Chester Dillon

Pulled: Tuesday May 31, 2011 from the City of Columbia Animal Shelter

Adoption commitment: Tuesday May 31, 2011

Because I was missing Clover, I got a new foster the next day. I read somewhere that the only way to remedy the little piece of your heart that breaks when you give up a foster is to rescue another one. — b/c each one brings a piece of heart with him or her.

Chester Dillon was the first dog I chose from the City of Columbia Animal Shelter, without any help from Howard or Marion. Mr. Boise had said he wanted a beagle. And I went to the animal shelter and saw a 10-month old beagle. It seemed providential.

Mr. Boise, 93 years old, said that he was lonely and thinking of getting a dog. A beagle, specifically. He had lost his wife the previous year. Although a dog is a big responsibility, I knew that Mr. Boise would have the help he needed to care for the dog. From me. From his grandson and granddaughter-in-law, my neighbors. And it isn’t as though Mr. Boise isn’t capable. He has a boat and a camper and travels often, going on solo trips camping at least once a year. And he frequently visits his aunt, who lives in Georgia and is 100. Or older.

Dillon was sick, though. Marion explained that he had kennel cough, but that they had medication for him, and that he would probably recuperate more quickly at my house, if I was willing to take him. Of course I was. Our own dogs, Emma and Mr. Knightley, were visiting with the grandparents for a few days, so I didn’t have to worry about them catching it, even though I keep them up to date on vaccinations anyway.

So, I scooped up Dillon, took him home, and immediately called Mr. Boise. “I have you a beagle!” I said, triumphantly. Mr. Boise was thrilled. “He’s sick,” I explained, “With kennel cough. — sort of like the doggie version of a bad cold.” Still, Mr. Boise wanted to meet him, so I took him over. He was satisfied, and Dillon wagged his tail when we spoke kindly to him or took him outside or on a walk.

I told Mr. Boise that I would take care of Dillon until he was well, so I took him back home with me, only to have Mr. Boise drive by the house within the half hour to tell me that he wanted to name Dillon “Sam.” Honestly, I think he just wanted to see him again.

I like giving people healthy dogs, but I was talking to my mother, and if Mr. Boise wanted to start taking care of Dillon, we thought it was a good idea to let him have him. I would go to his house (5 minutes from mine) and administer Dillon’s pills every day, to help out.

Mr. Boise was satisfied with this arrangement, but he called me the next evening, Wednesday, and said that Dillon was “puny,” sleeping all the time. He also said that his “twitching” was getting worse, that it reminded him of a dog he had seen once with distemper, that he may need to be “put down.”

I went that night to pick up Dillon and take him to the emergency vet, who said that she also suspected distemper. Heartbreaking. Dillon and I got home between 1:00 and 2:00am Wednesday morning.

I talked to my friend, Whitney Knowlton, from Last Chance Animal Rescue, and decided that the responsible thing to do was to take him back and let the shelter vet diagnose him. They would need to know if a distemper outbreak was a possibility.

Knowing that Dillon would have to be put down, I made sure that his last morning was the best morning ever. He had virtually stopped eating, but I made him sausage rice that morning, and he ate. I put him behind a baby gate on the front porch, so that he could enjoy the beautiful morning. I wrapped him in a blanket and talked to him on the drive to the vet.

I remember watching the Disney movie The Three Lives of Thomasina as a child and finding the idea of reincarnation for animals particularly appealing. They have such shorter lifespans than we do, I thought. They should get multiple shots at the good life. So, I explained this idea to Chester Dillon and told him that he would go to sleep and wake up in a healthy puppy body with a mouthful of warm milk.

Whether he believed me or not, I don’t know. But, he was calm as I held him in my lap and rocked him. He only whined a bit when I passed him to the shelter worker, but settled down when I petted him and spoke gently. The shelter vet wasn’t there, but they were all sure it was distemper, since they had seen a couple of cases of it, which they thought they had contained, around the time Dillon came in. He had been vaccinated against distemper at the shelter, but he must have already been infected, just asymptomatic.

Letting Dillon go was easier than I thought it would be, both for me and Mr. Boise, because we could tell that he was so miserable. As an experiment, I clamped my jaw repeatedly, as Dillon had been forced to do as a result of the disease, and tired quickly. Mr. Boise and I agreed, though, that we had great admiration for the little dog, once we realized how very sick he was. He still managed to pull himself up every time Mr. Boise had suggested a walk. — four walks, I think, the day before he died! Mr. Boise said that Dillon was so eager to please that he even wagged his tail along the way.

Rest in peace, sweet Dillon.

Adopted by: Mr. Boise

Renamed: Sam

Passed away: Thursday June 2, 2011

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