49: Better to Have Loved

49: Better to Have Loved

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

Better to Have Loved

’Tis better to have loved and lost than to have not loved at all.

~Alfred Lord Tennyson

Unita, my cat, had diabetes, but we found out too late. We had taken her to the vet for a sideways tooth. After the tooth was pulled, the vet asked if there was anything else bothering her, and my mom brought up the fact that Unita was always thirsty and we had to refill the water bowls every day to keep her happy. The vet had a feeling it was diabetes and did a quick test to see if it was. It came back positive. A blood test would make it definite, so blood was drawn. That was positive as well. Unita had diabetes. I got Unita to go back into the carrier, and it nearly fell off the table with her weight. My mom and stepdad, Mike, were going to be gone for a week and I was staying with my grandma while they were gone, so we decided not to treat her until they got back.

I was home after school feeding the cats during the week, but I didn’t notice any difference until we were all home again that Friday and I saw that she was lethargic. We all knew that there was another trip to the vet coming up.

On Saturday, when my mom and Mike got back from the vet, I was cleaning the litter boxes. The mood in the apartment had darkened drastically. My parents said they would tell me what was going to happen to Unita when I was finished cleaning, but I still wouldn’t let them say anything until Unita was beside me. As I stroked her fur, my mom told me that Unita was very sick and that we would have to put her to sleep. It was going to happen the next day, so I would have one last night with her.

“No,” I cried. “Isn’t there anything we can do?” My pleas were met with a solid no. I was lying on the couch crying into Unita’s fur, like I had so many other times before, when my mom came over and asked me to bring Unita to my room. I figured she just wanted to get rid of me. I was wrong.

“This isn’t her space; your room is,” my mom explained, and I agreed. My mom picked up Unita, carried her into my room, and set her down on my bed beside me. “Lie down and say goodbye.”

Later, my mom told me that she could tell by the way Unita’s head was lolling that she had gotten worse and would probably slip into a coma before morning. The appointment we had made for the next day was moved up a few hours. It was nearly time to let her go.

The next morning, I picked up Unita and held her to my chest. We figured it would be less painful for us if we carried her in than if we brought home an empty carrier. We went down to the car and piled in. With a few final sniffles, we were off. Once we got to the animal hospital we were told to go into the first room on our right. I didn’t want to let Unita go, but I had to. I set her down on the blanket that was on the table and gave her more affection. Then, the vet told us what would happen. All it was going to be was an anesthetic overdose, quick and painless. The drugs were to be administrated through Unita’s rear leg, so we had to turn her around and put her facing away from us.

Unita was sitting with her back end on its side and her front paws resting flat with her head up. Once the vet put the needle into her leg Unita shifted so that she was lying on her side with her eyes closed. It was like she knew she was going to die. We were told that we could leave if we needed to. I nodded but I knew I’d stay until the end. When we were as ready as we could be, the vet injected the drugs. In a matter of moments, she stopped moving.

“She’s gone,” my mom said, and the dam broke. Looking back, I think I cried more that day than in all of fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh grades combined. “She loved you most of all,” my mom told me as she held me. The dam was completely smashed at this point. I couldn’t — wouldn’t — believe she was gone, but one look at her still body and I just knew.

Mike left and it was just me and my mom in the room. Once I had calmed down, my mom suggested we leave. Tears threatened to fall once more, and with willpower and the knowledge that she would always be with me no matter what, I held them back until I was sure they wouldn’t fall. The drive home was sadder than the drive there by many degrees. Leaving Unita there was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and I hope my other two cats’ lives end on a better note. Questions like “Would she still be here if we had started treatment earlier?” and, “Why didn’t we go to the vet sooner?” have made the wounds deeper and even more painful.

Even though Unita’s with me every day, I still miss her and love her with all of my heart. No matter what, Unita has shown me how to love without fear or questions, and she taught me that it is better to know how love feels than to have never experienced it before.

~Sara Drimmie

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