Lara was born in England, and we picked her up as an eight-week old kitten, along with her identical twin brother, Indiana. Getting them was a great idea by my parents, who wanted to help us get used to living in a new country so far from home.
Lara and Indy came with us when we moved to America. We picked them up from the airport a few days after we arrived. They were panting in the Texas summer heat just like dogs. We brought them back to the hotel where we were living while we found a house. One night there was a fire alarm at the hotel, and we had to carry them to the evacuation point in our arms.
Indy was always the adventurous one of the pair, meaning that Lara sometimes got overlooked. She was never falling in the bathtub or the pool, climbing up bookshelves or learning how to open doors like her brother. She was a sweet, calm girl.
When we moved back to Australia, Indy and Lara had to spend a month in quarantine. We went out to Williamstown to visit them, where they spent some quality time pretending not to know us, as punishment for leaving them. It was a great day when we got to bring them home.
Indy died suddenly in May 2011, when he was 10. He went out the front door when I got home from work, and when my Dad drove into the driveway 20 minutes later, he found him peacefully sleeping, right in the middle of the driveway. It was so heartbreaking, but no one could deny that it was a great way to go. He had been sick for many years, and was just skin and bone, despite having a great appetite (especially for illicit cupcakes).
Indy used to walk around the house meowing at night, while Lara was usually silent. After Indy died, though, Lara took up his call. I always wondered if she was calling for him.
When Mario and I moved in together in 2013, Lara came with us. For the first time, she had a house all to herself, and she was the Queen. Mario had never had a pet before, but all the things that come with having a cat – like cleaning the littler tray, and dealing with hairballs – never phased him. He loved Lara as though he had cared for her since she was a kitten.
Lara had three happy years with us in our home. Earlier this year, when she started to lose weight, we found out that she had kidney disease. The vet told us it was not advanced, and with the right diet and medication, she could go on to live for a few more months, or years. She was so thin, and sometimes seemed a bit lost, but she still loved to curl up in between us on our bed, purring, or follow us around the house as we did chores, or sit and watch us in the shower, meowing every now and again to make sure we hadn’t drowned.
A few weeks ago, Lara got a UTI. I was home alone that weekend, and it was so scary. I rushed her to the emergency vet, who was able to give her some pain relief, and Mario took her to our regular vet the next day. Since then, she has been up and down. She recovered from the UTI, but became allergic to her antibiotics. She wasn’t eating, and was losing weight rapidly. I bought every different brand and flavour of kidney prescription food that I could find, to try and tempt her. Even though she was clearly feeling so unwell, she loved being with us. She would sit with us and purr for hours.
After stopping the antibiotics, she regained her appetite, and started eating so well. She put weight back on, and started seeming like her old self again. She looked healthier and happier. I called our vet to update him, and it was such a relief to be able to tell him that after all the tests, all the different medications, she was recovering.
Unfortunately though, it didn’t last, and she went downhill again on Sunday. She seemed to have another UTI, but the vet wasn’t sure. She went back on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, but she would hardly eat, and seemed to be in a lot of pain. She was yowling non-stop unless we were holding her, and seemed distressed. When we picked her up, she just clung to us.
Making the decision to put her to sleep was horrible. We could see that she was in pain, and we only had two choices – take her to the emergency vet for pain relief or hospitalisation, or end her suffering. We couldn’t face more tests and more medications for her, not when she had already been through so much, and was so miserable, but the decision was awful. How do you make the choice of when another living creature should die? How do you know you are doing it for the right reasons? How do you know she won’t get better, and go on to live pain-free for a few more weeks, or months, or years?
We talked to our family, and decided it was for the best. My parents said goodbye to her, and Mario, Georgia and I took her to the emergency vet. They took Lara away to put in a catheter, and brought her to us in a private room. It was unbelievably awful. She was more lively than she had been in a while, probably because she was stressed at being in a new place. She limped around the room, trailing her catheter, while we cried and hugged her. I questioned the decision a million times in my head, and out loud. When we were ready, the vet came in and injected the drugs through her catheter. She died in my arms, so peacefully that it was hard to believe it had happened. She looked just the same – how could she be gone?
When we got home, I saw that she had eaten her dinner, and I felt a wave of crushing, sickening guilt. Why hadn’t I checked if she had eaten before we left? I’d been coaxing her to eat for days, heating her food and feeding her in different places, hiding treats in her food to tempt her. Would it have made a difference to our decision if I’d checked her food bowl? Would we have waited longer? Could we have had more time with her? Did we make the wrong decision? Did I?
I don’t know how much more time she could have had, but I do know that I could never forgive myself if she died alone and in pain, while we were asleep or at work.
People who have never loved an animal can never understand what it is like to lose one. You care for them and be their voice for their whole life, and in return, they give you love, and comfort, and companionship, without any strings attached. You are responsible for them. They are another being, but you belong to one another. Lara was the presence that welcomed me home every day, the reason for me to get out of bed when I couldn’t find the energy, the one I talked to when I was lonely, and cuddled when I was happy, and cried with when I was sad. I love her. I wish she wasn’t gone.
We buried her last night next to her brother, Indy. My heart is breaking, and our house feels so empty.
Rest in peace my love, my sweet, beautiful girl. We miss you so much.
So the Little Prince tamed the fox. And when the hour to depart came near:
‘Ah!’ said the fox… ‘I am going to cry.’
‘It’s your fault’, said the Little Prince, ‘I never wished you any harm, but you wanted me to tame you…’
‘Of course’, said the fox.
‘But you are going to cry!’ said the Little Prince.
‘Of course’, said the fox.
‘So you gained nothing!’
‘I gained something’, said the fox, ‘because of the colour of wheat. Then he added: ‘Go and see the roses. You will understand that your rose is unique in all the world. Come back and say goodbye to me, and I will tell you a secret.’
The Little Prince went to see the roses.
‘You are not at all like my rose, you are nothing’, he told them. ‘No one has made you their own, and you have made no one your own. You are like my fox was. He was just a fox like a hundred thousand others. But I made him my friend, and he is now unique in all the world.’
And the roses were ashamed.
‘You are beautiful, but you are empty’, he told them. ‘No one would die for you. Of course, a passer-by might think my rose is like you. But on her own, she is more important than all of you, because it is her that I watered. Because it is her that I put under a globe. Because it is her that I sheltered behind a screen. Because it is for her that I killed the caterpillars (except two or three for the butterflies). Because it is her who I heard complain, or boast, or even sometimes say nothing. Because she is my rose.’
And he returned to the fox.
‘Goodbye’, he said…
‘Goodbye’, said the fox. ‘Here is my secret. It is very simple: you cannot see well except with the heart. The essential is invisible for the eyes.’
‘The essential is invisible for the eyes’, repeated the Little Prince, so he would remember.
‘It is the time you have spent for your rose that makes her so important.’
‘It is the time I have spent for my rose…’ said the Little Prince, so he would remember.
‘Men have forgotten this truth’, said the fox. ‘But you must not forget. You become responsible, forever, for what you make your own. You are responsible for your rose…’
‘I am responsible for my rose…’ repeated the Little Prince, so he would remember.