Posted: November 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

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He came to us the usual way, a begging child. Of course, the child and her brother began begging almost as soon as they could talk.
Actually, it was prior to talking. It was at the grunting stage we heard the word, “dog.”
Of course, as good parents, we successfully beat back that request and a thousand more over the years. Why do we need a dog when we have two perfectly fine pooping machines already, we reasoned.
The years went on, interrupted by the usual trips to the emergency room, holidays, birthdays, lost bikes, viruses in the desktop, school angst and the occasional whine about not having a dog. That whine grew to Stephen Kingesque levels whenever a cute dog would enter the premises on the arm of another.
Couple of times we wavered but then one of us would slap the other and come back to reality. Two working parents. Now three kids. A house that needed more attention than the class clown. Cars that worked sometimes. Enough Italian relatives to start a small breakaway country and pet rabbits that died regularly or ran away, but not until they produced enough fertilizer to grow giant eggplants for most of southern Italy.
No dog.
Until my oldest got accepted to college. That’s when the crack in the wall came. And my daughter shot through that crack like chipmunk on a nut hunt.
As we talked about his imminent college experience, my wife, who had not been drinking as far as I could tell, blurted out,” Maybe we’ll get a dog once you go.”
That empty sound people describe before a tornado touches down? Well, we had one in the kitchen before my daughter had bookmarked 150 dog sites on her laptop, purchased dog beds, dog leashes, dog food and dog golf clubs (actually, that was me making that up).
We started small. Small and not too pretty. I was getting photos of dogs that looked like very old men sent to me at work.
Then came the second breakthrough. My wife and daughter sauntered from the small old men dogs to the labs. Just like that. We picked out the one that looked calmer and smaller than most and cooler than them all.
We named him Chester.
He’s staring at me now. He knows when we talk about him, and apparently when I write about him.
The early years involved shoe eating, couch tearing, underwear consuming (need a whole team from Vienna to work on that one), more walks than Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau combined, shots, licenses, obedience classes (for me, not him apparently), food stealing, escaping, yelping in the middle of the night and humping.
Oh, and he was now getting stronger than Rocky Balboa against that Russian bionic bicep when Rocky staggers through the snow field with a horse plow harness. Chester could have done that with two Clydesdales attached. Beast could haul the whole family on a leash across tundra if he knew dinner was on the other side of the ravine.
Food. Did I mention they call Labs “chow hounds.” Chester could have just eaten two cups of food, walked away from the dish and if someone else said, “Want to eat?” would return to the bowl looking like inmate 9543 subsisting on grass and ants and eat two more cups. Nobody has tried but I think he might repeat this feat into the night until his stomach touched the floor.
Oh, and he doesn’t eat out of a bowl any more. He gave that up for Lent and has not gone back. Used to drink and eat out of silver bowls, the ones that millions of canines before him around the globe dine from. Not him.
One day he started barking at them like they were Ninjas out to destroy and for weeks he refused to drink or eat out of them. I tried a few different variations, but basically he ended up drinking from an oversized coffee mug and eating off a paper plate. Veterinarians, pet lovers and even Google said, “huh?” when I queried the behavior.
He also snores and dreams heavily. He makes sounds like Curly of the Three Stooges when he sleeps sometimes. I’m waiting to see the feather rise and fall in front of his snout one day.
He’s now in his fourth year of life and brings a steady stream of surprises. Lately, he pretends to stay in the kitchen/tv room area when we are out, but we know he wanders the house, leafing through magazines, showering in our bathroom, rummaging through the snack cabinet and then returns to sit on his bed like a queen.
He also has started snoozing on the couch. For years we thought he never came near it. Why we thought that was blind trust, no doubt. But one morning I woke up, made the coffee and wondered why he wasn’t at my side, like normal, making with the pee pee dance. Why? Because if you were curled up on a soft couch on a cold morning, why would you get up to watch the master grind beans that you weren’t getting anyway.
Lately, I work from home a lot. When I am not traveling, my house is my office. Chester likes this. He thinks it’s walk time every hour and in between it’s play time. I work in the basement mostly because I am afraid of him. When I come up for something, I army crawl through the house, hoping he won’t see me, rope me like a calf and drag me out for a walk.
This is just the beginning. I know. But I wanted to get this on the record in case something happens to me and Chester pretends to know nothing. He’s good at that.
But all you have to do is offer him a snack, and he’ll sing like a dog.


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