COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – Meet Chester – a senior statesman dog from an animal rescue with terminal cancer who is going to live a pampered dog’s dream thanks to the Columbus woman who’s fostering him through his final days.
Meet Nicole Elliott, the 24-year-old mom and animal foster parent who is caring for Chester. She picked him up from Animal Ark, a nonprofit animal rescue, where they told her of his fate.
"He wasn't in the best shape. They bathed him and shaved away all of the matted, dirty hair. They found a very large tumor on his side, and had it removed. Since then they have shown up all over his body," Elliott said.
Elliott says Chester’s history is mostly unknown before April 2015, when Animal Ark rescued him from a high-kill shelter in Columbus after his owners dropped him off there. Chester is a senior dog, about 13 or 14 years old.
She said her love of animals and their care, stemming from her upbringing, is what made her choose to foster Chester after finding him on an animal rescue's Facebook page.
"I was scrolling through, and saw a post with a before and after picture, and ‘hospice needed’ as the title. I had to think hard about if I could handle this since I have a young daughter, and my Grandma just passed away," Elliott said. "I slept on it, and woke up knowing it was the right thing to do. I knew that it would be my responsibility to make his final days the best I could, to mine and his ability. I arrived before the shelter opened, and they let me in to get him. I fell in love the moment I saw him."
Through that, a bucket list-style last walk around this dog park of life would be the way Chester would go out. Elliott started his Facebook page on June 28.
"I told them I was going to make him a bucket list, and keep them updated on Facebook. After the first update it had so many shares, and comments. I am so overwhelmed with all of the love and support. It has really brought this need to the light. I hope it helps other animals like Chester,” Elliott said.
Through her fosterhood, she started Chester’s Final Journey on Facebook, introducing Chester to the world. For Elliott, she wants to shed light on the care, comfort and love senior animals like Chester need – especially when they are sick.
"Chester is my new foster,” Elliott wrote in her initial Facebook post. "I saw a post about him needing a hospice for his remaining days. I had to consider it for a while and decide if I could handle it. I decided it would be an amazing experience to take on. It will be so tough to lose him shortly, so I decided to take the time he has left and make it as happy as I can. Today he has many cancerous lumps all over his body. He is also heart worm positive. He is still so sweet and as perky as he could be. I am wanting to do a sort of bucket list for Sweet Chester and give him and awesome final ride. I am open to suggestions and ideas."
She said for his first bucket list item, she took Chester on a shopping spree for toys and other goodies. The day of shopping his paws off ended with an oatmeal milk bath.
“He really enjoyed the bath,” she wrote.
Elliott says she hasn’t churned out an entire bucket list for Chester, but she has a few ideas she for sure wants to do.
“I had to sort of get a feel for what he was capable of,” Elliott said. “I am taking it a day at a time and trying to give him normal doggy experiences that he may have never had the chance to do before, and a ton of spoiling. So far he took a ride with the windows down, he had a famous Nathans hot dog, he had a doggie sundae, he had a milk and oatmeal bath (spa day), he went on a shopping spree where he got a cozy bed, bandannas, lots of treats, and toys. Out of all of that his favorite part has been any of the food and treats - he still has a HUGE appetite!”
She has other plans for Chester that include a dinner at a nice restaurant, a day at the beach and a birthday party at the animal rescue with his four-legged friends.
She says Chester’s care isn’t too taxing on her, and is minimal.
"He has no different needs medically since his status is terminal," Elliott said. "There is no estimate on time that I will be blessed with Chester, but he still has very perky moments and he loves to terrorize my kitties. He doesn't seem to be in much pain, but he is slow due to his age."
Ultimately, Elliott said that she and veterinarians would do what’s best for Chester – even if that requires peacefully putting him to sleep if his pain becomes unbearable, lessening his quality of life.
"As long as we keep his pain at bay, and he keeps eating and drinking, then he will hopefully be home until the end," Elliott said.
But until then, Chester is rolling in the love and affection that Elliott is giving him – and may his final days be filled with squeaky toys, mud puddles and treats piled high.
You can follow Chester’s journey on the Chester’s Final Journey on Facebook by clicking here and on Instagram by clicking here. Since beginning the page on June 28, the page has ballooned to more than 25,000 likes and has been mentioned by the New York Post, ABC News, The Daily Mail, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Bored Panda and BuzzFeed.
A fundraiser has also been set-up by Animal Ark Rescue in order to help seniors like Chester in their time of need. You can visit the online fundraiser on YouCaring by clicking here.
The fundraiser has so far raised more than $2,100. ?