blanket, and I woke up to his big furry paws in my face. “Go to bed, Chester” I said. He went over to my husband’s, Scott’s, side and stuck his big, furry paws in his face. “Go to bed, Chester” he said. Chester paced back and forth a couple of times, and then proceeded to poop on the floor. We did not scold.

I had an adoption commitment for Chester the Saturday after I adopted him, from a friend of a friend. She came over to meet him and said, “Yes. That’s my dog.” To make the transition as easy for Chester as possible, I talked about Sabra, his new mommy, often and took him for several play-dates, during which he was spoiled with undivided attention and doggie treats, before the hand-off.

When that day came, I thought I’d cry but I didn’t. I couldn’t when I saw his big doggie grin as he leaned out of Sabra’s car window. I know that Sabra is the perfect mother for him. She’s active. She goes on walks and runs, which this lab puppy will love. She plays water polo, and I’m interested to hear if Chester ever takes up that sport. He’d be great at it, I know.

Adopted by: Sabra Smith

Renamed: Jethro

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