Under the weeping, Willow.

If ever you’ve found yourself on a Saturday afternoon in the Spring sitting in your living room and hearing the moaning howl of some deep, barrel-chested dog outside your window only to turn around and see that it’s actually Willow, your eight-pound, thirteen-year-old cat making her way across the living room on her recently-ataxic back legs from the old office-chair backrest on which she likes to sleep under an end-table in the corner to the small “mud room” hallway where the litter box is, then you know the start of how I spent another weekend at DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital.

First things first: this does not end with Willow’s death, either of natural causes or through euthanasia. That there would not have been such a surrender today is not something I’d have dared guarantee to anyone this morning, although a surrender of a different sort is where we’ve ultimately landed, but that’s getting ahead of things as we’re still back there on a Saturday afternoon and not here on a Monday afternoon in a drizzle of rain as I try starting to draft this while sitting outside a coffee shop in St. Johns where I’ve gone to have a latte and try to get some clear space for myself, both internal and external.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, January 23, 2022

Willow is fine. And also it’s looking like her eating changes lately might not be lack of appetite so much as not feeling like eating her portion all in one sitting. So possibly I just need to work out how to keep her food out for like half an hour so she can come back to it, but somehow not let my other cat come gorge on it while Willow is away. A pain in the butt for me but less of a problem than is Willow just not having an appetite.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 2, 2022

Some rough, preliminary guidance is what I need next. By letting her eat each meal in several different sessions over a few hours (I can’t leave her food out else Meru will eat it), I’ve gotten Willow back to two full meals a day. (The vet had raised the issue of her weight last visit.)

Nonetheless, she’s now “decided” that she can’t push off with her back legs to jump onto things anymore; she climbs and pulls herself up instead. She’s using all four legs to do so, but she’s definitely no longer even attempting to jump onto things higher than like two feet.

Email to family, March 2, 2022

I’ve been working for two months now to get Willow back to eating full meals, which she’d slacked off on, and I’ve been having to let her do several stints for each of the two meals a day (I can’t just leave the food out because Meru will just eat it all).

And I’ve gotten her back up just shy of two full meals a day but she’s up and decided (?) she can’t jump up to things anymore. She only gets up on stuff she can pull herself up to, although she uses all four legs, so I don’t know why she isn’t also using her back legs to push off into even small jumps onto things.

All of which I literally have no way to do anything more about because I JUST FUCKING HAD TO CROWDFUND $2000 FOR MERU as it is. There’s nothing left anywhere for Willow, whatever it might even be that’s going on.

I should just go walk all three of us into the river.

Email to family, March 2, 2022

Her last exam they mentioned her weight. This is right when she stopped wanting to eat either meal in one sitting so I’ve had to be letting her do each meal in several installments over a few hours.

Email to family, March 3, 2022

In the last 24 hours her eating has regressed and she’s just not interested. I went and bought some test cans of wet cat food and she’s devouring that. Wet cat food however is financially untenable, even for just one cat. I’ve had to close me and Meru in the bedroom while Willow eats, else she’d bully in and take it for herself. So even if I somehow found a magic stash of wet cat food that’s another thing I’d have to add to the cognitive load. I’m having to give serious thought to surrendering Willow back to the humane society.

Email to therapist, March 3, 2022

And now Willow [is r]egressing on eating. Losing strength. Will eat wet food, which I’m going to get two weeks worth of, but that isn’t sustainable. Presuming she rallies with food, I have to start thinking about surrendering her back to OHS.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 3, 2022

I don’t currently have a scale. It’s tough for me to judge [her weight] because (another aspect of my particular autism spectrum) my brain doesn’t hold onto time comparisons very well. (I know she’s consistently been smaller and thinner than Meru for example but I can’t judge today versus a month or six months ago.) 

She regressed on eating yesterday and today but positively inhaled a can of wet, so I’ve temporarily stocked up a week or two of canned to see if she continues to gobble that down. She’s not been showing any obvious pain although her meows (she’s talkative in general anyway) seem more frustrated.

Email to family, March 4, 2022

Well, OHS won’t take her back if they deem her “medically unsuitable for adoption through OHS”, whatever that means.

My vet has no urgent care slots until Monday. The tech on the phone gave some indication that sooner is better than later, which means I’d have to try one of the other urgent care places they recommended where they’ve never seen me or Willow, and I’d have to do my whole “I’m autistic and I need you to be very specific” routine all over again.

This morning Willow wanted no part of any food and after a struggle to climb the “stair” onto my bed and an hour napping has been under my bed ever since.

Email to therapist, March 4, 2022

And now Willow is deteriorating. Stumbling on her back legs. And my vet can’t see her until Monday. And the first urgent care place they gave me can’t see her today, and the second has me in telephone hell after initial conversation with the tech who went to talk to a doctor. All the other potential places are not in town. And [we] can’t afford very much, and I can’t fundraise for whatever because I already just did that for Meru.

So this is my Friday this week.

Email to family, March 4, 2022

She’s now stumbling around on her hind legs. She can’t wait until Monday, no matter whether the result of getting seen would be good or bad. But I’m in telephone hell with the only place that could possibly see her today, because everyone else either can’t or isn’t actually in Portland itself.

Email to family, March 4, 2022

Only place that could maybe see her today is near capacity with a 4-8 hour wait time once on-site, $173 just for the exam. Any other potential costs won’t even be raised until and unless we were there and she’d been examined.

If it came to putting her down, that alone is $300 there, not including any kind of cremation costs (which Oregon Humane does more cheaply, if I recall).

I am coming apart at the seams and very much feeling that thing where society renders you useless, and worthless, if you don’t have an income. Willow has to suffer because of that? Apparently so.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 4, 2022

Just to update you, Willow has an urgent care slot at Dove Lewis tomorrow, Saturday, at noon. She’s definitely worse, stumbling around on her hind legs when she’s not hiding under the bed.

Email to family, March 4, 2022

She’s worse than yesterday, weak and hiding. My vet can’t see her unti Monday, the two other urgent care places were untenable. But I’ve just gotten her into an urgent care slot at Dove Lewis tomorrow at noon; they also have a financial assistance program, if there’s any money left in it, that can give patients up to $1200 for care, but only if “your Care Credit limit is exhausted or your are declined Care Credit coverage”.

Worse comes to worst, since my GoFundMe did say “funds in excess of what’s needed for this procedure, if any, will be donated to Oregon Humane Society, unless any additional veterinary needs crop up”, this counts as “any additional veterinary needs” although I don’t want to take too big of a bite out of those funds because I need them for Meru in three weeks.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 4, 2022

Scratch that. They called and said get her in today via emergency.

Email to family, March 4, 2022

So while on my initial call they said schedule an urgent care, I just missed a call saying yeah no just bring her in now via emergency. The person who called didn’t think waiting a day was a good idea. So as soon as I can push food into my anxiety stomach, I guess I need to call a Lyft.

Email to therapist, March 4, 2022

Literally sitting in the lobby at DoveLewis waiting for them to come back after getting vitals and doing an initial exam.

Email to family, March 4, 2022

I have no info. I got here at three. They took her back for vitals and I assume to wait for a doctor to examine her at 4 or 430. It’s now 8 and I am still waiting.

GoFundMe update, March 4, 2022

So it never rains but it pours. My other cat Willow is ailing, might or might not be failing. I literally am at DoveLewis right now (I’ve been here for seven hours already). Just the visit and the blood work and pain meds are going to hit $500. (She’s losing weight, appetite, and strength; she stumbles on her back legs.) If you know anyone who wanted to donate to Meru but didn’t get the chance, I’ve re-opened donations for this stretch goal, although I’ve not put a new amount on it. As before, anything not accounted for by veterinary bills will go to Oregon Humane Society. Thanks so much.

Email to therapist, March 4, 2022

And I am still at DoveLewis eight hours later. It’s coming up on anxiety meds time but I don’t carry them because when am I ever not home at 11pm.

Email to DoveLewis, March 5, 2022

FWIW, she immediately wanted to eat when we got home.

Email to family, March 5, 2022

So her vitals were fine, and what they ran were standard blood workups, CBC and blood chemistry. They did not also run thyroid screen, although they drew blood for it, because we were leaving that for me to decide re: immediate cost concerns (because everything else already was $500).

Her blood panels came back fine.

They gave me meds for pain, although the vet was not able to determine specifically if she is experiencing any, and an appetite stimulant (which hilariously is the same meds I’m prescribed for anxiety).

Upon getting home she immediately devoured 3/4 of a 5.5oz can of wet food. She also stumbled her way into the litter box afterward.

I also cannot tell if she is in pain, although she’s obviously not enjoying her new hobbling.

Vet gave me the list of things to watch for over the weekend, although they also want me to have her seen by her regular vet this coming week, which obviously I have to stew on.

I reopened the Meru fundraiser with a Willow-specific update saying it never rains but it pours and anyone who didn’t get the chance to donate to Meru please consider donating to Willow, although I’m not going to keep that open long enough to trigger another $2,000 report to the state of Oregon.

Email to family, March 5, 2022

Also, I put a cat “bed” thing on a cushion in front of the wall heater and I’m just going to let that run tonight, which it’s usually off at night. She’s already on it and grooming herself.

She is definitely, when she’s moving around, stumbling pretty pronouncedly in the back.

Then again, there are four cats at the Kitten Rescue in LA whose webcams I sometimes watch on my TV, who have a congenital condition with their back legs and are doing just fine, although they have to have pretty specific feeding times and processes.

Email to family, March 5, 2022

[H]er stumbling is part of her symptomatology. There were other potential tests (beyond the thyroid panel that I said not to do) that I’d had her block out for me in levels of “must do now”, “can hold off”, etc, up to and including x-rays. The blood work they did could have revealed something but didn’t. So the next thing she was thinking was possible hyperthyroid. Beyond that would be none issues or maybe a mass.

At the moment Willow, who slept under the bed (I did put a cat bed/pad down there yesterday), is nibbling away at breakfast.

GoFundMe update, March 5, 2022

After a seven-hour stint at DoveLewis, Willow came home not yet with an explanation. We could only in this visit afford to get basic blood panels done, which showed nothing. The next step would be a thyroid panel, which I’ll talk to her regular vet about this week. Upon coming home in the early morning, Willow (who’d refused to eat Friday at all, precipitating the urgent vet trip), immediately wolfed down the breakfast she didn’t have earlier. This morning she ate breakfast in two sessions, then demanded more, so she started in on the second can of the day right away. She’s still got stumbly hindquarters (the ER vet said it looks more left leg than right), made a bit worse by the pain meds today, but she’s managed to get herself to and from the litter box both last night and today. The effort of getting to the box and doing her business, though, leaves her tired and she’s rests in the corner for five or ten minutes before coming back to the living room. Her regular vet isn’t open on weekends, so mostly we are just resting and making sure she’s eating, and giving her pain meds (although the vet couldn’t see any obvious signs there is any pain) and something to help stimulate her appetite.

Email to family, March 5, 2022

Yes that’s why they suggested thyroid test next. My vet is closed on weekends, so they won’t even see the faxed or emailed records from the ER until Monday but yes my plan today is to send them email about thyroid test and to see if for cost reasons we can skip an actual visit and visit fee and just do a technician blood draw thing which avoids the visit fee. I don’t think she needs to be actually examined by her actual vet this coming week unless this weekend goes poorly.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 5, 2022

You should be getting records from them re: Willow’s visit there on Friday. They ran basic blood panels which came back clean, but in the moment that tapped me out on costs.

They did suggest that the next step would be a thyroid panel. Please provide me an estimate on what that would run, and if that’s something that can be done as a technician appointment that avoids yet another office/exam fee.

I’m now already into debt from last night at DoveLewis, and struggling with a country that considers both me and my pets lives worthless if I’m not capable of contributing economically just because I’m disabled and poor.

Email to family, March 5, 2022

Because it’s possible that she’s not in an end-of-life situation but might become special needs beyond my cognitive capacity to do day in and day out, I’ve already asked a goats person to put me in touch from someone back in the Lents days who does local cat rescue stuff. Her org doesn’t do special needs rehoming but I’m assuming she will know who does. I’m not there yet, and neither is Willow, but I’m putting that contact process in place now rather than later.

Email to family, March 5, 2022

She ate on her own last night and this morning. She’s wobblier this afternoon but that’s probably the stumble plus the pain meds. I did sit with her on the couch and helped her stay upright enough to eat while she just flopped her hindquarters to the side like she was laying down. She’s successfully eaten almost all of her breakfast.

I can’t know anything about a vet schedule until after the weekend, since, as said, they are closed.

The only thing I think we need to do at the vet is the blood draw, and I’ll find out when Monday comes.

Email to family, March 5, 2022

She just finally finished her breakfast and immediately meowed for more, so I opened another can and she’s going to town.

GoFundMe update, March 7, 2022

Too dark in my room for a decent photo, but thanks to those who swung around for Willow. She has kind of a boring life right now as I haven’t figured out a way to let her get to any windows, but she’s managing as best she can. She’s still stumbling around when she does get up, but she successfully gets from one plush mat to another, and definitely still knows how to flee and sulk under the bed (where I put a mat) after I mug her to give her meds. She’s back to wanting to get up into bed with me now and then, although I have to reach down and pick her up. But the cushions from the love seat I’ve been trying for a year to get rid of now are on the floor next to her corner of the bed so she can safely get down when she wants. She spends part of the day on a plush mat in front of a cadet wall heater, and another part on a dryer-warmed plush bathrobe next to me when I’m watching television. I’m still waiting to get an estimate from her regular vet on a thyroid panel.

Email to family, March 7, 2022

Yesterday for dinner she wanted no part of the wet food, but she ate a full meal of dry over three hours. Last night I thought about whether she missed being able to get into bed with me, so I took the cushions from the damned couch I’ve been trying for over a year to get taken to the dump and put them down on the floor by her corner of the bed. Not long after she hid under the bed after I mugged her to give her meds, she appeared on a cushion wanting up, so I brought her up. She later got down on her own via the cushion just fine.

This morning she finished a dry breakfast in one sitting, and I’ve given her some lunch portions when she’s asked for it because right now I’m not going to deny her extra meals. I’ve been worrying about her water intake because I know she hasn’t been going to the dish, but I paused on concern while she was eating wet food. Days ago I’d taken the water dish down from the short table I use for it and put it on a lower cardboard box instead. This morning she want on her own to try to drink but it didn’t work too well; I had to hold her up by the chest so she could reach. Then I had a brainstorm and took an unused lid from one of those big blue Rubbermaid storage bins and put that down as a water bowl mat. Sure enough, she went right to the bowl and the raised li of the lid even helped keep her back legs in place. I almost cried.

Meanwhile she’s either somewhat less hobbled or else just adjusting/compensating somewhat. She did had an incident yesterday where her wobbly stance meant she had litter business stuck to her after getting out of the box, but today was litter switch day and we are back to the better litter which I think might do that less.

I’m still awaiting word back from her vet. If I don’t get something today I will call them tomorrow.

Did I mention that what they gave her to stimulate appetite is the same thing I’m prescribed for anxiety?

Email to friend who got the word out about the GoFundMe, March 7, 2022

It’s madness, for sure. I can’t tell if she’s, like, suffering at all or just frustrated. I sort of feel like it’s the latter. She’s definitely getting better at hobbling herself around the apartment for things like the litter box and today we together solved the water access problem, which is good because yesterday she decided she’d had enough of the wet food and wanted her regular dry and I was afraid she wasn’t going to drink.

Thanks again, again.

Email to family, March 8, 2022

So our regular vet can see us on Friday afternoon. It’s cheaper than a usual visit or an urgent care because it’s apparently considered a followup. If they also decide thyroid is the next step, then I hope people continue to hit up the re-opened fundraiser to cover Willow’s expenses because the quotes range the gave me started at like $160.

Between now and then we will see how her appetite is, since this morning was the last of her mirtazapine (although don’t think I haven’t at least pondered the fact that I literally take the same medication). There’s still pain meds left, so we’ll continue that although I doubt it will last to Friday (although like DoveLewis said, it’s not even clear if she’s having pain).

She is, weirdly, stumbling less over the past day, but it’s tough to tell if that’s the cause lessening or her adjusting the rest of her body to compensate. All I know is she can walk more of a straight line than she could on Saturday/Sunday.

GoFundMe update, March 9, 2022

Willow is napping while I use funds raised after I reopened this fundraiser while we were at DoveLewis last Friday to pay off the entirety of the Scratchpay loan I had to take out on the spot to pay that bill. She’s got a trip to her regular vet this Friday for a followup and to discuss next steps. The last couple of days she is getting around better on her still-unexplained stumbly hindquarters, but I’ve no way to know if the cause is lessening or if she’s just learning to compensate. She’s getting herself to the litter and the water, and no longer insists every time that I bring food to her rather than her come to food. (Only some of the time.)

Email to family, March 11, 2022

Visit fee, thyroid test in-house, urinalysis out to lab, plus something called “joint support” is about $200. They are re-upping her pain meds prescription but that’s not in-house so if the pet pharmacy calls me and it’s too much I can call back the vet and discus. A bunch of this was way cheaper than the original estimates I got before this appointment.

She wants to do X-rays and I understand why but that isn’t a thing anyone was pushing me to agree to pay for today so I didn’t do those. Also didn’t do a laser treatment although it’s not hugely expensive. I am getting quotes for later pondering.

This doctor also is a naturopathic vet and has offered things like acupuncture, which I might be willing later on to give a whirl for Willow because it’s also pretty inexpensive.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 11, 2022

One thing I forgot to ask the doctor is, given the various things that could pop out on x-rays, what are the actual treatments that would flow from those possibilities? Setting aside that I can’t even think about finding another $400 for the x-rays anyway right this moment, I would like to know what the post x-ray potentials are.

Email to family & to therapist, March 11, 2022

Still no definitive answer on Willow. Thyroid test fine, urinalysis results in a day or two. Vet says same as DoveLewis: x-rays would be next, but also be like another $400, which just isn’t even thinkable right now. So we continue the pain meds, and she prescribed some other joint relief type stuff, and I just try to keep her going until some magical day when I can pay from x-rays and hope she’s not making herself worse in the long meantime.

GoFundMe update, March 12, 2022

Willow had a follow-up with her regular vet clinic Friday. We still don’t know the cause of her stumbly hindquarters (I guess the official term is “ataxia”). Thyroid test came back fine; urinalysis results Monday but I don’t think anyone expects anything there. As with DoveLewis, the next step would be x-rays…which just isn’t going to happen anytime soon. I’m waiting on the vet to detail for me the possible things x-rays could point to and what the treatment plan would look like for those things. She’s back to having appetite trouble this weekend, so I have to find an answer there if nothing else. Meanwhile, on the topic this fundraiser began for, Meru’s dental surgery is coming up in just over a week. It will be interesting to try to juggle two cats dealing with things at the same time.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 13, 2022

Not sure if anyone checks emails when the clinic is closed but FWIW, Willow has regressed since Friday’s appointment. She went into that appointment alert, getting around, eating fully, and came out tired, stiff, and no longer interested in eating much. Not sure what to do here.

Email to family, March 13, 2022

Willow went into Friday’s vet trip bright, alert, getting around, wanting attention, wanting food, and has regressed since the appointment. Tireder, stiffer, and no longer interested in eating much. Not sure what the hell happened. It was like a switch got thrown. Going to try some different food additive (chicken stock, fish oil, grated Parmesan) and see if anything induces her to eat.

Email to therapist, March 13, 2022

Not sure what’s happening here, but I’m sort of flailing about it. Willow went into Friday’s vet trip bright, alert, getting around, wanting attention, wanting food, and has regressed since the appointment. Tireder, stiffer, and no longer interested in eating much. Not sure what the hell happened. It was like a switch got thrown. Going to try some different food additive (chicken stock, fish oil, grated Parmesan) and see if anything induces her to eat. If she were a human, I’d ask her if being dragged to another exam and then coming home to her current boring life had made her decide to just give up a little.

Email to family, March 13, 2022

She’s decided that human tuna is worth eating. I have wondered if she was just sort of retreating for awhile after a vet visit that involved poking prodding blood draws catheterizing for urine test and even toe pinching for pain response and moving her kneecaps around to see if they are loosening. I mean, I might just sort of surrender to fate for a day or two after that too.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 14, 2022

As much as I would like to say yes, neither I, nor my family, nor the people who already put up $2500 for Meru and Willow in the past month can afford x-rays.

I was actually hoping for a bit more in the way of detail. I know no one has any idea what exactly might show up in x-rays, but surely there’s some notion of the sorts of things that could be causing this problem and therefore the sorts of treatments involved.

I’ll be honest here, as much as this makes me hate myself for being a failure: I have to start considering surrendering her to Oregon Humane in order to find her someone who isn’t considered worthless my society and who therefore is allowed to have the resources to pay for all these tests and all the eventual treatment.

But I do not want to go into that possible conversation without knowing the potential routes for the future of her care needs. I need more specific answers.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 14, 2022

Willow changes daily. Starting to be at a loss. She’s been fighting the Gabapentin session for the past couple of days and as I write this at 11:36pm I still haven’t been able to give her the next dose because she howled and wailed and hissed.

Email to therapist, March 14, 2022

Having a cat-relayed nervous breakdown. It’s 11:37pm and Willow won’t let me give her the next oral dose of pain meds because she flails, howls, wails, and hisses, all of which only involves moving the parts of her that already hurt and need the pain meds.

GoFundMe update, March 15, 2022

[…] (Willow, meanwhile, is increasingly fighting me when it’s time for her oral liquid pain meds. Yesterday she started howling, wailing, and hissing; it’s unclear how much is frustration with being mugged and how much is actual physical discomfort from having to be picked up and restrained a bit in order for me to medicate her.)

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 18, 2022

So, this is all getting…stranger.

Earlier this week, after she shook off the funk she fell into from Friday’s exhaustive examination, she started fighting me at meds time. To the point where I had to stop trying to give her the pain meds at all. Over the course of the week, we still are having ups and downs in terms of getting in two full meals a day, but (here’s the strange part), I literally just watched her walk across the apartment from one end to the other, in a straight line, with no wobbling or stumbling, just some slowness and maybe stiffness. I have no idea what is happening.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital & GoFundMe update, March 19, 2022

So the Willow mystery continues and just gets more mysterious. Last weekend she spent sulking and forlorn, almost like she just didn’t want to bother anymore, but I think it was the invasiveness of that Friday’s vet followup. Then this week she started fighting against being given her oral liquid pain meds to the point that I had to stop trying to give them to her. Since then, she’s been less hobbly/stumbly and more just slow and stiff. And what you see here is me returning from the store to find her having gotten herself into the window on her own for the first time in three or four weeks.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 21, 2022

Right. As indicated multiple times previously, there’s no money for any more diagnostics.

And as indicated in the message below and the update I sent more recently over the weekend, she continues to just get around stiffly and even managed to climb a couch to get to the cat tree where she likes to lookout the window for the first time in three or four weeks. I wouldn’t, of course, say she’s “all good now”, but she’s doing most of her normal things (inc. having an appetite, drinking water, getting to the litter box, and now getting to a window), just slowly.

But, at any rate, I’m just keeping her vet in the loop. Further tests are just, alas, entirely out of the financial question, for the foreseeable future.

Thanks.

Email to family, March 25, 2022

And so of course it’s Friday night and Willow is in discomfort, I think from constipation (which was an issue at her followup with the regular vet after DoveLewis). Can’t get comfortable and every 15-20 minutes has a meowing fit. This despite having voided mushy poop just this morning.

Email to family, March 25, 2022

I was already instructed to give her Miralax but that’s dependent upon her being willing to drink whatever I bring her to have it in. That’s often a no-go.

Email to family, March 26, 2022

So I might need to go do another Scratchpay loan at DoveLewis. Willow just made the list ghastly sounds between waking up and walking to the litter box, and I don’t think she went very much. Maybe one or two pieces of poop. I’m about to try to mug her to get a miralax dose into her via oral syringe but she’s going to fight me and she’s clearly not drinking enough water to loosen things up.

Email to family, March 26, 2022

The cool thing is this means I will miss Meru’s final pain meds dose tonight, so I basically have to choose which cat is in potential pain.

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 26, 2022

So I think I am headed to DoveLewis again, this time because I can’t seem to get her into a willingness to both eat and drink properly and she’s constipated again to the point of howling while walking from her bed to the litter box and then not really getting much if anything out. She even screamed bloody murder just from picking her up a bit to get her into a position where I could mug her to give her a Miralax dose.

Email to therapist, March 26, 2022

I may be about to have something of a nervous breakdown, as I’m having a crisis of executive function around Willow clearly having trouble going to the bathroom, to the point of earlier howls like a hurt dog, but I’m stuck in a spiral of do I go to DoveLewis and go into Scratchpay debt or do I just try to give her pain meds and fluids from an oral syringe if she won’t drink anything herself, and I feel like there comes a point at which things hit a complexity threshold beyond which my need for structure and predictability is stymied, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.

GoFundMe update, March 26, 2022

So I am back at DoveLewis with Willow, who is so constipated she howls like a hurt dog when moving around too much (I first noticed when she was heading to the litter box this afternoon; I’d thought the sound was a hurt dog outside.) I’m not reopening donations because this fundraiser’s income already caused a brief kerfuffle with my health and food benefits. I’ll either be taking on debt via Scratchpay or somehow convincing DoveLewis to use some of their financial assistance programs.

Email to family, March 27, 2022

It was ten hours before they only just now came to get Willow to take her into the back and get vitals.

Email to family, March 27, 2022

So because I’d been there longer than anyone else and it was still going to be a few hours, DoveLewis paid for a Lyft back home in the meantime, and will pay for a Lyft back when it’s time to get her. (The final trip home I do myself, but that would have been true anyway.) Which means Meru gets all the stuff she needs, and I get to semi-recharge.

Email to family, March 27, 2022

Headed back to DoveLewis after they paid to Lyft me home for a bit and then Lyft me back. About an hour ago one of the vets called me to go over the recent history, the current situation, and basically the two options since extensive/expensive new tests are a no-go: either decide there’s enough quality of life in finding a pain/appetite/constipation regimen, or decide there isn’t and have that conversation. (The third option is doing that second one but only as a bridge to seeing if Oregon Humane can find someone who can afford to pursue the testing/treatment path that I can’t pursue.)

Email to family, March 27, 2022

I came back in when I did because I wanted to continue the conversation face to face. Willow will be coming back home with pain meds, appetite meds, and constipation meds and the vet is going to round up some information/checklist stuff to try to give me some more structure while we see how she does on these meds.

Even success on these meds might still mean having to go to OHS to try to turn her over for re-adoption, depending on the cost on ongoing meds, but I have to give one last try to turn her around.

Website update & blog post, March 27, 2020

I think there comes a point at which things hit a complexity threshold beyond which my autistic need for structure and predictability is stymied, and a cognitive claustrophobia traps me in cascading executive function failures. If I’m not already at that point, I’m orbiting it like a companion star spiraling the gravity well of a singularity. I’d a waking moment very, very recently whose dissociation felt exactly, and I mean exactly, like I was amidst a nightmare and could not make myself wake.

Email to family, March 28, 2022

So, we got home at 1am or so and he got pain and and constipation meds, and then took herself to her corner bed in the living room, groomed and went to sleep.

This morning at 6:30 I am thrown out of bed by the howlmoan. Sure enough she’s in the litter hallway lying down, I watch her get to the box and urinate, pass maybe a single poop, and then go somewhere else. MY body literally was about to drop from exhaustion so I could only go back to sleep.

Just now around 10:15 I slid her on her bed under my bed just to see how she’s doing and give her some attention before springing morning meds on her, and she pulled herself from that spot to the cat bed in the bottom of my nightstand and she howlmoaned the entire time, for all one foot of the move, and then settled into silence.

Yesterday at the vet the doctor said she didn’t howlmoan the entire time she was there. I am not sure, now, that I believe that, although yes she spent the entire ten hours we were in the waiting room just quiet and napping in the carrier.

While I’m going to try to get her net round of pain and laxative meds into her, I am taking her current quiet to focus on getting some kind of breakfast in, and to settle my mind before dealing with the open, pressing question (which, yes, the vet and I talked about along with everything else).

Email to family, March 28, 2022

Her vet and I have a plan which I will explain later. It did basically center around seeking a special needs rehoming.

Email to family & to therapist, March 28, 2022

Yesterday and this morning looked a lot like the “end of life” conversation was coming due and she fought against being in the carrier the whole walk to the vet and then in the exam room she’s all attentive and lapping up Churu tube treats, and both me and the vet were like “okay, what the hell, this is not a cat you put down”, and in the end we are targeting a surrender to PHS for re-homing.

The long and short of it is that even absent further diagnostics, her ongoing every day care, especially since she has trouble with having bathroom stuff stick to her because of her back leg ataxia and/or peeing on herself, pushes beyond the limits of my OCD and executive dysfunction to deal with.

Email to family, March 28, 2022

Meanwhile today I got to watch someone give acupuncture to a cat, and they were fairly impressed with how well Willow handled it. (Apparently my vet sometimes has people who had pets undergoing acupuncture but the pets pass and they “donate” the unused acupuncture time; so my vet wanted to put he on the book for a couple weeks from now and see if they have any donated unused acupuncture time.)

Email to Cathedral Animal Hospital, March 28, 2022

Thanks. I’ve got it all into my Reminders app now.

Also, tell the doc that I sat down and submitted Oregon Humane’s “Pet Personality Profile” form, which is their first step in their “Rehoming Your Pet Through OHS” process. It could be days or weeks, I guess, before I hear from them, depending on their workload.

Email to family, March 28, 2022

It will take days or weeks for OHS to even get back to me. I have to take care of her in the meanwhile.

Here’s thing about life before the retroactive continuity provided by a diagnosis: all the failures and failings of your life are your own fault. The failure and the failing is you. You spend those decades knowing there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. You embody a deep and abiding shame, even if you don’t outwardly place it for others on obvious display.

Here’s the thing about life after the retroactive continuity provided by a diagnosis: the shame doesn’t just disappear. It fights for continued life because it wasn’t something just sort of loosely laid atop who you are, it’s embedded, entwined like mycorrhiza into your root system, passing messages of self-hatred back and forth between yourself and your experience of the world.

You know, intellectually, in this moment five years and some change beyond your diagnosis, after two years of therapy operating generally although for a long time not explicitly from a position of self-compassion, that coming to understand and to grips with your own limitations and working to preclude them from inflicting harm upon others is neither failing nor failure. We don’t, though, always or ever, really, live intellectually.

For today, and the coming days, I am going to focus on the detailed and specific medication schedule I asked our regular vet to write down for me, because I simply (“simply”) couldn’t get my brain to work it out. I am not even going to think about the possibility that Oregon Humane might deem Willow “medically unsuitable for adoption through OHS”. I am however inevitably going to feel as if I’ve failed her because it’s no longer simply (“simply”) about being financially incapable of pursuing further diagnostics or long-term care but about the fact that my neurodevelopmental impairments make me incapable of properly shouldering the burden of that long-term care. I can know that this is not a failure and a failing on my part but also not understand it, in the sense that standing under a thing is very different than simple (“simple”) knowledge.

This is not the surrender with which I believed I likely had begun the day, but it’s a surrender nonetheless, both to the realities of my own impairments, be they a thing, or not, which places me at fault, and, hopefully, to the path forward of some new family with both the financial and the psychic wherewithal to live with her through her next steps, whatever they may be.

I’ll re-read these words later, and think how healthy they sound, and they do. I’ll re-read them later, someday, to capture that sense of them, because that’s not right now how I’m understanding (standing under) the reality that is today. Right now today is hard, and today although she doesn’t know it is the start of my no longer being able to give her what she needs. Today I understand that only as failure, and as failing, whether or not that’s how I come to know it in some other, later now.