Chester

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Chester was a magical creature. A fuzzy, orange & white, longhaired, sensitive, playful, loving creature. And I think I was his best friend. If you held him upright, he would love to give hugs. He loved everyone, cat lover or not. It made no difference to him. He would join any conversation, especially when it got loud.

Chester’s backstory

Chester found his way into the attic of the Cooper family in March 2006. But he was in rough shape. They kindly brought him in to Tigard Banfield hospital with Dr. Sandy Nelson. He had a bad case of mites in both ears, a neck abscess, fur extremely matted throughout, heavy flea infestation, tapeworms, periodontal disease, and was still an intact male and… FIV+. Wow. They wanted to keep him but with his FIV+ and needing to keep him indoors, and them having 5 cats that were negative, they kindly paid for
his treatments until he got better, then brought to Cat Adoption Team in Sherwood to find his forever home.

His description from CAT in August 2006:

“Norwegian Forest Cat, Domestic Long Hair, Orange & White. Size: Extra Large

Chester adopted his family several months ago by taking up residence in their attic! Well, once they learned they had a visitor, they invited him downstairs for a bath and a bit of breakfast. He was severely matted and had a nasty abscess, so these kind folks too him in to the vet to get all cleaned and patched up. There they learned that Chester is FIV+… Although they would have loved to keep him, his chosen family had 5 non-FIV+ cats already and couldn’t risk the possibility of spreading the infection. So they brought Chester to us and asked if we could help find him a home with no other cats, or only FIV+ cats.

Chester, like all the other boys (and one girl) in the FIV+ room, is a PRINCE, a darling, a love, a treasure. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this gang, because it’s true. They deserve much better than the rough shake life has already given them. So, please, please, please if you are currently Cat-less, please consider adopting one (or two or three!) of these delightful, sweet and ever so charming FIV+ cats.”

We came to CAT planning to adopt his future brother “Buzz” whom Elaine had met earlier in the month, we learned he had been moved to a foster home. So we went to see the other FIV+ kitties. When we entered the old FIV room at CAT, lying in a cat tree adjacent to the door we locked eyes with Chester immediately. He greeted both of us from the door entrance with his perky mew and HUGE whiskers. When Elaine sat down in the only chair, Chester immediately jumped into her lap and started purring. We knew right then we had to take him home ASAP, or someone else might snatch up this sweet boy. We were so lucky we could.

Our boy

Chester was my buddy. He was my shadow. I work from home, so we had plenty of time to bond and we connected right away. He loved chasing shadows on the wall. He didn’t need toys, just the shadow of the toy against the wall. Silly boy! He also loved his cat tree that was up against the back window. We had placed bird and squirrel feeders just on the other side for the best in Cat “television”. He would spend hours every day being entertained by that back window. He would love to SCARE the squirrels, thinking he was sneaking up on them on the other side of the window… and BOO! Squirrel bolts into the tree, Chester standing now on his hind legs with front paws high frozen on the window. Yep, you sure showed him Chester.

Most every night after we got into bed (Buzz was first), turned out the light and everything got quiet… 15 minutes later as we are about to drift off to sleep, Chester would meowww with his toy mouse in his mouth downstairs, and slowly come upstairs to bed. Every night he would slowly, ever so slowly, walk up from my feet and climb until his front paws would stand on my sternum. And he’d wait. And it hurt. And he’d wait some more. ‘OK Chester, it’s time for bed. It’s time for all the little kitties to go to sleep.’ I would open my arm to the side a little bit, and he would mew softly, and gently step toward the corner of my arm pit and ever so slowly snuggle in, mew and purr, and tuck his head into my side. Every night. Sometimes Buzz would get jealous and leave Elaine’s feet to take the other side. I was so lucky to have my boys love me so much (and so unfair to Elaine at times!)

I often traveled for work. The first few nights when I was gone, he’d not go to bed, and instead stay downstairs by the garage door, waiting for me to come home. And when I finally came home, he would be excited like a puppy. He’d talk and tell me all that happened while I was away, and then take off running and want me to chase him and play.

Every morning at about 10am, he would meow and want to play. Usually with me making shadows on the wall for him to try to leap up and catch, or for me to play ‘sneak-up’ and chase him around the house.

He was a fastidious bather. LOVED to clean himself non-stop. Grunting, slurping, pulling, grooming with that raspy tongue and long orange & white fur. He was always immaculate. I just cannot imagine him in his poor state when he was found as a stray in the March of ’06 to the beauty he presented himself 6 months later, and until the end.

Chester’s little issues

He had so many illnesses. And he was a miracle kitty. But to be fair, he also had us as helicopter parents. Knowing him & Buzz both had FIV, we were very cautious about any abnormality, perceived illness, behavior change… so he had his fair share of visits to the vet. Even with regular dental care, he had many teeth removed due to resorptive lesions but he took it in stride. Early on we found that he had crystals in his bladder, but change of diet helped that. He had chronic constipation, and his parents had to help gently “birth” many a poopie over the years, but a little prune juice and Miralax helped. Little bumps in the road, but he was always happy and very easy to manage his care for years.

But in late 2015 we noticed that he was not acting himself, not being cute or wanting to play like normal. Behavior changed and his resting position changed. He was diagnosed with lymphoma, focused in the spleen. We started the full chemo treatment with VCSS in January 2016. With the dedication, love and patience from VCSS staff and Chester’s humans, the treatment helped Chester’s spleen get back to normal size, his bloodwork looked clean and most importantly, Chester was responding well, both clinically and in spirit. I held my breath every 3 months during the subsequent ultrasounds, but it didn’t come back.

We would tell him the night before that he was going to visit his girlfriends at VCSS, who also loved him dearly. He never complained on those 45 minute trips, no accidents in the car. I hope he was good to you (VCSS) and a patient boy. With such great luck and a being a bit of a teacher’s pet, it seemed like he would live forever. We were lucky. We cherished what turned out to be nearly 4 bonus years with him. THANK YOU for giving us that time.

During this cancer-free time he developed an odd head tremor, only when he was relaxed. Neurological visits and MRI could never clarify the root cause – best guess was the sheathing around the nerves was degenerating; or something odd going on with the middle ear. And during another ultrasound it appeared he also had IBD; which we treated for months and like another miracle “disappeared” from a subsequent ultrasound. I used to carry around his 2” thick file to the various vet clinics we visited in the metro area during those years, which used to bring a few gasps and chuckles. The helicopter parent, making sure our boy got the best care. Thank you to all the vets and techs who cared for him. You’re a special bunch, too. And all in all, Chester’s carefree and loving personality endured during all his bouts of illness. He was a special boy.

At the beginning of 2019 his older brother Buzz was battling several illnesses time and again. In the spring at the age of 19 ½, we had to say goodbye to Buzz in April. It was crushing for Elaine, me and Chester. As much as we dote over our Chester, The Buzz-Buzz was equally as special and deserves his own story. Chester and Buzz did not necessarily snuggle with each other, they would often battle for our attention, but we only seemed to realize they were close buddies after he passed. They are often seen in photos together, by the back window watching the birds together, lying on the cool floor aside each other, chasing each other upstairs like a herd of elephants, pretending to battle to the death at staredowns before the winner (usually Buzz) would go to his dish for a bite of victory. We didn’t give enough thought to how the loss affected Chester, too. He didn’t meow at night before bed like he used to… which makes us wonder if he was calling for Buzz, not just us. Sadly about a month later, that next routine ultrasound did find that the lymphoma was back.

His kidneys crashed after chemo treatment. After a weekend stay at Cascade Vet, he was back with energy and life again. We got our Chester back once more. But that may have been the 9th of his 9 lives.

After we decided to focus on palliative care, Chester spent the rest of the fall outdoors on the deck, sleeping in his bed, or exploring the backyard. Smelling all the smells, the flowers, the grass and the dirt; and occasionally cuddling with me outside in a chair. The orange daylilies in the atrium behind VCSS came from our backyard where he spent those last months. His body was winding down, and one day while sleeping outside in his bed, a nuthatch BONKED himself against the back window. THAT woke him up from his anemic sleep and he ran toward the downed bird, with me as referee. He was so gentle and curious, sniffing and checking the nuthatch out. He could finally get close to those birds that tormented him all those years through the window! When Chester slowly reached out and touched the nuthatch, IT MOVED, which awoke the excitement in him, and I had to pull him away to save the bird. Chester was finally able to check that off his bucket list.

As the anemia progressed and he had little strength left, we would carry him onto the couch and watch movies together, food and water next to his side. We would carry him to bed every night and tell him it’s time to go to sleep and that we loved him and that he was very special; that we were so, so lucky to have been his friends. But finally, on November 8th, 2019 it was time to say goodbye. If there is anything to recommend to others who need to go through this, ‘At Home’ veterinarians are angels and worth it to you and your loving pet to say goodbye at home, in their safe & loving favorite spot, and with you by their side. We can’t say enough good things about the level of compassion and care they provided to us.

And with both of us holding Chester outside by his birds, we said goodbye as he dozed off a final time.

Chester always made us feel special. He made me feel like I was the most important thing in the world to him. And there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him, or miss him, which often results in bouts of tears. We miss him terribly.

I think that was his magical power: he made EVERYONE feel special. Because everyone was special to him.

– Chris and Elaine O.

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