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This morning I had to have our family pet PK put to sleep. He was a Lhasa Apso we rescued from a puppy mill before he was even weaned. He was born with deformed front legs but got around fairly well for a crippled dog. When we first got him the vet said that a dog in his shape would normally be destroyed but if we wanted to keep him, we’d be lucky to have him for five years. We decided to keep him and give him the best home we could for the five years he was expected to live.

I carried that little dog around with me in my coat and hand fed him until he was strong enough to eat on his own. He was so tiny, I remember taking him for a walk on the beach and having a woman run up to me saying, “Why that’s amazing! I’ve never seen anyone walk a guinea pig before.”

PK grew into what we affectionately called a grumpy old man. He loved to laze around the house and hated to be asked to do something he didn’t want to do. He expected to be treated like a person and eat the same food as we did. Well, yes, we did spoil him and let him have scraps which only caused him to beg for more. I marvelled at how this little crippled dog always managed to lift himself up on his hind legs and beg for food.

When he was a puppy, to save a few dollars, I used to give him hair cuts. When I was finished he would “hurumph” around the house as if to say, “Shucks, my mom gave me this stupid hair cut.” When I took him to the groomers (beauty parlour as I called it), afterwards he’d strut around proud as you please. I suppose he knew the difference between a Sasson cut and the old mixing bowl over the head one.

When we moved to the Lakeside Lair and my son moved into our old house, Matt decided to keep PK with him. By that time we already had Lucy and Desi and we thought it best for PK to stay in a familiar environment. Matt and Sue doted on him and as he got older and it became more difficult for him to get around they would carry him outside to do his “business”.

About a year ago the three of us talked about how we might have to put PK to sleep. He hadn’t been eating well, was having more diffuculty getting around and was becoming incontinent. Neither Matt or I could bear the thought of doing it so we decided to wait. Matt and Sue got a new puppy and with Tipsy’s arrival, PK seemed to rally. He started eating again and hobbling around the house like he always had.

Yesterday Matt called me at work to say that he thought it was time. PK was no longer able to do his business himself. He would simply lay down and piddle or poo right where he was lying. PK was nearly blind, going deaf and whenever they tried to pet him, he’d wince. He was messing all over the house and with their new baby due any day now, he felt it was way too much to handle.

We agreed that we wouldn’t wait. It was clear that PK was suffering and while we had always hoped he would die quietly in his sleep, it was evident that we had to make that decision.

So this morning Matt, Jen and I took our grumpy old man to the vet for the last time. Even as we drove there we tried to rationalize some reason for not putting him to sleep. Even as we held his tiny body and felt the life drain from him we sobbed and asked each other, “Have we done the right thing?”

Today PK was seventeen years old and we loved him very much. He was the dog my kids grew up with and for Matt, for the longest time, the only other male in the house. Matt clung to his little buddy today and sobbed uncontrollably as PK took his last breath.

As Matt gently picked up PK’s body and wrapped him in a blanket I couldn’t help but envision Matt using the same gentleness to hold his newborn child. I know he will be a terrific father. In the car Matt sat quietly next to PK’s body and when we got to his house, where he wanted to bury PK, he asked that I let him to do it by himself.

I hugged him hard and kissed him. He scooped me up in his big strong arms, sobbed once again and whispered in my ear, “Mom, did I do the right thing?”

What could I say? I nodded, turned, got into my car and drove to work. And I am haunted by the vision of my tall, strapping young son tenderly craddling the body of his beloved pet.