Former home secretary David Blunkett has spoken of his sorrow at the sudden death of his guide dog Cosby.
Seven-year-old Labrador/retriever cross Cosby was put down last Friday after the discovery of an inoperable liver tumour.
He was Lord Blunkett’s sixth guide dog - following Ruby, Teddy, Offa, Lucy and Sadie - to have assisted him since he qualified to use one in 1969.
His unexpected demise means the blind Labour politician, who served as an MP in Sheffield for 28 years, may have to wait as long as six months to be matched with a new dog to help him get around Westminster and the Peak District countryside near his Derbyshire home.
Lord Blunkett described the decision to put the “big, lovable and endearing” dog to sleep as “heart-breaking”.
“Such a moment would be upsetting for any dog-owner, but even for a hard-bitten ex-Home Secretary, this was a deeply harrowing decision,” he said.
“What made it more traumatic was the speed with which events unfolded. The previous Sunday, in Sheffield, had seen him chasing a ball and being his usual exuberant self.”
Despite being spooked by fireworks over the weekend, Cosby guided the Labour peer round the Palace of Westminster “without a grumble” on Monday, and it was only when he went off his food that Lord Blunkett realised something was wrong and took him to the vet.
When the bad news came, Lord Blunkett and his wife Margaret were able to come in to the vet’s clinic to hold Cosby in his final minutes.
“How I will miss Cosby’s ever-wagging tail,” said Lord Blunkett. “Above all, I shall remember his incredible bravery in those last few days, including walking unaided into the veterinary hospital.
“And, even at the last, giving us a wag of his tail as he sniffed one of his favourite tennis balls, which smelt of the woods where he spent many happy hours.
“So thank you, not so old friend. I shall miss you, and so will many others.”
The charity Guide Dogs and Blue Cross provides a bereavement support telephone service for owners on 0800 096 6606.