Your kennel name is AlpyneAir Secret Agent but Matthew and Danielle named you Eli. Your Papa had other ideas. So we searched dog and baby name websites before settling on Chester, meaning "a protector",
You came to church with us on the first Sunday after we brought you home, and looking at this photo I think you knew, even then, that your job would one day be to protect and take care of me.
Your Papa had always dreamed of owning a black Labrador, and was so proud of you!
I could tell you loved your Papa too, because you were never further than a couple of steps behind him.
When your first Christmas came you were so patient, allowing us to dress you in reindeer antlers and photograph you for our Christmas letter.
However the first tragedy of your life was to strike you soon after, on Christmas Eve, when you went on a 'secret agent mission' out through a gate left ajar and onto the road where you were hit by a car.
Fortunately it was a very slow-moving Mercedes driven by a little old lady, and while you were clearly shaken and limping, an emergency vet examination and x-Ray showed you had no obvious injuries.
Our only choice was between amputating your leg or having a total hip replacement, and your Papa couldn't bear to have his baby lose his leg.
Dr David (Lidbetter) agreed to do your hip replacement, even though you were just 7 months old, and you were just the best patient over those many weeks of recovery spent confined to a crate in the laundry. Do you remember all those hours where I would sit beside you on the floor, with the door of the crate open, and you'd place a large paw gently on my leg to be stroked?
You've always been a handsome boy!
And you and Papa loved going to the park together.
Then along came Mr J and you had another playmate.
Papa always put you to bed at night with a hug and a bikkie, and he was always first downstairs in the morning to let you out. I know the two of you loved that early morning interlude before anyone else was out of bed, when Papa would drink his coffee and you would sit at his feet leaning in for pats and cuddles, just the two of you.
Then one morning Papa was late. I came to let you out instead, and for a time you were confused and sad. There were lots of people coming into your house for weeks, but no Papa. And there was lots of crying, and people hugging you, because that's what people like to do when they're very sad.
It didn't take you long to understand that you wouldn't see Papa any more, and you seemed to grow in stature as Chester, my Protector.
You give me a reason to get out of bed every morning, my precious boy, and you've been key to helping me adjust to a new life without our darling Papa.
Splashing in the fountain in the park, you teach me to take joy in the little things.
Happy birthday, my darling Chester. God has blessed us both and I couldn't ask for a more beautiful, sensitive and loving companion and protector.