When I first opened my eyes in the morning, I would softly whisper her name so not even my husband, sound asleep next to me, would stir. The first soft whisper usually had no response, so I would whisper her name again, but just one degree louder. No response, but the third time I whispered a bit louder, and she would reply with one pronounced hit of her tail on the hallway floor outside my bedroom door, where she had slept through the night.
She would come into our bedroom and walk around the bed, running her body along the sides of it to let me know it was time to think about getting up. When she had made eye contact with me, she would smile. Her smile was ugly, as she curled her lips back and showed her teeth like she was going to bite. But this is a true Chessie smile.
She would then lead me downstairs and round to the back door to let her out into the back yard to do her “business”. Then, she would lead me through to the front of the house, where I would let her out that door to get the newspaper. She would come in the house, the paper held in her mouth, and circle round the living room twice, only to end in the sit position, presenting the paper to me in true Chessie fashion.
Then she would go to her bed in the living room, and lay there till she saw that I wasabout to leave for work. She would rise and move towards the stairs down to the den, and make eye contact with me to be sure this was right. A simple nod of my head, and she bounded down the stairs to her other day bed. I had to put the couch cushions up, as she could be tempted to sleep up there. I did not fix the cushions one day, as I felt her hips were so bad that she could not manage any more to get up on the couch. Somehow, she got up there, but her leg fell asleep so she could not get down when I got home. I had to lift my 80 pound Chessie to the floor. But I will never forget the shy smile on her face as she stood on the couch that day, so happy to see me but so embarrassed about being found out.
We would walk around the neighborhood early in the evening, maybe as far as the lake and then back to the house. After dinner, she would look for another walk, but this time it had to be both my husband and me for it to be right. Then around 9:00 or 9:30 she would come to me wherever I was and stand in front of me, staring. This was to tell me that it was time for the two of us to go to bed.
It was hard for her, at the end of the day, to climb the stairs. I would stand at the top of the stairs and say You can do it, Come on up, girl , and then give her a big kiss and hug when she arrived at the top of the stairs. She would lay down in the hall with a heavy sigh, and drop into a deep sleep .
Sometimes she had a thought that digressed from this usual routine. For example, if she wanted to go outside, she stood at the back sliding glass door and stared. When she wanted to come in, she returned to the door and barked to be let in. If I was having snack while watching TV, she would want one too. When this happened, she came to me and stared. A simple Show me, Kerry and she led me to the cabinet under the sink where her snacks were kept.
They say a Chessie is a one-man dog, but my Kerry loved my boys and my husband as much as she loved me, for she knew and understood what they each meant to me. On that last day we took her to vet, Kerry and I waited by the car and my husband went into the building to see if the vet was ready to see her. Kerry was trembling in fear of the vet visit, but in spite of her fear, she did not want my husband in there alone. She led me into the vet’s waiting room.
The first time we took her to the beach she was only two months old. She trembled on the shoreline, in fear of the water. I waded out and when the water was waist high, I turned and called her name. Without hesitation, she doggy-paddled out to be by my side. Her unconditional love always put me first; her own fears second. I tried to return this to her, holding her close to me as we lay together on the floor of the vet’s examining room, staring into her knowing eyes, whispering words of comfort, till her Chessie heart stopped beating. She has been gone eleven years now, but I still grieve.