Dogs have been a comfort and a joy in my life from as far back as I can remember. In my childhood, when people frightened and hurt me, dogs were a source of love.
When I came home from school, and stepping through the door, felt the air tense with anger, and my stomach clenched in fear, for the beatings that I knew were coming, the dog was a soft and quiet presence. I would drop to my knees, and put my arms around her, holding her warmth against me, trying to gain courage with the love she gave.
When I escaped outdoors, down into the marsh behind the house of my adoptive parents, the dog was a sentry on the path ahead. I felt perfect safety, even when in the tall grasses and reeds that grew down there, all I could catch sight of, was a glimpse of waving tail held high.
My dogs have been a constant in my adult life, when the rest of my world was in chaos because of alcoholism. They've been companions, entertainers, friends, comforters.
Our little male dog, who has a tumour on his foreleg, has made me laugh like no dog before him. He was my introduction to dachshunds, and what comedians they are. When he was a tiny puppy, he was the same size as a plastic rat toy our cat loved to attack, and the same color - pure gleaming black from nose to tail tip.
When he was 5 or 6, the first grey hairs began to appear around his muzzle, and I thought that was far too early, since he had all the energy and bounce of a very young dog. The grey has slowly advanced along his nose until now he has the dog equivalent of quite a full mustache. But he still has the energy and bounce of a young dog - one vet suggested that the other dog in the mix was quite likely a terrier of some sort.
Last night, I was sitting on the bed telling my husband what the vet had said. A rush of emotion made me suddenly burst out with a wail of, "It's too soon!"
My husband said quietly, "It's always too soon with dogs."
And that is how it is, and ever will be. This is one of those "accept the things I cannot change" parts of life - dogs die long before we are ready. No matter what their age, or state of infirmity, we can't believe that it has come time to let them go.
I have tried my best to be a loving friend, and give my dogs a swift and painless death. But I realise that I expected to have our little dog for years yet, and I haven't even begun to deal with the reality of his aging. I've been in complete denial.
A program friend wrote: "I actually use my dog as an inspiration about how to live…..to try to capture her boundless capacity to live life to the fullest, each and every day."
For some of us, they will never be "just a dog."