Allen Parton with his beloved dog Endal
It was the most devoted of partnerships - a glorious tale of a man in a wheelchair and his very remarkable dog.
But today old age and infirmity finally caught up with Endal the Labrador and he had to be put to sleep.
In the last 12 years, Endal had saved the life - and marriage - of his master Allen Parton, a former Royal Navy officer who was disabled in a car crash in 1991 during the Gulf War.
'I knew, of course, as every pet owner does, that this day would one day come, but it doesn't make it any easier,' said Mr Parton.
'I'm afraid I'm not coping with it particularly well. But I couldn't bear to see Endal suffer after he had a stroke at the weekend.'
During their time together, Endal helped Mr Parton, from Clanfield in Hampshire, with everyday chores such as emptying the washing machine and doing the shopping.
He was voted Dog of the Millennium and given the PDSA's coveted Gold Medal - the canine equivalent of the George Cross - for saving Mr Parton's life in 2001 after he had been knocked from his wheelchair by a car.
Endal dragged his owner into the recovery position, pulled a blanket over him and ran to a hotel barking for help.
A book about his life - simply called Endal - also tells how the dog brought Mr Parton and his wife Sandra back from the brink of divorce after the accident robbed Mr Parton of his memory.
Bank on me: Canine Partners trained Endal to insert and withdraw cards at an ATM machine, above, and help Mr Parton buy and pay for groceries, below
He awoke from a coma unable to recognise his wife and their children Liam, 18, and Zoe, 17.
'The fear and shock of what had happened to me made me furious,' he said.
'I refused to accept I was disabled and I'm ashamed to say that I was horrible and rude to everyone.'
Deeply depressed, he twice attempted suicide.
Life changed, however, on the day the bus didn't turn up to take him to a day centre.
Instead, Mr Parton accompanied his wife to the dog-training centre where she worked.
Endal took an instant shine to him, clambering on his lap to give him a slobbery lick.
Cleaning up: The dog even helped with the laundry
'It was a cathartic experience which finally gave me the hope I needed,' he said.
'Until I met him, I was in the depths of despair. But when he refused to leave my side at the training centre, I suddenly saw a chink of light.'
The dog helped heal the rift in the Partons' marriage and they renewed their wedding vows in 2002.
So when Endal grew old and became crippled by arthritis, the couple repaid his loyalty by looking after him in retirement.
Mr Parton said: 'When I finally arrive at the pearly gates myself, I know in my heart of hearts that Endal will be there waiting faithfully for me with his otter-like tail in full swing.'
Disabled officer bids farewell to remarkable labrador who saved his marriage and his life | Mail Online