To The Editor:

Losing a pet is devastating. It isn’t “like” losing a member of the family as is often said. But, it really is losing a family member.

Last month we made that awful decision. It was time to put down our beautiful, 15-plus-year-old Lab Lucy. Yes, she still had a healthy appetite and followed us across the room with those big, penetrating brown eyes. But her body was failing her. Tumors riddled her velvety black coat. Getting up was a struggle, walking outside was monumental and loss of bladder control was becoming a routine.

Our veterinarian, Dr. Daniel Smith, Washington Animal Hospital, graciously participated in a family conference call when we were drawing close to our decision. He listened, answered our questions and carefully suggested telltale signs that we might consider as we faced terminating Lucy’s life. He counseled us without pressure, bias, opinions or judgment. Rather he said he would support whatever we decided. From there, we determined a date and a time just three painstaking days later.

Dr. Smith came to our home for Lucy’s final visit with him. That was huge. It was after office hours on a Saturday afternoon. Dr. Smith was somber yet professional, strong yet gentle. He explained every step of the way as we fearfully dreaded each painful second. He was patient, reassuring, compassionate and respectful.

A sense of community is built on relationships and professionals who can be trusted for their expertise. We depend on professionals, such as Dr. Smith, who are outstanding in their fields.

Dr. Smith may simply say he is doing his job. But the fact is we take for granted and expect someone to do his or her job. What’s important is how that job is performed. We are thankful to Dr. Smith for making such a difficult time the best it could be and for being that community resource and “real” person we could count on as we faced one of life’s cruelest realities.