I think we all hope that we'll never reach a point that we have to make a decision about ending our dog's life. That we will wake up one morning and they will have peacefully passed away in the night.
Unfortunately life isn't always so neat and nice as that. In my experience of old dogs so far, they quite often take you on a bit of a rollercoaster. As was the case with Lucy and her brother Toby towards the end of his life too.
Last night I kissed her goodnight and asked if she could hold on until the morning - to leave if she had to, but that I'd much prefer it if she could hang on.
She did as she was asked, but as I drove to the vets appointment I made this morning I rapidly realised what I was heading towards.
You see if a young dog picks up a sickness bug, then they can usually afford to drop a little weight and will soon be back to full strength. The trouble is in the body of an older dog, these things hit them much harder and each time something crops up they're weakened just a little more.
Today I looked at my girl, directly in her eyes and saw that she would hold on for me if I asked again. But equally, she was ready to go.
Saying goodbye to Lucy this morning was so very hard. As I stroked her scruffy, faded old fur, my mind went back through a kaleidoscope of memories that we've gathered over the years together.
This dog was the first one I shared agility training with. We even competed in the YKC at Crufts - though I have to confess not as a result of our skills in that particular department ;) She helped me understand just how much I had to learn ;) And she was the first to explain the importance of lightening up, that it was, and is, just a game to play with your best friend.
She wasn't originally available to choose from the litter of puppies that my Mum and I visited. But she was returned to the rescue after just a few weeks, and made her way back to me. Throughout her lifetime she's lived with my family, up until last November when her brother's ailing health combined with my father's meant they both came to stay.
It's been almost 6 months since she was just mine alone. And it was a happy and enjoyable retirement for her. As a close friend (who actually ran Lucy at agility competitions many moons ago) said, she wasn't bothered when Toby left because she had me. So retiring here was probably the best possible thing to have happened as far as she was concerned.
In the last school holidays we went on a picnic with my parents, Martin and the boys to one of our old walking spots when I was a child. She pottered around in the sunshine, following me slowly but faithfully around a short walk whilst her younger collie siblings raced across the grass.
During that meal she was shamelessly fed food from the picnic table, with no need for any begging! Simply breathing in and out was all that was required ;)
I miss her. Saying goodbye to her was so painful. I have loved her for such a long time. She was just shy of her 16th birthday this year.
My scruffy black terrier of uncertain parentage has left me with some wonderful memories, and looking back was a catalyst for so many paths I chose along my life so far.
When I remind you to take your dog's collar when you call them in and give them a treat, that's a piece of Lucy's legacy right there. She is in all the naughty, impish things that you think your dog is capable of. She explained to me that I needed to become a better trainer if I wanted her to become a better dog. I hope I manage to get that across in lessons in a slightly less ego-bruising way than she did for me ;)
Through loving her I have learned so much. She pushed me to learn more about dog training and as a result I have learned how to have even better relationships with my dogs. And whilst it hurts so painfully so say goodbye, I know that I have such a lot to be grateful for.