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Chester (ter)

This is the last of three blog entries on Chester.
The first was #0112, Chester, and the second #0115, Chester (bis).

Chester opening a Christmas gift - click to enlargeThe picture shows our dog Chester opening a Christmas gift, probably some sort of chew toy. Click on the picture if you want to see a larger version. Return here using your browser's "Back" button.

When we had not owned Chester very long, and were still on the breeder's mailing list, we one day got an invitation to something called a "Tibetan Terrier fun day". This was a get together of Tibetan Terrier owners, just to meet and speak with other similar owners. There was also an informal show and judging, although we had never had any intention of treating Chester as a show dog.

We put him in his crate in the back of our station wagon, and set off. Not happy about being in his crate, Chester spent the trip whining and sniveling. We told him to be quiet, and that he was going to embarrass us carrying on like that.

When we got to the fun day, we met the largest number of Tibetan Terriers we had ever seen gathered in one place, including some of Chester's litter mates (in human terms, his twins), and some of his non-twin brothers and sisters (dogs from the same parents but different litters). When we arrived, some of them were still confined to their crates, where they were whining and sniveling just as Chester had done.

There was a little bit of ill feeling surrounding the judging, when one clearly superior dog failed to come in first. The problem was that the Tibetan Terrier was not, at the time, accepted by the American Kennel Club as a breed. This was largely because of a large variation in the size of the dogs. The Tibetan Terriers in the Northeast United States were more like Chester in size, about 11 kg (24 pounds). But the southern breeders bred larger dogs, like an excellent dog that was entered in this show. It would have won had it been smaller, but the northeastern judge considered it to be outsized for the breed standard. The problem was, at that point in time there really was no breed standard for size.

My sisters had given Margie and me a tandem bicycle as a wedding gift (we still have it). One day, we put it on our car, and drove to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, where we spent the day cycling among the flowers on the Arboretum's asphalt pathways. Chester ran along behind us, so we all got quite a bit of exercise.

But running on the rough paths was apparently hard on Chester's feet, and the next day, we found that the bottoms of his foot pads were peeling off, leaving somewhat pinkish skin underneath. It looked terribly painful, but Chester seemed to be in no distress at all, walking around as usual. In a day or two, the bottoms of his feet hardened up, and appeared to be completely normal

We once took Chester on a camping trip to Cape Hatteras and the Smokey Mountains. It's easy to bring a dog along when you're camping, since you're staying in your own tent, and don't have to worry about whether or not a motel will accept pets (almost all campgrounds accept pets). There were known to be bears in the area, and the instructions we got when we entered the campsite made it clear that it was important to empty our site's garbage can prior to going to sleep. This we did.

Sometime during the night, we heard a loud clattering sound from outside the tent. I woke up, and looked through the mosquito netting in the tent door. A large bear had removed the top of our galvanized garbage can, and was rummaging around inside. At this point, Chester was also awakened by the clatter. He sniffed the air, and apparently detected the bear. Disturbed by this invasion of our campsite, he started to growl. I clamped my hand around his muzzle, and whispered in his ear, "Shut up, you stupid dog. If the bear comes here, I'll throw you to him first." Fortunately, since we had followed instructions, our garbage can was empty. After a quick look inside, the bear moved off to the next campsite in the hopes of finding a less law-abiding camper.

By the way, earlier in the night, our sleep had been disturbed by a group of teenagers who had gone off to a slightly more remote campsite, but which was still not all that far away. At an hour when most people were going to sleep, they were blowing horns and banging on pots and pans, and generally making a lot of noise. We spoke with them about it in the morning and here's the story they told:

They also had a dog with them, named Emily. They were sitting around the campfire singing folk songs to the playing of a guitar, when one of the campers felt Emily sidle up alongside him. He reached down and patted Emily on the head. After a bit, he thought, "this doesn't feel like Emily", and he looked down. The animal he was petting on the head was a bear cub.

Needless to say, he jumped up, and the bear cub ran off. The campers were pretty freaked out, and started making a lot of noise to keep the bears at a distance, as they had been advised. After all, where there's a bear cub, there's a bear mother not very far away. And indeed, in the morning, we did see the pair, with the cub up a tree and the mother hanging around nearby.

One Halloween, I was dressed up in some sort of frightening costume, when I heard Chester padding across our kitchen floor. I decided to see how he would react to the costume, and suddenly leapt into the kitchen doorway in front of him. Turning around, he started running on the linoleum. But since his claws didn't give him much traction, he really wasn't going anywhere.

He was like one of those cartoon characters who run off a cliff, and then keep running in the air for a while before they start falling. All four of his feet were spinning madly, yet he was barely moving. Gradually, though, he started to gain some speed, eventually running out the opposite kitchen door. I thought this was pretty amusing, until I discovered a line of urine the length of the kitchen. I had evidently scared him a lot more than I had realized.

When our daughter Elissa was born, we brought her back to the house and placed her, sleeping, in a bassinet in our living room. I thought that Chester, with his good sense of smell, would immediately notice her presence. But he seemed entirely oblivious, until she woke up and started crying. At that point, he suddenly jumped to attention, ran over to the bassinet, and attempted to peer inside to see what was making the noise. The arrival of our children changed our family dynamic, and I'm sure that Chester got a lot less attention. But he adapted well, and got along with them.

When my daughters became adults, we discovered one day that they had remembered Chester as a very large dog. Of course, he wasn't very large at all, only about 11 kg. It's just that they themselves were smaller.

Here's a picture of Margie taking a nap with Chester. Again, you can click on it to enlarge it.

Chester and Margie have a nap - click to enlarge

Our letting Chester run freely finally caught up with him one day, when he chased a car without seeing another car coming in the opposite direction. He was only about 10 years old.

The principal of the Claypit Hill elementary school which our children attended was a man named Chet Zwonick. Talking with him one day, Sara asked, "Is your name actually Chester?". Mr. Zwonick replied that it was. Sara said, "I had a dog named Chester once. He died."

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#0117   *FAMILY2   *PEOPLE

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© 2012 Lawrence J. Krakauer   Click here to send me e-mail.
Originally posted February 9, 2012

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