Do you have a dog? Do yourself a favor and stop reading for a minute and go give him a good pat. Maybe a kiss. Because the day is going to come when you’re going to have to say good-bye to your old friend, and trust me when I say you’re going to feel better about letting him go knowing that you gave him all the love he wanted. Because really, that’s all they want, isn’t it? Love.

A lot of you already know that we had to say our final good-byes to our lovely old dog, Riley, yesterday. He’s the gorgeous one in the background of the header, above. He was 12  and 1/2 years old and until a couple of months ago, I thought he’d be around for years to come.

But suddenly he started to slow down and we found out that he had a low red blood cell count. After an operation, a new diet and pills galore, he seemed to turn around and for a time, we thought he was going to get better. But then 3 days ago, he lay down and couldn’t get back up.

The thing is, we knew in our hearts what was coming. We’d had a scare a couple of weeks ago and sent him to the vet thinking “this is it”. But they sent him home.

So we went to the vet yesterday, knowing what was going to happen. Memories of him were flashing through my head. All of them happy and friendly – because even the times he was “bad” had humour in them. But I couldn’t help myself from thinking “I haven’t loved you enough these last few years”. The kids have monopolized my time and my first “baby”, Riley took a back seat.

I knew it was the right thing to do but gee, it’s so hard to say good-bye to a dog.

You tell yourself it will be a relief.  You tell yourself you’re ready for it. But I learned a hard lesson with the death of my father from cancer several years ago. No matter how much they are suffering, or how much they’ve wasted away, the relief that their pain and suffering has ended doesn’t prepare you for the fact that when they die, they’re gone.

So this is why the memories were flooding through my brain as we went to say good-bye to Riley. I knew that we’d have a few short minutes with him when I’d still see life in his eyes and feel his breath on my face and have him lean his head into my hand as I stroked his ear. And then that would be it.

You tell yourself it will be a relief. And it is. But the hole it leaves in your heart lasts.

We miss you Riley. The house feels empty without you.