I recently had a scare with my senior dog, Roxy. When she started coughing, it brought back difficult memories of my husband’s recent heart issues, and I was sure that we were going to have to make some tough decisions.

Once an agile collie-cross (an endearing term for, truly, a farm mutt) who could run faster than I could bike, Roxy’s aging hips were now restricted by arthritis. Although far from a lapdog, I lifted her into the back of our SUV. As I prepared to drive, I looked in my rearview mirror to see her mismatched blue and brown eyes peering up at me, happy to go for a ride. With tears in mine, we began the silent ride to the clinic to do diagnostics.

This Valentine’s day, I’d like to recognize the unconditional love of the furry family members who, like my Roxy, have been with us through it all.

New parents are often told that children grow up quickly, but before children, there was the pet whose fur held the tears cried over the loss of a parent, who shared your first grungy apartment while you “found yourself”, and who snuggled you to sleep after every bad breakup. No one ever tells you to cherish these moments, because you’re so busy just trying to get through them.

Pets seem to age slowly, then all at once. One minute you’re on your bike, racing your four-legged best friend down the long laneway on the farm where you grew up, and the next you’re sneaking medication into her treats just so she’s able to climb the stairs when she follows you and your husband to bed.

So cherish the pet. Cherish every grey hair on their muzzle and every extra time you have to call their name. Get down on the floor with them, tell them you love them, and give them your undivided attention, even when life gets crazy.

Fortunately, Roxy’s diagnosis was good and her cough went away on its own. But one day, whether it’s a cough or something else, I know we won’t be so fortunate, and I’ll have to let her go where all good dogs go. Until then, I’ll cherish every walk we take, because it’s easy to forget just how long she’s been there beside me.

Dr. I. Wonder is here to answer your questions regarding your furry family members. If you have a question, email it to us at danielle@NeighbourhoodPetClinic.com. Our team at Neighbourhood Pet Clinic will tap into their collective experience to answer your various questions.