I knew the conversation wouldn't be easy when the veterinarian asked if this was a good time to talk.
I still think of her as a puppy, even though she hasn't been one for many years. People are surprised to find that this tiny little dog is a full-grown adult. Although she's shaped like a miniature version of the real thing, it's hard to wrap your brain around something that small being anything other than a baby.
The years don't care about her appearance, or that she sometimes sleeps on my pillow next to my head, or that I remember how frisky she use to be. Even little bits wear out and start to fail. As her vet translated the numbers from the lab results into things I could understand, I began to realize what they meant: my wife and I will have to make difficult decisions soon.
It's hard to know what's best for her, and harder yet to separate that from what's easiest for us. Those aren't at all the same things. If I could throw the finite resources available to us at the problem and put it off forever, I would. But that's not how time works. We can delay things, but only for so long. And the delay has its costs. The analytical part of my brain imagines that she has a fixed amount of happiness left. Do we let her spend it all and then lay down for a last nap, or do we spread it over years (or maybe just months, who can tell) of uncomfortable treatments and procedures? I don't know. And not deciding is the same as deciding: time won't give us the luxury of pausing until we can choose what's right.
My heart knows that this is tougher because of how much we love her. If these sorts of decisions were easy, that would be sad in a different way. Many years ago, we came to care so much about our little puppy that it made the inevitable so painful, but I wouldn't change that even if I could. And until then, I'm going to make her remaining time as happy as I can.