I held out far too long. What had to be done, my mind told me, was pure common sense, the inevitable.
But my heart—that was a different matter.
My heart couldn't bring me to end the life of our 14-year-old Lab, Murphy, devoted friend and family member.
Yes, his weakened back legs were giving out. His sight was failing. He'd lost control of his bowels.
Then I rationalized: His appetite was fierce. He could even trot up the street with his younger pals, Spud and Tater, and his bark was still robust.
Denial soon no longer was an option. I yielded to common sense and family members who knew what was right all along, but gave me time to struggle to the decision.
The moment was made easier by our vet, Randy Acker, and his wife, Sue, who came to the house and brought Murphy his peace and painlessness with his final breath. Then sleep, caringly induced by an injection.
I remembered a poem one of our daughters sent me after another of our pets, Baker, became irreversibly ill and was relieved of his distress, a poem that provides comfort in a new hour of grief:
If it should be that I grow frail and weak,
and pain should keep me from my sleep,
then you must do what must be done,
for we know this last battle can't be won.
You will be sad, I understand,
but don't let grief then stay your hand,
for this day, more than the rest,
your love and friendship must stand the test.
We've had so many happy years,
what is to come can hold no fears.
Would you want me to suffer? So,
when the time comes, please let me go.
Take me where my needs they'll tend,
only stay with me until the end,
and hold me firm and speak to me,
until my eyes no longer see.
It is a kindness that you do to me,
although my tail it's last has waved,
from pain and suffering I have been saved.
Do not grieve, it should be you,
who must decide this thing to do.
We've been so close, we two these years,
Don't let your heart hold any tears.