Since I’m sure future blog posts will involve my current dogs, Phoebe and Chester, it seems I should introduce them.
Phoebe is my almost 10-year-old perfect and dopey lab mix. She is:
75% Labrador Retriever
And 5% other very random breeds
Chester is my almost 9-year-old (ish) hammerhead pit bull. He is:
20.9% Staffordshire Bull Terrier
4% Bull Terrier
2.9% Boston Terrier
2.5% French Bulldog
And 54.2% DNA that can’t be matched to one single breed (so, Heinz 57 variety mutts)
(^^ In case anyone needs a good example of how breed specific legislation is super silly).
After buying my first house in June 2011, I immediately began searching Petfinder.com for a dog to adopt. Because who can have an empty house with no dog in it?! I was finding that a lot of rescues rejected me because I was only 21-years-old, and/or because I didn't have a fenced in yard at the time. Luckily, I was still working part-time at the dog daycare and boarding facility, and happened to meet this little black lab mix puppy who was up for adoption through American Lab Rescue. She was from Tennessee and being fostered in Vermont. Her name was Irene (yeah, Irene) at the shelter but her foster mom had re-named her Phoebe.
I officially adopted her in mid-July. I had every intention of changing her name to something else, but nothing else seemed to fit. She just seemed like a Phoebe. For the first couple of days I had suspicion that she had been drugged to be uncharacteristically un-puppy-like. She was just so good. TOO good. She was calm, mellow, never jumped, never made any noise, never chewed anything she wasn't supposed to, she let me sleep, and rarely had accidents inside. After a while I realized she wasn't drugged; this was just how she was.
Despite being the best puppy ever, she had a couple of minor challenges. She was very timid, unsure, and scared of... pretty much everything. The vacuum, loud noises, things pointed at her, if you moved too fast, going for walks, men, strangers, and hats. I remember my friend Nick had finally started to earn Phoebe's trust, after months of effort, but one day he was sitting on my kitchen counter and he jumped off, and Phoebe got so startled that the whole process had to start over.
We tried obedience classes but she was too consumed over the treats that she could not focus on literally anything else, so I just made sure she could do the basics – sit, lie down, wait, come, stay. To this day, if you ask her to shake she'll probably lie down, she can sort of half way roll over, and sometimes she’ll crawl for a treat. But there really is no reason for her to need to do anything else. I always say she’s the best-behaved untrained dog ever.
She’s great off-leash, perfect in the house, I can take her anywhere without worrying about anything, I trust her completely, and she doesn’t require much except my love.
After a few years, I started getting that itch for a second dog (because let's face it, I'm not really a one-pet household). I wanted a dog that I could do a little more with, like agility or dog sports or obedience, since I didn't want to push Phoebe to do something she didn't enjoy. I also wanted a second dog because I thought it might help build Phoebe's confidence and decrease her fear if she had an outgoing, brave companion. And I wanted a pit bull, preferably. And so began a long, frustrating search for a second dog.
At this point, I wasn't 25 yet so some rescues still denied me for being too young. We did have a fenced in yard by that point, which helped, but it was still nearly impossible to work with the rescues I was contacting. I met a lot of dogs. From a lot of rescues. And did a lot of driving. I started to get really discouraged. Then one day in my online dog browsing, I found PittieLove Rescue in Massachusetts. I saw a picture of this 2-year-old pit bull, Chester, and immediately fell in love. I sent in my application, basically knowing nothing about him at that point, and was connected with his foster parents. I talked to Chester’s foster dad on the phone and asked a bazillion questions, which he was super willing to answer, and told him about my life and what I was looking for in a dog. I had such a good feeling about Chester that I ordered a collar for him and bought a new dog bed. I just kind of knew this one was going to work.
We packed up Phoebe and drove 2.5 hours one-way to Massachusetts to meet Chester and went for a walk together. While we were finishing up adoption paperwork, Chester was just standing by the door like he was ready to go home.
I had always wanted to name my first pit bull Chance (like, give pit bulls a “chance”). I tried to change Chester's name to Chance for the first couple of days and it was just not feeling right, so it went back to Chester. Since I'm obsessed with Cheetos, he became Chester Cheeto.
I'll admit, the first few days were difficult. To make things more complicated, Chester and my then boyfriend didn't exactly pair well together. I remember one of the first nights, I was sitting on my kitchen floor crying, thinking I was going to have to return Chester. I talked to his foster dad on the phone and he talked me off the ledge. It's obvious that his life before coming to me wasn't great. He was abandoned in Brockton, he has scars on his chest, neck and face area, and when you quickly raise a hand or leash or object, he cringes as if you're going to hit him (even 7 years later!). But I promised him a better life than that, so we were going to get through it.
Chester is basically everything I wanted in a second dog. He lets me sleep late like Phoebe does, he is pretty low-key, he’s incredibly smart and learns skills very quickly, he loves agility, and he’s friendly with people. He’s my shadow and my protector.
AND as I had hoped, Phoebe turned into a different dog after I got Chester. I mean, she’s still afraid of the vacuum, loud noises, and certain random things like extension cords, but she isn't afraid of people at all anymore, and she runs around like a crazy, confident maniac.
Chester has challenges too though. The biggest being he has pretty intense food aggression with other dogs. Fights were more frequent in the first few years, as I was learning what his triggers were and how to best manage it. Incidents are much less frequent now, but not any less severe.
He has chronic allergies. Somehow in all of my years of extensive pit bull research, I missed the information on pit bull type dogs frequently having allergies. Chester is allergic to grass, weeds, trees, storage mites, and especially dust mites. My vet and I have tried everything under the sun to try to help the allergies, I've spent thousands on his allergy issues, and they are basically always just barely under control.
He also has some anxiety, especially with moving and any time I have boxes or bags out. He will become extra glued to me, and when packing and moving he develops stomach issues and has accidents, and his allergies flare up. I suspect this has something to do with his previous people abandoning him.
Two of the Best Dogs Ever
Over the years, they’ve tolerated many loud parties and shenanigans, experienced multiple moves, and been foster siblings to eight different rescue dogs. Phoebe has been on many family vacations, and Chester has gone to agility trials, Green Mountain Iron Dog, and Paws in the Pool events. They've made me laugh every single day. These days, they spend most of their time sleeping, they enjoy exploring the woods behind our house, they have very short bursts of energy to play with toys, and they continue to be medically and financially high-maintenance.
They were amazing during the business construction process, and continue to impress me with not caring about the cars coming and going, the smells and sounds of many new dogs, and my varied routine. Phoebe accompanies me to the business often to play with dog-social boarding dogs. The business has allowed me more time with both of them, which I'm extremely thankful for.
While my dogs can sometimes drive me nuts, and there have been times where having them has made things more difficult, they've also been the only reason that I've gotten out of bed on some days. They keep me going when I don't feel like I can. They've been by my side through a lot, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. And as they both become seniors, I try to remind myself, even on the most trying days, to cherish my time with them.