It's one of the hardest things that, as an animal owner and lover, one will ever do.
My parents had to make that decision today, for our beloved Golden Retreiver, Shadow.
We got Shadow as an overweight, but happy, guy shortly after we moved back stateside. I remember when Mom first brought him home, 'on trial'. He never left, and I don't think that he ever looked back.
Mom worked her butt off to restore him to a healthy weight, and once her hard work paid off, we were all rewarded with an energetic, up for anything, dog. He loved to have his fur blow dried with the hair dryer, would happily leap into the car for a ride, and was a bit relentless about having his 'hand' held.
My favorite Shadow story was one summer he and I were home alone and I decided to lay out with my book in the sun. Shadow joined me, but soon lumbered off into the woods surrounding my parents house. I didn't think much about it, until he came back with a duckling in his mouth. He held it ever so gently in that soft retreiver mouth, and deposited it into my lap. Not knowing what to do, I put it into the wheelbarrow with the intentions of bringing it out back to the pond, where hopefully it's mother would be found. He lumbered off again, and came back with another duckling. After the third duckling was brought to me, he stuck around, looking rather pleased with himself. I marked the place in my book with a sigh, when his ears perked up. From the woods I heard a large amount of quacking. I stood up just as a very peeved Momma Duck came exploding out of the underbrush, hissing and quacking. I tipped the wheelbarrow over into her path, spilling baby ducks everywhere, and hoofed it back to the house. Shadow, the coward, had beat me back and was sitting by the door looking at me as to say "What took you so long? Didn't you know that there is a crazy duck out there?!"
I will always giggle a little, when I sit down in my Mom's rocking chair to nurse Shannon (or later, when she's not nursing) because he would always wander his way over, so that your foot would scratch his belly as you rocked back and forth.
It's so hard to let go, and nothing is worse than greiving.
I remember when we had to put down my filly Wasabi because of a terrible accident. I moped for days and spent the first night sitting up in my bed, sobbing my eyes out.
You cope though, and you keep marching on, knowing that just because you have lost one friend, it is because there is another out there that needs you just as badly.
Godspeed Shadow, you were the best.