I love all our dogs, it should go without saying (I hope). Each is unique, with their own personality, characteristics, and quirks.

Some are just quirkier than others.

And some … well, some just come with a story.

Several years ago we had three dogs: Helen, one of our original first three, Dagmar, and Sammie.

Helen, the oldest, was mostly blind from birth, had developed Cushing’s disease, as well as degenerative myelopathy, a canine disorder very similar to ALS in humans. She was very slowly becoming paralyzed, from the hind end forward. By “slowly” I mean over the course of several years. That meant that she was able to use a cart for several of those years, and in spite of her challenges lived a full, long, and happy life. She was, in many ways inspirational.

One day we got a call from our breeder that, for reasons unrelated to the dog, she’d had one responsibly returned. (That’s in the contract when a dog is purchased – if for any reason you feel the need to no longer have the dog, the breeder is your first call.)

The catch was that this was the son of one of our other dogs, Dagmar. It was an opportunity she wanted to offer to us first.

Chester as a puppy. We’d actually met him, briefly, on one of our periodic puppy visits.

It was Chester.

We thought about it long and hard. Helen was high maintenance, but we didn’t realistically expect that she would be around for more than, perhaps, another half year, given her decline. We absolutely loved Dagmar (still do), and having her son seemed like a pretty nifty thing.

We could deal with four dogs for the duration of the overlap.

And so Chester came to us.

And we had four dogs. One of whom — Helen — was high maintenance, and getting higher.

And, naturally, she outlived our expectations. It was closer to a year and a half as opposed to a half year before we had to say goodbye to her. They were good years, and I don’t regret them at all — I’m glad she was with us as healthy and as vibrant as she was to the end.

And yet…

There were times, night times specifically, where I was close to tears for the added stress and emotional load we’d taken on. Four was simply too much. It was probably because of Helen’s high maintenance, but as the most recent arrival I began to consider our getting Chester as a serious mistake.

Fast forward to today.

Chester’s the first face I see most mornings. And it’s a happy one. Seriously “happy to see you” and “happy to be here” face. Emphasized by a wagging tail of course. And further cemented by rolling around on the bed while we get dressed.

He’s a big happy, goofy boy. He’s the lump on the bed every night, and the one who wants to go with us any time we go somewhere. It’s not the destination — even if it’s boring, he’s just in it for the ride.

Inside ChesterHe’s still the most likely to cause trouble. And, indeed, the one most likely to die from “lethal ingestion,” as he likes to eat things that he really shouldn’t (as evidenced by the x-ray at right, prompted by an unhealthy love of crab and crab shells during one of our ocean-side camping trips).

But he’s the happiest, and has an “excess of personality,” as we often refer to it.

Yes, the path to get here was a little rough at the start, and that was in no way his fault.

But in the end, I’m more than happy that he’s here.