Finding joy when you lose a pet can be quite a challenge, but I'm here to tell you it is possible.

This week we had to put down Shelby, our 9-year-old Golden Retriever. I have never had to do that before but have always carried great sympathy for those that have.

There is no question about it. Making the decision to put a pet down is a difficult one. In our case, the decision was easy, but dealing with it was heartbreaking.

Shelby's decline was pretty quick, maybe a week. We suspected this was the end, and a visit to the vet confirmed what we believed to be true. It was time for Shelby's life on Earth to end.

Of course, we cried -- a lot.

We got Shelby as a puppy and she's been a part of our family for more than nine years. Anyone who has had a Golden Retriever knows how absolutely sweet these dogs are. You can't help but love them.

But, in the last few days as Shelby's breathing became very shallow, it was difficult watching her struggle. Aside from not eating and the difficulty breathing, she still acted the same, happy and sweet, even greeting me at the door the day I went home to take her to the vet.

Seeing her struggle caused great sadness, and it seemed that she was longing for us to somehow help her, which, of course, we could not. It was a helpless, hopeless feeling. In the last couple of days, we have cried plenty of tears.

But, when she drew her final breath in the vet's office, a sense of calm and relief swept over me. And joy. Shelby was struggling no more. It made us happy to know that she finally had relief and knowing, without a doubt, we had made the right decision. The timing was exactly right.

There's also joy in the memories that you have of your beloved pet, all of the happy times, and in knowing that  you loved them fully and gave them the best life possible.

So, while losing a member of the family is not a pleasant experience by any means, there is comfort and even some joy in knowing that you loved your pet enough to let her go, and let her peacefully end her earthly journey.