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Clanci, the Kobayashi's longtime companion.

"I like pigs." Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.

-- Winston Churchill

The mood was somber around our house all day. It actually started long before normal waking hours.

Clanci, our long-haired dachshund who slept alongside my wife Mary's side of the bed, started convulsing uncontrollably around 1 a.m. Although Clanci had suffered spasms before, we'd never seen him act so violently.

Mary got out of bed to see what was wrong. Clanci calmed down when she cradled him and within a short time he was back asleep.

An hour later he began shaking again and after the third episode Mary and I decided to take Clanci to our veterinarian when his office opened to have him checked out.

As Clanci's seizures became more frequent, however, we couldn't wait any longer and called our daughter who volunteers at the county animal shelter for advice. Being familiar with the animal clinics in our area, she suggested we take him to Sage Emergency Hospital in Concord which is open around the clock.

We drove to Sage in silence while my wife held Clanci who was wrapped in his favorite blanket nestled in her lap. Traffic was picking up as commuters were beginning to head off to work.

Since Clanci was well up in age, deaf and almost completely blind, we anticipated what the veterinarian would tell us. On the other hand, we were prepared to reason that he still had an appetite, that he had slowed down but was still able to move about, and that he showed no sign of being in pain.

Mary and I agreed in any event to accept whatever was felt best for our little guy. As we drove up to the clinic, we became especially heavy-hearted knowing Clanci's future was at stake and that he had no say in the decision.

Our daughter joined us soon after hearing of Clanci's condition, and the four of us were ushered into a warmly furnished waiting room of the hospital to await Dr. Bruskiewicz, whom our daughter requested.

Within a short time, she appeared, and it was heartening to Mary and me to see a genial, compassionate face as the doctor entered the room.

We talked ... our voices quivering at times. I'm sure Dr. Bruskiewicz had heard emotional exchanges like ours hundreds of times before. She held back from telling us what to do. In any event, we felt she knew our final decision would be the right one.

After weighing the situation for some time, we concluded that keeping Clanci alive only prolonged his suffering and letting him go was the most merciful thing to do for him.

Dr. Bruskiewicz took extra precaution in describing the euthanizing procedure, and we remained at Clanci's side to bolster him while the drug was administered into his cleanly shaved leg.

We knew there could be no reversing the process once it started. In less than a minute his eyes closed for the last time.

We lost a member of our family that early morning, but we envisioned that he has moved on to a better place where his eyesight and hearing have been restored, and he can once again run about on legs that no longer feel pain.

Having to put one's pet to sleep is the most difficult decision any pet owner has to make. On the other hand, pet owners can't shirk that responsibility since they have been the beneficiaries of their pets' abiding loyalty and devotion.

What rankles me are owners who abandon their pets to fend for themselves or drop them off at an animal shelter to avoid having to care for them, especially in their advancing age.

Talk to any staff or volunteer at the county shelter who sees it happen regularly and has to look after them. Sadly, most are euthanized because they are among the least adoptable animals. That happens every day.

For real animal lovers, there is nothing more gratifying than to have their pet nestle at their side when nothing seems to be going right as if to assure them it will be better tomorrow. And in return all they ask is to be fed and loved.

If only humans could respond that way ...

Thank you, Dr. Bruskiewicz, and the staff at Sage.

Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.