Chester Montreuil

The story of Chester begins with my mother. She would often visit a neighbor of hers who bred Shih Tzu puppies. She absolutely adored them.  I tried to convince her that she should get one, but she refused, insisting that they were too expensive, and it would hurt too much if anything happened.   She had lost her little Peek-a-poo suddenly when she was only five years old, so I understood her reluctance. 

A few months after my mom passed, I started thinking about getting a dog. Her loss had left a huge void and I really longed to add a little joy in our lives. What better way than with a puppy? To honor my mom, I decided to get a Shih Tzu.

My oldest son Christopher really wanted a dog, so he and I started looking in the in the “Puppies for Sale” section of the newspaper. One day he found it! A great price for Shih Tzu puppies! They were only an hour’s drive away and when I called, they had two males left. The big obstacle, however, was convincing my husband that getting a puppy was a good idea. Guy was away for work frequently, and he was in Sault-Sainte-Marie on a restaurant renovation at the time. He would call in the evenings to touch base with us, so we waited  anxiously  for  his call. 

When the call came, my son summoned up all his courage and asked his father if we could get a dog. The initial reaction was a flat out “No”. Christopher was crushed! I got on the phone and explained to him that we could wait and buy a more expensive dog later or buy this one now, but  one way or another we were getting a dog. He made the right decision and agreed. The next day the kids and I were off to buy a puppy! Everything fell into place perfectly. It was a beautiful sunny January day. We borrowed a crate from a friend, stopped at the pet store to buy a soothing toy and off we went. The first puppy that we met was a little ball of fluff that was determined to chew everything, including my daughter Emma’s coat.

She was only five and a bit scared of his aggressiveness. I was starting to get worried. Had we driven all this way for nothing? Next thing you know, out comes the other puppy, who had just woken up from a nap. He sauntered over and climbed up into my lap and made himself comfortable. No chewing whatsoever! Sold! He had chosen us, and we were taking him home! The puppy’s parents were on site, so I could see they were larger Shih Tzus which I felt was a good thing with three kids aged 5, 9 and 11. He would grow into a nice sturdy little dog. Perfect! 

The breeder also mentioned that the parents tended to “talk” a bit. I probably should have paid more attention to that comment, but we were all so excited that it didn’t really register. On the way home we tossed names around until we narrowed it down to two, Chester or Charlie. We took a vote and Chester won! Imagine Guy’s surprise when he came home for the weekend, to find little “Chester puppy” greeting him at the door. He underestimated how quickly we would move to get our new puppy. We needed to be quick in case he changed his mind!

Bringing a puppy home in January did have a few challenges when it came to toilet training. I’ll never forget putting him out for the first time. He was so small and so cold (a sweater did not help), that we had to bring him in and wait for warmer weather. He did figure it out, eventually. But it was a long winter of a newspaper covered kitchen floor and baby gates!

Spring  arrived  and  the kids  and  I took  Chester to puppy obedience  classes  at  Pet Smart.   He learned a few basic things,   like   walking  on   a  leash,   but  he   never   quite understood  that  “heel”  meant walk next to,  not in front of, your person.  A little while later  it became apparent  that he wanted to walk  a bit ahead  because  he wanted to protect me. 
Yep, this little ball of fluff  thought that was  his job,  since I was his person.

Walks became problematic when another dog or person came along. I didn’t think we would be able to bring him to the baseball tournaments that our boys were in and Guy coached, even after taking the advanced puppy training course. Luckily, our vet came to the rescue when he suggested a citronella bark collar. It sprays citronella when it detects barking. It worked perfectly! Chester hated the smell, so after a while all we needed to do was put the collar on and he knew not to bark. I didn’t realize how sensitive the sensor was until we were at our first tournament. Chester was laying under my chair being a good boy when I started cheering and the sensor detected it. He got sprayed because of me! Poor thing. After that I would have to turn it off before the games started, because I cheered quite a bit! Chester came to all our baseball tournaments for many years thanks to that collar. 

Years went by and life with Chester was good. He didn’t stop trying to protect me and our home from perceived danger. We could always count on him to be our security system. He would run alongside the fence barking at anyone who had the nerve to walk on the sidewalk next to his yard. He loved eating snow and enjoyed cooler temps once he was an adult. Guy continued to call him “Chester puppy”, long after he was an adult dog, and that name stuck with all of us as well. Chester loved being at the cottage and walking on the beach at the lake. He was not thrilled with swimming though! He could tell if I was ill and would lay right on top of me, instead of next to me like he usually did. I took hundreds of pictures of him because he was such a handsome boy. He slept on my bed every night and made me smile every single day.

When Chester was about ten, he started having difficulty going up and down the stairs. The vet said it was a bit of arthritis. He went on special mobility and metabolism dog food. He dropped a couple of pounds and the food plus a joint care supplement helped. He enjoyed shorter walks, often with Matthew. He still had difficulty with the stairs though. He fell a few times and was scared, so our new routine was that I would carry him up and down the stairs morning and night.

A few weeks after my husband passed, Chester began experiencing more mobility issues, along with some bowel incontinence during the night. I brought him into the vet just before the New Year and explained to her that she had to help him because I couldn’t handle losing him so soon after Guy. I needed Chester by my side to help me through. She gave him some cortisone and he got better! 

That winter he couldn’t plow through the snow like he used to, so I shoveled more paths for him in the backyard and he enjoyed the freedom that offered. He wasn’t as bothered by people walking by, since both his eyesight and hearing were declining. He could finally sit and relax much more, with a few hardy guarding barks thrown in occasionally.

The next summer we went to a cottage that Guy had helped build to celebrate what would have been his 59th birthday. We had spent many family vacations there in the past. Chester managed to get around well, even though it took him quite a while to get down to the lake. After a few days, it seemed like he had more energy than he had had in a very long time. One day the girls and I went into town, and he followed me to the car. Christopher brought him back to the cottage, but shortly after he and Matthew noticed that Chester was trying to find his way back to spot where he last saw me by going up the very steep driveway. 

Unfortunately, that driveway had a large border of rocks separating it from the path leading to where the car was parked. He made quite a few attempts before he figured it out and made a sharp left around the rocks and booted it up to the path. Once there he looped around the neighbor’s house, over some rough terrain, and went up the stairs to the side door. Christopher went after him and picked him up and brought him back to cottage once again. About five minutes later, Chester took off again. This time he knew the way and he made it to the neighbor’s front door. Christopher heard Chester scratching at the door before he saw him, so he took a pic coming around the corner.

Chester had assumed this is where I must be, since the car had been parked close by.  The impressive thing about finding him at the neighbor’s front door was not only how physically difficult it was for him to get there, but that he climbed the stairs as well. Wow! Christopher explained to him that I wasn’t there, so Chester then continued down the long driveway to the road, determined to find me. Christopher followed him all the way to the road and down it a bit. That was the longest adventure he had been on in years. And he took himself on it because he was determined to find me. When we got back from town and I was told about his little adventure, my heart melted. I didn’t think I could love him more, but in that moment my love for him reached a whole other level! To think that he had done all that at 13 years old because he wanted to find me! What a loyal boy! 

A few months later my little Chester really started to decline. He was diagnosed with kidney disease. We tried different medication and food, but nothing made a lasting difference. I made the heartbreaking decision to let him go. A few days before, he had a hydrating treatment that the vet suggested might help him feel better. It was wonderful! He perked up and was able to eat chicken and steak and even play a bit. It was a huge blessing. 

I took pictures of Chester all over the house, in all his usual spots. I managed to ge a few clay imprints of his paws as well. Christopher and I were able to take him on one last little walk when we got to the animal hospital. I was so grateful that I was able to give him a little bit of joy and comfort in his last days. It’s the least I could do after he gave me 14 years of loyalty. He was my constant companion, helping me through unbearable losses just by being by my side. He was my special little ”Chester puppy”, and I miss him every day.

Contributed by Mom, Diane Montreuil

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