It began a Saturday morning like any other, but it would be the last of its kind for our family.

Life can change in an instant. Death is the greatest reminder of that. Sometimes, if we are lucky, there is beauty in both.

A typical morning in my life begins with an alarm clock ringing, which triggers the solid bark of my 75-pound dog that, despite being deaf, seems to intuitively sense that the alarm is timed to her bladder. Before I can think of hitting the snooze button, another bark bounces off the living room walls.

For 17 years, Blake has watched me slog out of my bedroom, hair askew in weird and wonderful dimensions. She is not at all frazzled by my pink fluffy bathrobe or zombie posture as I walk in a haze to the back door. “Good morning, girl,” I say. “Do you have to go pee?” Blake then does her morning I-gotta-go dance. While Blake heads to her corner of the yard to do her business, I stumble awkwardly into the loo to do my own. Seconds later we meet at the back door and she exchanges a goofy grin for a doggy treat.

This is my routine every day. It is predictable and comforting because, as we all know, the day that follows is always uncertain.

Last Saturday, I woke up in the beautiful light of early dawn. The Carpenter had to work and was long gone. My morning alarm was followed by a bark that thundered through the house. Blake was doing her dance. But when I stumbled out of my sleep to greet her, Blake wasn’t okay. She leapt up to head to the door and her back legs failed. In the next attempt, she fell, sprawled out, legs out of control and began to whimper. She could not move. Her bladder gave way in a puddle.

Despite my efforts, I couldn’t get her up. Everything I did to help hurt her more. She was panting hard and began to tremble. This was it. Seventeen years had come down to this moment. We knew this day was coming. Blake had given us signs. But it is amazing what you can ignore when you really want to.

It was two hours before our vet clinic would be open, so I sat on the floor next to her and patted Blake’s thick coat, talking to her like a child, reminiscing about our life journey together. I thanked her for the time she lay by my bed, moaning with me through the labour contractions that would, five hours later, usher my first child into the world. Blake was the best Lamaze coach. I forgave the time she ate my couch, too.

The children woke up an hour later and found Blake and I crying together, nose-to-nose, waiting for the vet to arrive. These are the moments that strengthen a family and test your faith; your belief in the bigger picture.

Shortly afterwards, we came together with our amazing vet and wished Blake a peaceful, beautiful farewell: a gentle goodnight. The circle closed. I was struck by the realization that my children had learned the grace of loving and letting go. In the saddest times come the most profound life lessons. It is a gift to witness the bittersweet.

Blake, you made us better humans and we’re grateful.