This week hundreds of people and their dogs joined an elderly whippet called Walnut on his last “walk”. Like many pet-owners, recognising that Walnut was at the end of his life and making the decision to have him euthanized was a really difficult time for his owner, Mark Woods. Mark felt that it was time to let Walnut go, peacefully and without pain.
Mark had come to the decision to have Walnut put to sleep at the age of 18 years as he could see that his deteriorating health would affect his quality of life: essentially he felt that it was the kindest thing to do. This did not mean that he wouldn’t have wanted Walnut to live longer or that he was bored with looking after him. But he clearly didn’t see the point in mindlessly keeping Walnut going as long as possible regardless of how much he might suffer.
In his final days his owners made sure that he had lots of treat such as his favourite custard cream biscuits and a sneaky burger. However they also realised that he would like one last visit to his favourite beach in Newquay in Cornwall. Even though Walnut was too frail to run around they knew that just being out in the smells and sounds of the seaside would be a tonic for him. To ensure that lots of his doggie friends turned up Mark posted up on social media a call-out to come and join Walnut on his last walk. What he couldn’t have anticipated was the hundreds of people and dogs who turned up to take that last walk with Walnut.
Only a matter of hours later, Walnut died in the arms of his owner surrounded by his family. For me this represented a “good death” – in fact, probably the best possible death. To have the chance to say goodbye, to have your final treats and even for your final celebration to be when you are still alive, surrounded by your nearest and dearest must surely be a fitting end to a life well lived. It is a sad comment on our attitude to death and dying when you find yourself envious of an elderly whippet called Walnut.