How do you know you’ve loved a dog?

To the Journal editor:

When you make the commitment to welcome a dog into your life it’s a deal with the Devil for a piece of your soul. But it’s a wonderful deal and you accept because of the joy it brings. From the friskiness of the puppy, to the serenity of the senior dog, the enjoyment a dog brings is immeasurable.

The benefits of service dogs are obvious, but dog owners get more exercise by playing and walking with them, and the simple act of petting a dog can lower one’s blood pressure.

No matter how much love two people share, there are inevitable times of conflict and disappointment. A dog’s unconditional love is always there in an amount only you can quantify, sharing the good times and comforting you during the bad. There is no judgment or quarrel, just a wagging tail and happy face looking to you in anticipation of your next adventure together.

Unavoidably the years pass and the body ages. The face grays and the gait slows as time inexorably marches on. Seldom do we let nature take its full course and bring the end with pain and suffering. Inevitably the day comes when the Devil arrives for payment. You make the most difficult decision of your life and determine that ending your friend’s discomfort outweighs your desire to share more time with him.

Your last car ride with your best friend is to the hospital. It’s not filled with the usual joy and exhilaration of a fun outing, but with incredible sadness in anticipation of the end. You escort him in and enter the sterile atmosphere of the examination room. You pray the vet will have some answer allowing you to avoid the inevitable. But it’s not to be. You hold him close to comfort him as the vet inserts the needle into his vein. You see his consciousness for the last time and watch and feel as it slips away as he slumps when the anesthesia takes effect. The vet tells you his heart has stopped and you clutch his lifeless body and sob uncontrollably as he no longer responds. When you leave the clinic with his leash and collar and know you have to carry on with a gaping wound in your heart and wonder how you will do it, that’s when you know you’ve loved a dog.