Woman Dies, Healthy 5-Year-Old Guide Dog Euthanized And Buried With Her

Kim LaCapria

A woman who died this after a long battle with cancer was recently buried -- and her family's choice to have her guide dog Toffee, 5, euthanized and buried alongside her has proven controversial.

Shelia Stadler was 68 when she succumbed to the cancer that sickened her in the later part of her life. But Toffee was just five and healthy when Stadler's surviving family chose to have him euthanized and placed at her feet after her death and before her burial.

It appears the original story from which all others stemmed has been removed from the web for unknown reasons, but, before its deletion, the account of Shelia Stadler's death and the subsequent euthanization of Toffee read:

"Shelia Stadler, 68, of Brazil, died March 8 at home with her service animal, Toffee, at her side. Days later, the Stadler family had Toffee, a perfectly healthy 5-year-old dog, euthanized, displayed in the coffin at Shelia's visitation, and buried with her in Summit Lawn Cemetery right outside Brazil."

The piece continued:

"Sheila Stadler's son, Andy Stadler, told News 10 his mother's canine companion was already beginning to mourn the loss of the only handler he knew."

While the article on Stadler and Toffee's deaths is now gone, an online obituary for the owner does mention the dog and her fondness for him:

"Shelia spent her life as a dedicated homemaker and loving wife and mother. She enjoyed cooking, crocheting, singing, and playing the keyboard. She was a committed Christian, enjoying camp meetings and singing and playing for church services. Her favorite book was the Bible which she faithfully read for many years. The last few years she listened to it on audio tapes, but still carried that wonderful book with her as a comfort during her last days. She loved Toffee, her seeing-eye dog and constant companion for five years."

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UPI quotes Gregory Reilly, of Honey Creek Animal Hospital, who admits the move to euthanize Toffee was "unusual in some aspects." Reilly adds:

"It just really depends on what the family wants to do with the dog ... Legally they can do whatever they want."

The issue of the decision to euthanize a healthy dog like Toffee in the wake of an owner's death was discussed a few years back in The New York Times.