Our daughters' faces streamed with tears, salty water dripping off their chins as they buried their heads in Willie's fluffy coat. As a family, we had made the decision to euthanize our beloved corgi/collie mix Willie. Rescued from an animal shelter at the age of 6 or 7, he had been with us for over seven years, for as long as our children had been alive. Of all our pets, this was the cherished one, the one who allowed the girls to crown him with their plastic tiaras and bright beaded necklaces. Here was the dog they had toddled around on uncertain legs and braced their hands on his back for support. Their sticky fingers had tugged his tail and clumsily stroked his butter soft ears. Willie had taken it all with grace and now we were going to provide him with a graceful end.
My husband and I had struggled with the decision. How do you measure the quality of a life when it's owner cannot speak? We knew that Willie's hips were deteriorating. It was harder for him to walk, get up and down the deck stairs or even change position. Nowadays, he yelped for assistance often, sometimes in the middle of the night. The vet said his arthritic joints probably ached all the time, even with the medication he was taking. But does lying in a patch of sunlight snoozing or gnawing on a particularly big rawhide count as pleasures that counteract his physical difficulties? It was hard to say.
The turning point for us was when I came back from an afternoon of errands and found Willie lying in a puddle of his own making. I don't know how long he was there but it disturbed me greatly. He'd been a loyal member of our family and he deserved better than that.
So it's with leaden hearts that we're saying goodbye to Willie. He will be so missed. Tomorrow, I will stroke his fur and whisper to him what an incredible dog he has been. I will hold him while he begins his endless sleep. It's the least I can do after all his faithful years. No one should die alone. And again I will weep for a beloved friend and pet.