Monday, April 21, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Chester

We said goodbye last week to a very special member of our family. Our sweet Chester would have been sixteen years old on May 4th. Chessie had congestive heart failure and was struggling to breath. My parents had him put to sleep on Monday, April 14th so he wouldn't suffer anymore.

Dealing with the loss of a family member, human or animal, is always difficult. Chester had been in our family for nearly sixteen years. It will take a long time to adjust to life without him. I wanted to share some of my memories and photos of our very sweet and photogenic Chessie.

Chester was born in the wood pile in my parents backyard with his sisters, Kelly, Patches and Abbey Cat in 1998. My Dad and I tried to get a hold of his mother, a very young, tiny fluffy yellow cat, but she was too wild and scared of us. We kept Chester and his sisters, I still remember holding them for the first time and the day that we brought them home. 

Chester was my Dad's cat. I thought we should name him Garfield, after my favorite cartoon cat. But we went with Chester, it's a ginger tabby family name, my Aunt Susie had an orange cat named Chester in college. Kelly was my calico cat, Patches was my sister's calico cat and Abbey Cat was Mom's tortoiseshell tabby. When they were kittens we kept the four of them in the laundry room (my Mom's laundry room is bigger than my bedroom, so they had a lot of space to play and explore!). Patches was the adventurous one, and Chester followed her everywhere. They managed to get into a lot of trouble together! We thought Chester had dirt stuck in the fur of his tail for the longest time, we gave him a bath and his tail was still a slightly different color. More tan than ginger and just his tail. It never washed off.

Our four cats were outdoor cats who got to come inside and visit almost everyday. At night they stayed in our garage. Abbey Cat was a wanderer, she'd disappear for months at a time, only to reappear just after we'd given up hope of ever seeing her again. Chester, Kelly and Patches always stayed close to home with our golden retriever, Maggie.

Me, at home on winter break from OU, with a sleepy Chester
When Chester was ten years old Mom and Dad brought him inside to be an indoor cat. His sisters had passed away years before and it didn't look like he could handle another winter outside. It was then that we realized Chester had been patrolling Mom and Dad's yard and scaring off other cats. Strays began showing up left and right. First Henry, then Bubba, Roxy and Penelope. Mom first met Henry when Chester woke her up in the middle of the night, yowling at the white and orange cat sitting at the window. 

He might not have been happy about his new cat family at first, but Chester was a good big brother to Mom's kitten, Toby, and even eventually became friends with Henry.

Chester T. Pester and Henry David Thoreau

Chester was always so sweet and mellow. He posed perfectly for the many 'photo shoots' I'd have of him, blue was definitely his color. When I was in middle school, Chester was the main character and hero in the stories I wrote. He was Chester T. Pester, Private Eye: a bachelor tabby who solved crimes for dogs and cats in need of his help. He was always a very good muse. 

Kenneth, Chester and Henry

Chester loved Kenneth. It didn't matter what he was doing or how much his arthritis was bothering him that day, if he saw Kenneth, Chester went to see him. I'm pretty sure he even snuggled with Kenneth the first time Kenneth was over at my parents house. I'm not saying I wouldn't have married Kenneth if Chester didn't like him, but it certainly helped knowing I had his approval. 

Just lounging on the deck.
I will miss this sweet boy so much. The past few years he's become a bit of a recluse, sleeping in the quiet of my parents basement. Every time we'd visit Mom and Dad, I'd make a trip downstairs to find Chessie. 

Even with my parents four other cats, the house felt empty when Kenneth and I went home for Easter. It hurts and I miss him, but I know he had a good life with my family and is with Maggie and his sisters.

He really knew how to relax.

Chessie - stylin'.

Chester and Toby

Sorrow is how we learn to love. Your heart isn't breaking. It hurts because it's getting larger. The larger it gets, the more love it holds.
― Rita Mae Brown, Riding Shotgun