(Note: Written mostly in 2018 as notes, Published in 2022 as an article)
I lost my best friend yesterday. The poor little guy stopped being able to breath after he responded badly to a surgery. I already miss him a lot.
I'm hurting pretty bad on this one... I figure I'd let everyone to know why, and to tell his story.
I got Chester in College Softmore/ Junior year (probably '06). My roommate Jenn Cox and Swamp Donkey showed up one day with a 12 week old puppy that Jenn's uncle got at a charity hunting auction while under the influence (drunk). Everyone thought I would flip out and be pissed off. Couldn't be any further from the truth. We were buddies immediately, and I excited to have some help in getting through this world (Having a happy furry friend makes life much easier).
Chester got a puppy education!
Mom likes to take credit for convincing me to take the dog to puppy school, which is fine, but the reality is that Chester was going to get educated one way or another. So we took him to puppy school! He had a blast and eventually got his degree.
Regardless of the degree, I spent a ton of time training the little guy right off the bat. Best guess would be that I probably trained him 5-10 hours a week for the first year or two.
While we were training, Swamp Donkey thought it would be cute to teach the dog to kiss her. Bad Idea? probably not for a puppy... but eventually Chester became a full grown dog and still loved licking everyone's face and hands. Thats the only bad habit we could never shake. They even were mean one time and let him lick the battery they happened to be holding (I had nothing to do with this)... but he was still a licker even after that
Took a shit in the bookstore & chipotle
Once we trained Chester there were only two incidences where he actually didn't stick to his training. The first he accidentally took a shit in one of the bookstores near campus. Total whoops moment... in his defense though the book store had no problem shitting on students all day long.
The second time we had a problem was when we went to chipotle one time. Chester got yelled at for being in the store. Of the 50 different places I would take him chipotle was the only one that ever had a problem... which is actually kind of surprising considering we never used to use a leash.
How he learned to throw trash away
One day I came home from school and the little guy had gotten into the trash... I was so pissed off because the trash can was one of those big ones and he spread shit all over the living room and dining room. One of my buddies told me that when his dog did that he hit him and then his dog never went in the trash again. I thought about doing that for a second but decided instead that chester was going to help me pick all the shit up that he scattered everywhere. So I spent the afternoon teaching the dog how to pick up trash and throw it away in the trash can.
He never learned to spell his name
After Chester had gotten the hang of some harder dog tricks I wanted to go completely crazy and try and teach him how to spell his name. Unfortunately, it didn't work, but we did try for a couple of afternoons
Pray to Mecca trick
At one point I was working from home (and bartending) in Philadelphia. At that time we used to get a ton of door-to-door religious fanatics. Of course when they knocked on the door the dogs would go nuts barking like crazy and trying to see who was there. I realized if I taught the dogs the "go to your place" trick that would solve my problem... But then I got the brilliant idea to kill 2 birds with one stone.
So I created a trick that I called "pray to mecca". When a religious fanatic showed up at the door I would tell the dogs to "pray to mecca" (and bow) at which point they would run to the rug, lay down, and face east. The dogs would chill out, and the religious fanatics knew that they had the wrong house!
Chester was really good at tailgating
I taught Chester to walk without a leash almost immediately. He was great at it, so I rarely used a leash. Of course he was a dog so on occassion he would check out something when we were walking, which was rarely a problem. All of this was great but the thing I was really surprised by was how good at tailgating he was. We would usually tailgate at my brother's place and Chester (off the leash) was allowed to move about freely. Even though he was barely ever by my side he never ran off when we were tailgating... he would just hang out with whoever was giving him attention. If I called (yelled loudly) he would always come in and check in to make sure we were both on the same page. Pretty awesome behavior for a dog.
Mom stole my dog
When I moved up to NYC I didn't know what my living situation would be like, so I sent Chester to go live with my Mom and Dad in California for a while. I requested 6 months or so... which my mom was NOT happy about (she didn't want another dog). 6 months eventually turned into 9 months but I asked for Chester back once I was in a good living situation. I was surprised to find out that my mom who didn't want to take Chester in the first place flat out refused to send him back to me! She had fallen in love with cute little Chester and she didn't want to lose him!
Chester impressed a billionaire!
Pop-pop was blown away that Chester could get a beer out of the fridge so he sent me to go show Dick Yuengling. Pop pop was thinking that maybe Dick would make it into a Television commercial or something. At the time I was looking for jobs so I figured it couldn't hurt. So I filmed Chester doing his beer trick then went down to the brewery to show Dick. Dick was thouroughly impressed with the video but was super surprised that I would drive all the way over to the brewery to show him the video for 20 seconds. Me too.
Turns out that Chester was a posh little playboy... he's flown private before in the main cab!
Chester protected us from a possum attack
The possum attack is actually part of a MUCH longer story, but the punchline is that Chester woke us up because a possum snuck into the house and woke us up by barking at it. He definitely bailed us out on that one.
we would go "hunting" sometimes, which to be completely honest was more walking in the woods with my dog ... but one time when we were walking he jumped straight into barbed wire fence got stuck then bounced out. He was bleeding all over the place... but happy as a pig in shit. Thats part of the reason why I love labradors.
So we went on a trip to the Adirondacks and wanted to go on a hike, we jumped online and found a decent one and asked one of the locals if it was a good one. The guy couldn't tell if we were woodsy or not so he let us know that it was a "decent hike"- which actually meant 12 miles and 4000 ft of elevation (Whiteface mountain). Chester crushed that whole Hike... we were all super exhausted by the end.
Chester was super duper easy to potty train, and after he was potty trained he only peed in the house one time for the rest of his life.
One odd night while I was in the process of getting divorced, I decided to get weird and drive to Skaneateles NY, to go see the town I grew up in. I got to town late and ended up having to sleep in my car. I was completely unprepared and turns out it was absolutely freezing. Chester got my back and cuddled up with me, keeping me warm.
Chester helped me through hands down the worst time in my life while I was getting divorced. He helped me exercise, stay positive (he's always been a happy pup), added some weight to the other side of the bed, introduced me to girls again... he really got me through the hard stuff.
###Chester's hidden life
Chester moved in with my Mom and Dad (in California) while I was bouncing around the New York metro region (as I previously mentioned). Which was a much better situation for him. One time my parents happened to be out of town so my brother and sister in law went by to check on him.
As they walked by the window to get to the back door they found Chester sitting like a human on the couch. They locked eyes, then Chester went back to chilling, like he was. My brother and sister in law were cracking up.
Every beer ever
Chester had a tail that would knock over every beer ever that was near him. You'd think that it was just a coffee table, but no, he was a tall dog and would knock over beers on tables and desks too. Crazy how much beer I've had to clean up over the years.
One time he was out in the front yard and he found some baby bunnies hiding in the ivy... he literally started bringing them to me (as a retreiver should)... I was like: "what the hell am I supposed to do with a bunch of baby bunnies Chester?"
He saved my life
One time we were out hiking by Clinton Lake and Chester saw a pretty large rattlesnake on the side of the trail. I would have totally missed it if he hadn't been barking at it. The snake ran off into the bushes.
Not a eventful story but for years I used to go to Wheatfields (in lawrence) with Chester to get muffins, then go walk around the farmers market on Saturday mornings.
A Wake for Chester
This article was inspired from the wake that we had with my family for him. We all told stories about Chester and drank Angel's Envy Rye. I'm not religious or whatever, but I hope he felt like he had a good life... and if I am wrong about life there after I hope he ends up in a better place. During life Chester was loved by many people, and made all of our lives better.