William Shakespurr

He sits, staring at me with bright eyes and adoration. He rubs his head along my leg, sending shocks of pain that make it spasm to my brain. He curls against himself, pulling away. I look at him, trying to treasure the time that remains, knowing soon he will be somewhere else. Somewhen else. Still he will be my William. He lays his head down and I find myself crying again. This doesn’t help my body, to cry but it helps my soul. I close my eyes and I can see a golden light with hope for his future, and for mine imbedded into it.

He has lived with me for a year. He has endured for a year. This has not been a year full of joy for either of us but, the little moments still jump out. I met him in the Mall, where a city run shelter sits full of animals in glass houses. They all seemed so sad. William however responded, despite having just had surgery a half a hour before. He looked at me with his bright eyes, a greenish gold that has no real name but makes me think of Umbra, the other world and dreams. He made this little face that looked like a smile and shoved his pink nose at Sprite. She did not say a word, which was good as with every other cat she had cursed like a sailor, frightening the people that were trying to set us up with a new friend. She was not happy but, I knew he was the right cat.

He never yowled, meowed, or even hissed. He never complained or whimpered even for six months. It was my first month here, in my new home which I leave embedded in as much mystery as an open book truly can, when he first made sound. I remember, he and Sprite were playing, he more than she. She turned and licked his nose and he let out this squeaky meow. Like a rusted door, or a dying battery more than a meow. It resonated and frightened him. Sprite looked amused and smacked him with a paw, he meowed again, and then panicked running away from the spot. He meowed with every step and found he couldn’t escape the sound in his throat. This was the first moment I smiled after the abuse. For that I am always grateful to him, and always will be.

Still these little moments are nested in concerns and pain. It was apparent once a few days had passed that something was wrong with him. He couldn’t walk, instead he dragged himself with his claws in the carpet. He couldn’t jump but slithered up things usually falling. When he would go from room to room he would do it painfully, I could tell he was hurting, and often he bashed his head into walls He had fits, clawing at everything. Then the coughing started. Kennel Cough. Thankfully that is a treatable disease now, though I was unsure if it was. I spent the hours waiting to get him and Sprite to the vet and their medication, which could kill me, in a panicked daze. He was weighed that day, 17 pounds. I was glad he was an adult cat.

He was not an adult at all but a very large baby. I still say it sometimes, “Come here big baby.” He’ll climb into my lap, carefully as he can and lays there when I do. I like to roll him belly up, he makes a face with his eyes half closed, half crossed and his tongue hanging out. Sometimes he lets out a purr that is as squeaky as his meow. The vet said he had permanent brain damage and would, without serious care and guidance, never recover. They also told me he was at most three months old based on his tooth growth. I suspect their math was a bit off, maybe he was six months old, but likely just four or five.

I started to try to teach him things then. I had to teach him to eat, which consisted mostly of me shoving food in his mouth and triggering his swallow reflex. It took about a month for him to be able to eat on his own. Maybe being force fed so he didn’t starve made him dislike wet food but he rarely ever eats it now. That or he doesn’t want to have to get in Sprite’s way. She’ll smack him with her claws and send him running for cover.

He had to learn to walk. Instead of dragging himself I used the harness and some yarn to hold him up. Recreating a harness used in my physical therapy before they gave up on my ability to improve my balance. I never did, I just cannot balance the way others do. It took most of the last year for him to learn to walk. At first he couldn’t even retract his claws. He always had them out. It was like cuddling a switchblade. Still, he learned. He sometimes has trouble but he walks with his claws in.

Teaching him to jump was actually a lot of fun. The lazer pointer was a tool then. I used that to teach him to run too. He would scramble after it, in circles, to the left, then to the right, then the darned dot would move up the wall. After a week of staring at it mournfully, he stretched up, when that wasn’t enough he just stood there for the longest time. I remember the sigh he heaved, before walking away the first time. Still, after more time, he jumped. Now he even jumps on the bed. I’ll walk past, or go to lay down and there he is hopping up and down on my waterbed. Sometimes he will leap from the floor all the way to the top of the cabinets, OVER the refridgerator. You cannot tell he had to learn how.

He is not apparently smart as a cat, but, if you were locked in an apartment in 100+ degrees with only the water you could get from the toilet and the sink you would have brain damage too. He sometimes gets overwhelmed by light, sound, and motion. I do too. When he panics I have learned the best thing is to ignore him if I cannot touch him for fear of the claws. If I can touch him, I pull him close, pull a blanket over him and hold him until he is calm. Sometimes I wish someone had done that with me when i was younger but, I do not know if it would have worked.

He dislikes rock and roll but loves Show Tunes. If I  have to leave him alone, I find he makes less of a mess of the apartment if I can leave some music playing. So far he doesn’t like Evita but seems to adore cats. Still, Porgy and Bess is the one that he responds to the most. My William is a fighter, with a bit of an artist. I am not sure I could trust him with small children. Sometimes if I pet him he will bite and claw. The reaction does not fit the “crime”. I think with his size he could hurt someone. William is now somewhere over a year old and is about 27 pounds. He has doubled in size, and then almost a half more was added on. His paw when resting on my wrist hides it. When he then stretches his paw out my palm vanishes. I cannot have him in my lap as much now, and when I do I come away with bruises from his weight. This cannot go on.

He knows when the lights go out that you lay down and go quiet. He knows that but if the sun is up and I must rest or if he is being naughty, which is often, he will pounce and claw my feet. I already can barely walk, a tiny scratch puts me out of the running, and all I can do is lay there waiting for someone to come and help me balance. I live alone. This cannot go on. He needs somewhere he can be inside, free of dogs, children, and adults who are heavy handed. He needs somewhere that he gets a lot of play, is rarely alone, and is either the only cat or is with a cat that is able to fight back. He bites Sprite’s ears and her ears are pretty bad right now, because I cannot make him stop. He needs somewhere that there is quiet, love, and excitement. I no longer can do all he needs.

William cannot be an out door cat. He has been out a few times, and will sometimes steal a ride with me on the Scooter when I go out. He is fearless. When he escaped on his own he tried chasing cars. He caught one, but luckily it was parked. It sounds a bit humorous but, though he is a very large cat he is so much more fragile than most. His ribs never quite healed. Most of his body has been broken or damaged. He had a broken tail, which you can only feel if he lets you touch it, he had broken ribs, a fractured skull, and often he is in pain. I suspect this relates to his sometimes violent reactions to touch and care.

I think he wouldbe happier with another cat present but he is too afraid of dogs. He was willing to take on a dog that is as tall as I am when I am sitting, (three or four feet) just to keep the dog away from his people, just to protect himself and the only space he had left at the time. He needs to be somewhere that he will not be locked up a lot. No carriers except with the vet, no being penned in the bathroom for hours at a time at least once a week. Somewhere that he can roam  but be safe. Somewhere he can be held and give chase. Somewhere that William can be.

No longer does this home fit his needs. He has literally out grown me. He was considered a feral by the Vet, a vicious little cat that was broken. Now he is a loving cat that wants to please. He has the most darling smile, bright eyes, and when I cry all he does is lay with me trying to make the tears stop. He once tried licking them away but I said ouch, and he stopped. He understands enough of what is going on to be a very good cat for someone able enough to accomodate his needs.

William helped me too, it was not a one way journey. I know I can handle training an animal if I have the energy. I know I can still connect with an animal that seems to others to be lost. I still have my gift of being the friend of feral cats. I also know he is the last of the ferals that I can tame. He is the last of them I can show the world where we worship them. i will not miss his deciding to wake me up to kill my feet but I will miss his bright curiousity. I will miss his warmth when I was cold and had no way to stay warm except to cling to the two furry bodies at hand.

I will miss his discovery of things. Every day he rediscovers everything, and when you are so depressed that life is unbearable, that can still be enchanting. I still am fighting my depression but he has given me something that is precious. For a long time he and Sprite were my reason to live. I knew when I chose to keep him after his diagnoisis as a cat with a disability I was choosing something hard. I actually called the shelter and told them what was up and the only reason I kept William was their response angered me. It struck a nerve. I remember that conversation clearly, “Oh bring him back in, we’ll put him down and you can bring some other cat home.” His disability meant he had to die. It meant surely he was unlovable. The contract I signed upon adoption gave me thirty days to keep him or return him. If I kept him I was obligated, required, and bound to report any medical challenges, his death, or if he ran away. I was obligated to keep him. I was obligated by them. My disability is always going to be new to me, it feels new every day. That nanosecond before the world and pain crush me, before I am aware of my body when I wake, i am not aware of my disability. I just am. I face the shock of being physically broken daily. William recovered. I will not.

I kept him, because if I let them kill William, I was approving killing myself. I felt it in my soul. If I let them murder this cat because he needed more, was I not reenforcing the idea that disability is a death sentence? I know that I cannot keep him now. His increased ability has let me set him free. William has recovered so much ability, that most people will never see him as anything other than a very large cat. He no longer makes the carpet crackle when he walks, he has gone months without any fits, he meows, he plays. William has something special. William is forever a kitten. His body will grow up, grow old, but his mind will forever remain that of a kitten. H e will forever want to play and pounce. He will forever run after sunbeams. He will forever be young. In this way he is essentially immortal. Until the day that this cat dies, which could be decades from now, he will be innocent.

I have struggled with the decision of rehoming William for months. Never once did I decide it was time. It took serious injury for me to realize it is time. His weight dislocated three ribs, I had to go to the ER twice in one week. I am adapting to the changes in my body but I cannot hold him anymore. I am putting my health and my life at risk by trying. He no longer needs me. He wants me. He loves me. He leaves his mouse toy for me daily. I wake up with whichever mouse was handy when he decided to sleep on my pillow. When I started to fall ill a few weeks ago he started following me and trying his best to mimic Sprite’s awesome healing talents. Still, I dislocated ribs. I am covered in bruises and scratches from accidents. I am too fragile for this cat.

Wherever he goes, he will have a few things that go with him. There are toys that must go, his mousey that is so ratty that it looks like trash but if you throw it away he will find it and spread garbage over your entire home (yes, I will send you the most hideous cat toy in the world), his cat furniture which is collabsible and colorful, his crinkle tunnel, and his fluffy stuff on a stick. Those go with William. Sprite has her special toys which she hid from him, and of course those stay. If you take this cat  home with you, you recieve the greatest gift that any child or animal can give as well. Love. I cannot say it is love without comprimise, I can tell you that if you hurt him he will hurt you. I also can tell you that this cat has protected me from criminals. He is just as good as a guard dog, if the person scares him. You will get the little moments too. You may be working on a project, or watching the evening news and you glance at him and he is fast asleep sucking his paw. I dare you to tell me that such an adorable sight wouldn’t sway your heart a bit. You get a walking, purring, snuggling hallmark card.

I will miss William. I will miss even the bad times, the hard times, and yet I cannot cry more than a few tears when I imagine his future. I see him in a home with a large living room, his toys scattered about. Someone playing with him. I see him running, and yes this imaginary world is possible. After all, that is what love is. For him, love is play, mice toys, and playing fetch.

Sharing the Dream

I have a dream. It started small, with the idea of teaching other women with disabilities how to get their doctor to adapt to their needs, to make certain that they have proper medical care and it grew. A part of this is the rumor that in California there are accessible facilities for medical care. This access should be for all women and men with disabilities as well as those who are aging. A second portion is a discussion I recently spent two weeks taking part in. The third part is my own experience and the frustration that is omnipresent with my current medical needs.

I am sharing this dream with you for two reasons. The first is that I want your input. I am not an expert on all disabilities and I want to make this dream a reality. The other is that this will be my platform when I make my run for Ms Wheelchair USA. So, here it is, my dream.

I want to create not just an accessible doctor’s office but an accessible facility that has several purposes. First and foremost I want an accessible mammogram, one where you do not have to call, beg, and push to get access but where it is expected that you will need access. This will be furthered by a program to teach you how to adapt to your bodily changes and limitations while being able to fulfill the self exam for breast health. If you cannot adapt, either due to paralysis or other limitations then I want to offer the option of having a doctor or nurse perform your exam for you. Breast cancer risk does not magically vanish the minute you are suddenly disabled. It often goes up!

This goes further, I want accessible exam tables and facilities to offer every woman regardless of function and mobility a pap smear. I have an annual cancer scare, something tries to trick us into thinking it is cancer yearly. This year’s cancer scare surrounds my pap and it’s abnormal results and other tests that scream, “You might have cancer!” I am more worried about the high table, embarrassing lack of hospital gowns that actually fit, and my physical issues hampering the test than the actual possibility of cancer. I am loathing the idea of half climbing half being shoved up on that table, half naked and without any chance at privacy because I need help at times to even move my hips. There are accessible tables. Other forms of accesibility will be needed. I want to hear from any persons of short stature, what are the needs you face in the doctor’s office that are not being met? Even the most accessible table for a tall person will fail you, so please tell me what you need so that you are not excluded from my dream.

I want accessible facilities for rape victims with either severe injuries due to the actual rape or a previous disability. Writing these words has me panting with fear, but, how many women could be protected with evidence that is not obtained? There is enough of a violation with in rape itself, but being violated and treated like you do not matter after is a crime as well. This alone could be my platform focus, this alone could impact the lives of countless women. Accessible rape kit access with proper training for those taking the kit is a must. this is the part of my dream that is frightening, this is the part of my dream that feels the most out of reach. I must reach this goal however, for every victim and survivor that exists now or may exist.

I also want a center for adaptation. The Center for Adaptation would include a kitchen, a bathroom, and other areas that the once-abled take for granted. I still have not managed to cook a meal without harming myself in years, but a place where I had the safety to learn without being in danger of literally killing myself would help. This adaptation center must include potential assistive devices so that before the money is spent by the individual they know if the device will work. I wasted so much money on items that I cannot even use. Everyone does. Most persons with disabilities or freshly disabled persons have a very limited income, therefore this is a key component to creating universal access. Imagine learning how to cook around your limited energy, ability, and strength? Imagine learning how to clean again, and imagine too learning other things such as crafts, or finding ways to adapt so that you can create art? Dream with me and see it, a place of learning for all levels of ability.

Not just learning but socialization. I want people of all ability levels to commune together. There need to be varying support groups, socialization groups, and even a place to coordinate activities for the single individual and the couples. There needs to be a safe place to discuss sex with in ability, there needs to be a safe place where intersetion occurs. If you are gay, bisexual, a lesbian, or a transgendered person with a disability you deserve this just as much as someone who does not overlap two subgroups with in the realm of minority. The able bodied need to be welcomed here too, so that they can learn, assist, and so that there is a lack of segregation.

There needs too, to be a place to work with Service Animals. This facet will have to have answers to questions about the legalities of service animals in the given area, certification challenges, and training suggestions. Although it will not be a place to get a service dog, there needs to be a place where safe support can be found easily. Safe support that can come and help you advocate, safe support that teaches you to self advocate, and safe support for the process of accepting your animal partner.

Less medicalization of life needs to happen, and the focus on that aspect is a place to find good fashion, perhaps this could even become the funding source for my facility. The fashion needs to be adaptable to the wheelchair users needs, most likely this will require custom tailoring. The clothing needs to be affordable but also fashionable. Persons who have disabilities cover all age groups and the institutionalization of clothing is unacceptable. The clothing must also be in a broad range of sizes. Just as wheelchairs need to fit everyone from the small child up to the very large adults, the clothing must as well. Giving a place to access good, quality, stylish clothing for men and women with varying abilities will be a huge part of this, simply out of my own desires. I desire affordable clothing that works with my ability. I do not want to trip over skirts that are too long, I do not want to have my sleeves caught in my wheels if I use a manual chair, and I am presuming this is a universal frustration.

There need to be classes as well to train those with degenerative conditions to adapt, or those with compound disabilities to adapt. Perhaps the adaptation center is a new spin on the idea of an accessible home to learn in, yet, the focus on this portion includes teaching skills you might not have. What brought this to mind is my own degeneration. I lost my ability to walk and my sight is endangered. What adaptation can I have if I cannot see to drive my chair? I must learn and there needs to be a safe place for this. There needs to be a place where it is safe to feel the fear, the hope, and a place where there is hope. There is too little hope for the disabled demographic in this world.

A part of preventative care is dentistry, though I have yet to find a dentist who can work with my limitations. There needs to be a facility for dental care. I have a cavity I cannot get tended due to my combination of allergies and inability to bend backwards in their chairs. This cannot be. This is discrimination, yet to stamp out discrimination there needs to be action. If the facility cannot have a dentist, then it needs to have an office where accessible vision and dental care is listed, where referrals can be given, and it needs to be a place where there is acceptance that every body has a different need.

Disaster Safety is also a concern. During the disasters that hit the world, such as Hurricane Katrina, the disabled are often left behind. Their families may stay so that their loved ones do not die alone, and therefore these devalued people are murdered. It is murder to leave someone behind because it might be hard to deal with their wheelchair. A part of this facility needs to house a program that teaches people how to advocate, adapt, and prepare for emergencies. This program also needs to teach FEMA and other rescue organizations how to rescue the disabled. We are people, we deserve life, and being abandoned because of a wheelchair or cognitive disability is murder. It can be helped, it can be changed.

A lot of the focus here is on prevention and adaptation. My focus is not to cure disability, to wipe it out. That is impossible and I have gained from my own limitations. I cannot imagine a world without Autism as being beautiful, for without it I would not exist. Therefore the focus needs to be on preventative medicine, there needs to be a focus with in the facility on adaptive medicine, and there needs to be a focus on demedicalizing the bodies that have limitations. There needs to be a personalization of existence. I exist beyond my disabilities, though they are a part of me. We need to foster acceptance of self, of difference, and we need to offer a safe harbor for all people with all abilities to commune.

A lot of people are unable to work, are fighting for government assistance, and are dying without durable medical equipment. I want to offer rentals, loaners, and at times even the purchase of needed medical equipment such as CPAP machines, wheelchairs, and walkers. These are just examples. There would be a qualification process, and yet the freedom I felt that first time I sat in a manual chair and had more than three hours of coherent function haunts me. I have nightmares of being trapped without my chair now, I have nightmares that others feel that same terror. Those nightmares are realities. This program could use older equipment that was donated, purchased equipment, and could perhaps eventually include low interest/zero interest loans with minimal payments to allow people to obtain equipment. This could help those with a copay and a minuscule income to make ends meet. This could help someone who is choosing between homelessness and a wheelchair to get the chair and keep their home.

A second facet on employment is access to workforce training. There are already facilities yet at times access is denied based on a lack of visible potential, so, I want to coordinate with them to try and educate and prepare those who want to work but are being told they aren’t worth the training. An entire segment of this facility needs to be coordination with existing organizations to get people what they need, to get people connected with the programs that exist. A lot of people who ask me for help do so because they cannot find programs that fit their needs, even when they exist. A hub in the network could make their impact broader, while in a way delegating some of my dream over to their offices. I know one facility cannot possibly do it all.

This is my dream, this is also why I was so quiet this past week. I was dreaming, trying to put into a coherent idea what is needed. This facility will need funding but the insured can be charged. I do not see this as a fee free environment but money should not cause a person to not be able to participate. If a person can pay, or if their insurance can allow coverage then they should pay. Much of what is offered should be covered under Medicaid/Medicare and other insurances without issue. The rest could be funded via donations and grants. I have no idea what I would call this facility yet, but, that is not the most important focus at this time. Branding must come after a plan for action is laid out.

Share the dream. Share what you see as a need. Please feel free to pass links to this post around, I want to offer a taste of freedom to a set of people that anyone can join, to the only equal opportunity minority. If we band together, we can change the world and create universal access. This plan is flawed, this dream is imperfect yet it is merely a start.

A Response to “What are Service Animals?”

This conversation was held on MSN. My friend is using the Alias Tiffy, in respect to her cat. She asked the question about service animals and our discussion illuminates a bit more about what a cat is capable of. Eventually I will (hopefully) post video of my cat performing her tasks. I am sad to say my cat has an Upper Respiratory Infection courtesy of the shelter system and our new housemate. This doesn’t mean that you should not adopt, just make sure to get your cats medical care when they need it. All typos are left as is in the conversation, though emoticons were removed.

Tiffy says:
Ah, makes sense but scince I can’t see you, how can a cat help you walk?
Kateryna says:
My cat naturally shifts her weight to not fall. So, I trained her to shift her weight to help me not fall. What this means is that when I am walking and start to tip too far in one direction she goes to the other side of me and I can compensate.
Kateryna says:
She has cut my falling down by over 90%
Kateryna says:
Not enough   To stop me needing a wheelchair but I can go pee without falling five times in the six step journey
Tiffy says:
I think I understand
Kateryna says:
Awesome
Kateryna says:
Any other questions?
Tiffy says:
What else is she trained to help with?
Kateryna says:
She alerts me when I forget to take my meds. There is thankfully a lag time between the morphine leaving my system and the pain slamming back into me, and she can sense it. The trained response is for her to either get my med bag for me, or to yowl three times in a row.
Kateryna says:
If I need my meds and cannot reach them she is also trained to retrieve them.
Kateryna says:
She can also dial for an ambulence and can even call Locke on his cell if I fall or somesuch
Tiffy says:
Wow
Kateryna says:
She is trained to warn me when someone approaches from behind me, which cuts down on flashbacks and/or protects me from a random hand right on the injury
Kateryna says:
She used to do more but she is aging and has been sick enough times that the training had to be forgotten for her own sake.
Kateryna says:
Her mouth got torn up, she used to pick up objects etc.
Kateryna says:
She is even trained to “read” some packaging for me at the store, because i am blind as a bat and cannot see much anymore. So, she identifies the shapes or however she does it and paws the package
Tiffy says:
Ow
Kateryna says:
Yeah, she is allergic to poultry and the reaction cut up he rmouth,
Kateryna says:
The other things she does are more instinctual responses with trained reactions
Tiffy says:
Poor thing =/
Kateryna says:
She has a particularly shrill warble she gives when I am going to pass out, and if I stay still she calms down
Kateryna says:
If i am going to have a seizure she will yowl until I either stop doing what I am doing, it hits, or until I sit down, depending on what I am up to.
Kateryna says:
during the pass out time she calls for help, by going to every room in the house and making a ruckus
Kateryna says:
When it is a seizure she moves up to my chest and sits there unless I signal her to get help
Tiffy says:
So I guess most people who have service animals are pretty attacted to them, they’re really amazing
Kateryna says:
she is too sick to work right now, and I cannot get out of bed.
Kateryna says:
Direct correlation.
Kateryna says:
Without my service animal I cannot go outside, I cannot function.
Kateryna says:
It is worse actually than what it was like before she came into my life, because although my back is broken and my legs barely work, with her I feel as free as I did before my injury, and in some ways freer.
Kateryna says:
I lack saftey, I lack security, I fell four times this morning trying to do my daily things like peeing, because she is sleeping off her sickness.
Kateryna says:
I am also terribly worried about her, so I am not as efficient in my work.
Kateryna says:
A service animal is another limb. I love her more than Locke, but he understands why.
Tiffy says:
I hope she gets better soon
Kateryna says:
When she was electrocuted a year ago, he sent me money we needed for him to move out here, it took another six months to get him here but she would[ve died without it, and i am not sure I could survive without them BOTH. One I can handle being without but it sucks.

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