Saying goodbye to a family dog is never easy. Sometimes the end comes quickly, other times an illness or old age causes a long drawn out deterioration of a dog's health. Either way, it's always tough to say goodbye, and even tougher to be the one who has to make the choice of when to say goodbye.

When Joxer, our Smooth Collie, was ill, it was a long process. He would seem to be doing better, then take a turn for the worse. When we finally said goodbye in August of 2008, we had a vet who specializes in providing mobile euthanasia services come to our house. It was a warm summer day, and Joxer was napping in the cool grass when she arrived. For him, it was very peaceful. I'm not sure if he ever even knew she was there.

If I have the choice in the future, I will always choose to say goodbye at home as we did with Joxer. I know it was easier for him. It was also easier for us. But the other factor that many people don't consider is the remaining animals in the house. By saying goodbye at home, we also allowed Jahzara, our Greyhound, and Freighter, our cat, to be present. Rather than taking Joxer to the vet and coming home without him, we were able to allow them to understand what happened to him. I think it's especially helpful if the animals are close to each other.

While it might seem disrespectful to us, when we allowed Freighter to check out Joxer's body once he was gone, Freighter gave a quick sniff and then climbed right over the top of him and off to explore the rest of the back yard. She'd never done that before, so I took that – right or wrong – to mean that she understood that “Joxer” was no longer there, just the shell of his body.

I'm reminded of this because my in-laws said goodbye to their Boxer, Jay, yesterday. He was 11 years old and they'd recently discovered a cancerous growth that was growing rapidly. They decided to let him go before he was in too much pain. They also chose to let him go at home so the other dogs in their family could be present as well.

Jay could be an intimidating guy if you didn't know him. He was a big solid Boxer who looked like he could rip your throat out if you made a wrong move, but he was a big lover once he warmed up to you. Although I didn't get to spend much time with him, I felt a special connection with him when we did visit. If I let him, he would climb right on top of me and give me kisses. Much like Romeo does now, but Jay was much gentler.

Jay, you big lover-boy, I will miss you!