Tough Decisions

Disclaimer: I don't own any of Final Fantasy VIII's characters, but this plotline is totally mine!

"Poor Rinoa." I thought aloud as I watched my wife and her beloved dog Angelo. He was nearing 12 years of age, and had arthritis like you wouldn't believe. Which is understandable after all those years of battle with Rinoa. I watched his head come up when she called his name. He still got the most joy in his life just by being around her. As she walked to him, he started to run, if you could call it running, to her. She gently hugged him around the neck, and I went back to folding my clothes.

I let out a large "hmph" as Rinoa flung herself into my arms. I was a bit confused as to why she was doing this. We had been married for a year, and life was happier than ever for the both of us. So why was she doing this? Why was she gripped onto me like I was a life preserver and sobbing? I pushed the thoughts away and focused on comforting her. With calming "shh's," and an occasional, "it's okay," I was willing to do anything for the one I loved most. Finally, her muffled voice came through. "Oh Squall, I know it's time," she said through tears. Suddenly I understood perfectly. I knew very well what poor Angelo was going through. I'd just been waiting for Rinoa to make the decision. It wasn't my place to do that. I knew it tore her heart in two just at the thought of being without that wonderful dog by her side. But if he was suffering, she knew she had to say goodbye. "Do you want me to make an appointment for Monday?" I asked gently. A nod was all she could get out. I lightly pulled her away from me, to see her face red, puffy, and stained with tears. I lovingly caressed her soft cheeks, and kissed her delicately. "I'll come with you. It'll be all right sweetheart. Come on." I tried comforting, but to no avail. Rinoa didn't want to hear this. She pulled away from me roughly. "Do you even know how much he's done for me? He's saved my life more times than I can count! Now am I just supposed to shrug it off and say 'it's okay'!?" I felt a stab of pain and I know my eyes showed it. Hadn't I saved her life many times too? I know it sounds kind of conceded, but I wanted some credit too! I then mentally slapped myself at these thoughts. She was going to have to put her life long companion to sleep tomorrow and I was being totally insensitive to her. But that was typical of me. "I'm sorry. You're right. But you need to see that he's lived a long, happy life with you, and that it always comes time to let go. As much as you never want to." I stated wisely. I was surprised at myself, I never knew I had it in me. This brought Rinoa to tears again. "I know! I know." She yelled, flinging herself into my arms once again, burying her face into my shirt and soaking it with painful tears as I stroked her silky hair lovingly.

The car ride was silent except for the occasional sniff or cough from Rinoa. I hadn't known the dog that long, but it still hurt to put him down. Sometimes it scares me how soft I can be. Angelo tried to comfort Rinoa by licking her face and whimpering. This just sent her into more choking sobs. The poor dog was so confused. He didn't understand why Rinoa was so sad. Didn't she love him? More than the dog would ever know. I put a reassuring hand over Rinoa's, and she moved it slightly, fitting her hand into his perfectly. She was showing that she loved him just as much as Angelo.

As we walked into the vet's office, the tears flowed in rivers down Rinoa's already wet cheeks. The assistant reached underneath her desk and revealed a box of Kleenex, which I got one of and handed it to Rinoa. Again, I can't believe how soft I was being, for I had to resist letting a tear come down myself. I told the assistant his name was Angelo, and she signed him in. "Now, did you decide on burial, or cremation sweetie?" she asked Rinoa. "Cremation," I answered for her, for I knew we'd be there all day if Rinoa tried to answer. I knew this wasn't easy at all for her. "Alright." She jotted something down, and told them to say their final good-byes. I went first. "Hey buddy, I wanna thank you for all you did for Rinoa and me. I'm really going to miss you you know that? Goodbye old pal." I ruffled the hair on Angelo's head, rubbed his ears one final time, and left him to Rinoa. She cleared her throat, trying to slow her tears. "I love you Angelo. I always have, and I always will. You've always been there for me to help me through it all. No dog could ever be as great as you. I'll never forget you. You'll always be with Squall and me. Always. You know why I'm doing this right? I just don't want to see you suffer anymore. It's because I love you so much that I am doing this. I'll never forget you, you're my baby." She hugged him tight, and he whimpered in return. I didn't want to make it any harder for her, so I stepped in. "Okay, we're ready." Rinoa took one last look at her faithful companion, and handed the leash to the woman reluctantly. She watched him be led away, then got up slowly, eyes still locked on Angelo as he walked into the back room. He took one look back, with a puzzled look on his face. Rinoa waved to him, and mouthed an "I love you," with tears still streaming down her pudgy cheeks.

Rinoa flung herself into my arms, and I rubbed her back comfortingly. She sobbed into my shoulder, getting it soaked for the fifth time today, and whispered, "I don't know what I'm gonna do without him." I simply replied, "We'll get through it. Together." She let go and I approached the clerk. "That comes to 143 gil please." I gave the money to her, and put my arms around Rinoa's shoulders. Mutually bonded we walked through the double doors. She leaned her head on my shoulders, and sniffled. I took her shoulder with my hand and pulled her into me. "You and him are the two things that I love most in this world. And now one of them is gone." She stated, her voice cracking slightly. I answered, "But there's still one left. And he'll be here for a long time." She managed a weak smile, and said "thank you," as they reached the car.

A week later

Rinoa's gentle features looked very baffled as she inspected the medium sized box that had come in the mail. Fresh tears filled her almond pools when she opened it. Inside it there was a clay circle with a fair sized paw print in the middle and the name "Angelo" inscribe underneath it. The letter that came with it simply said, "This is your pet's paw print at the time they passed away. We hope that this will help to remind you of all the good times you had with your pet." Visions of Angelo running through the fields with Rinoa as a child, up to the times that they performed Wishing Star together flew across her mind's eye. She was snapped back into reality by my firm hand on her shoulder. She took hold of it and said to me, "I'm going to miss him, but I know his spirit will always be with you and me." I nodded, glad to see that she was finally recovering. "No dog will ever replace him," I said. She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. She told me she could still hear his happy puppy bark, and I never doubted that she could.

"Oh Squall, it's beautiful." Rinoa said to me. "Yes, it looks very nice like that." I responded sincerely. It really was a cute set-up. There was a picture of Angelo cocking his head to the side, and Rinoa was hugging him tightly. This was on top of the ashes, with the clay paw print in front. The cremation certificate was in the front center. All of it was in the middle of the fireplace, in plain view. I squeezed my love closer to me, kissed her forehead and whispered, "He shall never be forgotten." And he never was, I can assure you of that.

Author's Note: (wipes tears away) (sniffles) sorry, this is still a touchy subject for me. I wrote this at the time I had to put my dog to sleep, so I figured I would write a story, to get my feelings out. Almost all of the events that happened in this fic happened to me. The whole set-up on
the fireplace is really there, the whole enchilada is true. Well, I hope you liked it, cause I did. It really helped me deal with it too. Just if anyone wanted to know, my dog Gizmo was 18 years old, and was laid to rest on February 13th, 2001.