The blog post below was written by Dr. Miller in February. I apologize it took me so long to get around to editing and posting! But, in celebration of Pet Memorial Day on September 13th I thought it was finally time to share. Thanks, Chester, for all the love. <3

Yesterday (Feb. 1st, 2015) we lost a good friend, Chester, the Messner family dog. He finally developed irreversible damage to his organs. The family and myself allowed him to pass peacefully.  Driving home I reflected on his life and how it affected myself and other people. To understand my feelings I have to give you a brief Chester biography.

Chester (left) and Hanzo (right).

He came to us at the Williamsburg hospital. Like so many of our pets he was a refugee. As I recall he was found by the police in Mt. Orab and dropped off at our office. We attempted to find his owners but this was before microchips and we all knew the chances were unlikely. He was a small grey and black terrier with a constant tail wag and he warmed up to us rapidly. Soon, we knew he was here to stay.  He adapted well but we already had two dogs living at the Williamsburg office and we decided to move him to our New Richmond hospital. Again, he immediately adapted. He simply knew no strangers. About this time Sarah, a high school student, started to work for us as an animal care tech. She quickly befriended this little rambunctious terrier. Then Chester started to take weekend visits to the Messner household and eventually he simply never came back. I was happy because I knew Chester had found a loving home.

Sarah finally went away to college so we only saw him on his healthcare visits. You knew he was very happy because he sure was in a hurry to get back home. Three years later Sarah returned home and came back to work for us. At this time we knew Chester was starting to age and was developing cardiac disease related to aging.  As time passed his disease was progressing but he was being managed well medically. Then a chronic cough developed and about a year ago he started having fainting spells. He had developed severe arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats) and I thought his time was coming to an end. But we didn’t give up. Sarah and I researched diligently and Sarah followed instructions perfectly.  He became stable and lived another year . During this time we ran into an occasional bump in the road and researched and modified his medications.  But most of the time he was his feisty little terrier self. We were never sure of his age but we knew he was at least 15 and probably considerably older.  That extra year would extrapolate to 5 to 10 years in a human life. We were all grateful to have given him this extra time.

So, on my way home I first thought about Sarah and Chester. I knew their bond was extremely strong. And I know from my own experiences that the human animal bond grows dramatically stronger as your pet ages and requires increasing care. I call this “the give back times.” After all the years of joy they give us we have to adapt to their needs as they age. That final act of care requires much courage. Sarah had to decide when the time had come to let him go. She had her family to lean on and I was there for support, but the decision was hers.  

Then I thought about her parents. I really do not know their thoughts and feelings but as a fellow parent of adult children I think I know how this little guy affected them . I know the feelings of loneliness and despair as you pack your children off to college. The home is empty and adjustment takes a long time.  Actually we probably never totally adapt.  My two sons went to Columbus making visits easy and eased the pain of separation. But Sarah went to the other side of the country. Wow!  I think Chester really helped in easing the pain of separation.  After all he was Sarah’s dog and a constant reminder of her. He was always there waiting on her return. He was the security of knowing she would eventually return home, probably sooner rather than later.

Then, I thought about me. Homesickness and missing her parents brought Sarah back, but I think Chester may have been that last little thread that pulled on her heart and brought her back after three years. For me the good news was that Chester had also bonded her to our New Richmond Animal Hospital. She immediately returned back to work for us and her adaptation was remarkable. She soon became my marketing guru through social media and finally I had the good sense to make her the hospital director. She started her new duties about the time Chester started fainting. So as we worked diligently together to grow the practice we also developed Chester’s care. Chester helped give my business a new direction and also gave me a good, good friend.

Based on my conjecture, Chester was a cherished companion, helped her parents cope with their “empty nest” and finally helped bring Sarah home. Indirectly, he brought her back to our office, dramatically improving how we do business and giving me one of my best friends.

That’s what I think he did and this doesn’t include all the daily joys he brought to the Messner home, and all the other people he has touched.

So, I finally came to some conclusions.

For all you non-pet/animal people, You don’t know what you’re missing and you don’t know what effect a pet may have had on your life. But it’s not too late to dive in.

For you pet owners you know the joys of dog or cat companionship and if you have experienced it, you know the pain and grief of losing that companion. But if your grief has healed you also know that joy and love exquisitely outweighed the loss at the end.

So, is it worth it?  Absolutely! If you fear losing a pet or have recently lost one and you’re not quite sure about starting over, try what I did on my way home. I call it the Frank Capra “It’s a Wonderful Life” test.  Revisit your life for the last 15 to 20 years, then imagine it without your dog or cat. In other words, imagine the world if your pet never existed. Thousands of great experiences would have been missed. All that love would not have been there and your life would have been dramatically different.  There are not many things better than having a pet.

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