My sister Joyce’s devoted Airedale Chelsea died in her arms in the early hours of Memorial Day. Chelsea was 13 years old. Her health had been declining for several month.
Ann and I saw Chelsea every year when we traveled to Virginia at Christmas. In the mid-1990s Joyce would bring Chelsea to our parents’ home when we all converged there for Christmas. Playing rough with her in the front yard was a flashback to my childhood, when we had an Airedale named Ginger, who really liked to play rough and tumble.
After my mother passed away in 1997 and my father sold the family home to Jay Frith, we celebrated Christmas at Joyce’s home in Richmond. Chelsea always welcomed us with barking and affection. She liked the rest of the family but she loved Joyce with all her heart. Chelsea and Joyce had an intuitive connection that was evident to everyone who knew them.
Everyone always brought Chelsea a Christmas gift and she delighted in tearing open the wrapping paper. Most of the time we gave her a stuffed animal. Even the toughest stuffed animal rarely lasted more than an hour or two with Chelsea holding it down with her front paws and pulling it apart. We played tug of war with stuffed animals — she would growl ferociously and shake violently, but she never bit me.
Chelsea had an ongoing relationship with Grendel the Siamese cat across the street. They would meet, nose to nose, separated only by a pane of glass in the storm door, and fiercely growl and yowl. Each wanted everyone to see just how tough they were. I’m sure Grendel will miss Chelsea too.
Chelsea liked to sing. When my nephew Burk played a harmonica, she would howl along with him. This video is from Christmas 2003.
On Chelsea’s last weekend, she had what she wanted most — Joyce’s undivided attention. Bill and Burk were away and Joyce was able to be with Chelsea. In Chelsea’s last hours she was blessed with loving care. We should all be so fortunate.