This morning I have a very sad thing to do. I have to say goodbye to a little dog which has made a huge impression on not only my life, but that of my whole family.
Toby was born at the charity Heart Rescue during mid-summer in 2000. His parentage was somewhat of a mystery, but was suspected to include Jack Russell Terrier/Dachshund amongst other things.
He was chosen by my mum - I wanted his sister, but she was already promised elsewhere - she managed to get back to me later, but that's another story ;)
Whilst it was me who organised training and got excited about puppy classes and the rest, it was really always her that he belonged to - if you'd asked him, that's who he would have said was his mum.
Sometimes you get lucky with a dog - without any great intervention on your part, you have a dog who gets on well with others, is good with people, and who generally makes you smile. Toby was one of these wonder dogs, just nice and easy to live with and love.
It was this happy, go-lucky nature that inspired his Kennel Club working register name of 'Blithe Boy'. Because he really has been throughout his whole life.
He and his sister Lucy were my original agility partners, in the days when I thought I had it all figured out but still had oh so much to learn ;)
What a wild and fun ride each and every agility run with him was! Such a fast and enthusiastic little dog who thought running around an agility course with the promise of a favourite toy or food at the end was well worth the effort!
If I had known more perhaps we might have been more accurate, but I think perhaps his lessons for me were that you will ALWAYS have more to learn no matter how knowledgable you think you are. Fellow terrier owners will probably agree - they are great dogs for keeping you humble ;)
And now we are at the end of our journey together sweetheart. All of those wonderful moments and memories flooding back over a lifetime of fun, laughter and much, much love.
How does it go so quickly? How can it be possible that you are not the bouncy, cheeky young dog anymore - I can hardly recognise this old, frail and confused dog that takes his place.
But hold on.. There is is - that look in your eyes. You're still there aren't you poppet? Older, wiser, greyer - but still the mischievous imp that you always were.
I shall be sad today saying goodbye to you. But I shall also be grateful for the great privilege it has been to be one of the important people in your life. And I shall hold you at the end, until you slip away and bid me farewell. And not till then will I wet your head with my tears, till then I shall be strong for you our special, precious boy.
Today I am grateful that I can give my friend Toby the gift of release from suffering. I shall be sorry to say goodbye, but I shall be forever grateful that I got the opportunity to say hello.