If you’ve never had a pet or you don’t like animals then you may not understand the rest of this column.
Last week I had to slip away towards the end of my daughter’s fifth birthday party to say goodbye to a very dear friend.
Jester, our family dog for 12 years, had suffered an injury four days earlier which had left him virtually paralysed.
It was just an accident – a stupid, avoidable accident.
Having given the injury time to heal and having authorised steroid injections to try to stimulate some movement I took the awful decision to put my boy out of his misery.
I just didn’t want him spending another night distressed and in pain, alone and away from his home when there was no real hope of recovery.
So I drove to the vet’s on Sunday afternoon and spent half an hour with him.
He was lying on a fluffy rug, his front left leg was bandaged and he was on a drip.
Jester made a feeble attempt to prop himself up when he saw me, bless him, but just flopped back down on his side – only able to lift his furry little face in greeting.
His fur was matted and he smelled like a dog who hadn’t been able to go to the toilet properly for four days.
All in all he was a sorry sight and I’m not ashamed to say I wept. I’ve done it several times since and I’m not the only one.
I told him he was daft for jumping up at the letterbox and that he wouldn’t be doing that again anytime soon.
I told him we were all missing him terribly and that the house seemed empty without the pitter-patter of his paws on the wood floor and him pestering me to be let out into the garden.
I asked him what I was supposed to do with the new bed we bought him a few weeks ago and what on earth I was going to tell my daughters.
But most of all I kept telling him he was a good boy and that I would make everything alright – like I always did when he had something stuck in his paw or his fur was tangled or he had hurt himself.
Then the vet arrived and, as she put him to sleep, I cradled his little head in my hand, stroked his ears and spoke soothingly to him.
I told him we all loved him and he was the best dog in the world – that he was a good boy and not to worry. Then he was gone.
£571 was paid out and we received a casket containing Jester’s ashes which I’ve buried at the bottom of our garden along with a box containing a few of his toys and pictures of him drawn by my daughters. Grim, isn’t it?
What I haven’t told you is that in spite of the gut-wrenching loss we are all feeling right now I wouldn’t change a thing.
Because in a few weeks’ time, when I come to terms with the fact that Jester’s gone, I’ll look back and start to remember fondly all the things we did as a family which he was a part of.
Instead of wincing my way around the house because he’s not there to greet me I’ll be thankful that we had him for so long.
I’ll remember the holidays – watching him run across a sandy beach in Scotland or being chased by the girls across fields in Herefordshire.
I’ll recall watching him through the crack of the door when Lois was six months old and lying on a play mat in our front room – observing as he sniffed around her little body then lay down beside her.
I’ll remember smiling as my three-year-old, Mina, absent-mindedly stroked his head as they sat on the sofa watching Scooby-Doo together last week.
I’ll remember how he growled for no reason at passers-by and puffed up his little Yorkshire Terrier frame.
I’ll remember how, at half past eight on the dot every night, he’d paw at us and whinge until we let him go upstairs to his bed.
I’ll remember giving him titbits in the kitchen when the missus wasn’t around to tell me off.
But most of all I’ll remember his big brown eyes and the happy grin which greeted me when he stuck his head through the spindles half way up the stairs every time I returned home.
No matter what kind of day I’d had he was there – happy to see me – placid, forgiving, trusting and loyal to the end.
If you’ve ever had a dog, you know exactly what I’m rambling on about.
This one’s for you, Jester. Thanks a million.