Friday, October 29, 2010

A Stressful Day With Some Good News

Since Hermes died of FeLV, we made an appointment to test Katrina for the same illness. She had it yesterday.

The good news: She doesn't have FeLV. Or heartworms, or some other things outdoor cats are at risk for. Nor does she have any abnormal physical signs apart from mild obesity - for a 10 year old cat, she's in excellent condition. And now, she's been vaccinated against FeLV, rabies and a bunch of other things, and they made us give her a de-worming pill just in case. (Though if she does have worms, I wonder how fat she'd be without them!)

I also found out several other things. The recent cold spell is enough to make a double-coated cat shiver, even in a heated car. Katrina sometimes drools when she's extremely upset. She doesn't like car rides, she doesn't like unfamiliar places, and she absolutely hates our cat carrier.

She also has a very strong hatred of vetrinary exams. Rectal thermometers and palpating kidneys appear to be her two least favorite parts of it, and she's willing to threaten biting to get the vet to stop. (It didn't work, though I got to see how good that vet is at dodging.) She's also leery of unfamiliar dogs, even if they are fellow patients.

But if you don't do anything weird to her, she's perfectly fine with a stranger petting her, even when she's very stressed out. And clinging to my shoulder gives her a lot of comfort, though her stress-related shedding really sets off my allergies. She doesn't try to bolt when in an unfamiliar place, instead she cautiously explores while keeping near me.

I also found out how stressful it can be, for someone as close to cats as I am, to spend most of the day with a stressed out, very expressive cat they've formed a strong bond with.

She needs a booster shot in 4 weeks. That'll be interesting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


It seems to be really common for advocacy movements to develop Bingo sheets about what the 'other side' tends to say. has several here, and I kind of like them. But those Bingo sheets often give me an uneasy feeling.

And just now, I got an idea of why.

First, the background. I'm working on a story set in a universe where many mythological 'other worlds' - Faerieland, Heaven, Hell, Midgard, Olympus, etc - actually exist, as do many different gods. And then there's the Trickster, who is a mostly-neutral agent of chaos, just making sure that things keep changing. The Trickster isn't immortal, however, so he has to chose a successor, and he gets his six children to each try to change the world, in any way they choose. There's probably going to be a book about each of the kids, although it depends on how well they motivate me.

Anyway, I just had an idea, of saying that wisakecahk was the first Trickster, and based on this, one of the Trickster's kids decides to befriend a Cree girl and recruit her as a teammate. It's a spark of an idea that could help set me off into writing that story. But I'm worried that people will be offended by me, a white person, writing about Cree mythology.

So I was searching for stuff about cultural appropriation, and I found the Cultural Appropriation Bingo card. And I realized that several of the things on that card (arts always borrows, asked a person from that culture, doing it respectfully and contradiction with criticism of Anglo-centrism) are things I consider to be valid points. And the problem is, that card doesn't say anything about why they disagree with those arguments. It just says not to use those arguments.

For a person who does not know the issue, is not a part of the group affected by the issue, but earnestly wants to be respectful and understand their perspective, those Bingo cards are no help. They just attack, and shut down dialogue. I can see the usefulness of those cards for self-advocates, because those really are arguments used over and over, and realizing that can help take the sting from them - but some people really believe those arguments. And those people may want to understand why you disagree, may want to be an ally. Just telling them to not make those arguments does nothing to help them understand why not.

Now, some people may say 'it's not our duty to explain ourselves to others'. And sure, a random autistic or Native person or whatever group should not be expected to give impromptu lectures to the privileged on their differences. But if you put yourself out there and decide to be an activist, then you should be expected to explain. Not anything people ask, but those things that are relevant to your message. Furthermore, if you don't explain yourself, how can you expect them to understand you?

Monday, October 25, 2010

My website

I had a website on Geocities, now it's gone. So I finally got my spoons together and started work on a new website.

Here it is.

I don't know how many people who read this blog have seen my website. If you had, or based on the below list, what do think is most important to restore?

I had:
  • some information about what it's like to have PDA
  • an incomplete database about various disabilities and differences
  • a collection of opinion articles, mostly about disability rights

And do you know of anything else that you'd really like to see?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Story Perspectives

One of my ambitions in life is to write a story from the perspective of a nonverbal or minimally verbal person, who does not find an effective substitute to speech (except possibly at the very end of the story). And preferably have it be a story that would be suitable for a child or teenager to read.

I had an idea, for one autistic kid I knew, of finding a book about someone like him, and reading it to him to see if he'd show interest. I looked all around, and didn't find anything, apart from autobiographies.

One thing that has brought me great joy, is being able to find stories about people like me. The Wind Singer by William Nicholson has Kestrel, the protagonist, who has the same fear of being controlled and passion for what's right that I have. Other stories have kids who've grown up knowing they were different but with that difference being obscure and hard to pinpoint. Even when their personalities don't fit me as closely as Kestrel's, I resonate with their view of difference. And I'd like there to be stories for the kids with more obvious differences, as well.

But it's not easy for me to write these stories. I'm very verbal, and like many authors, I tend to unconsciously model characters after myself. I need to think of a good story to tell, that needs a nonverbal protagonist to tell it.

And for some reason, many of the ideas I do have for stories like that, are stories I wouldn't want to read to a child. A child being abused because she's a changeling, or a villain protagonist who's been depowered and is trying to cope. They'd be great stories, interesting stories, but they are fairly dark, and a child might find them upsetting.

So I'll keep thinking. Just as I was writing this, I had another great idea. Given my fascination with ghosts, why not write about a ghost who can't talk? I'll ponder that, and see what evolves.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Feline Leukemia Virus

The results have come back - we know what killed Hermes. It was Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV).

FeLV is a retrovirus, like HIV, and like HIV it can lie dormant for many years. As far as we can tell, Hermes was probably already infected when we first met him. It can be transmitted by grooming, biting, sharing a litter box or food/water (rarely), or nursing. Therefore, our other cat has been exposed, as has our neighbor's cat, and a cat we fostered while fostering Hermes. I hope none of them were infected. We'll be notifying our neighbors of the results soon, and have contacted the rescue program Hermes came from as well.

FeLV can apparently cause a variety of problems. It's the most common cause of cancer in cats. It also suppresses the immune system, leading to opportunistic infections. And it can impair the creation of new blood cells, causing anemia. The last issue appears to be what caused Hermes's death. An estimated .5% of all cats have persistent FeLV infection, while at least a third have antibodies against it (meaning they were exposed but successfully beat the virus). A vaccination is available (Hermes was actually vaccinated, which is why we think he got it before then - vaccination is useless if the cat is already infected). It's more common among city cats, since they're exposed to more cats, and especially common among feral cats (Hermes was caught at the site of a feral cat colony).

Information about FeLV:

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

My Dear Friend Hermes

We got him from a cat rescue program. In retrospect, I'm not sure he should have been taken from his home - he was a very tame, very affectionate kitten who had a habit of wandering and lived in a rough neighborhood - but since that allowed us to meet him, I don't complain too much.

When I first saw him, I leapt on him and held him, exclaiming about how cute he was. I'm sure I overwhelmed him, but I couldn't help it. Once I calmed down somewhat, we started on the process of becoming friends.

He was so playful and quirky, like most kittens are. I'd send bottlecaps, quarters or small balls sliding across the floor, and he'd race after them, not bothering to be quiet. He used to run into the empty tub and chase his tail there, until we realized he'd taken to licking our toothbrushes and banned him from the bathroom. He had a habit of overcoming his fears - if something scared him, he'd avoid it for awhile, and then he'd become obsessed with it. He did this with our basement, for example.

He, quite simply, loved everyone, regardless of species. If a human came to visit, he'd come up and say hi (the only one he shied away from was the vet). My Mom let him play with our pet rats, and he'd pounce on their tails and lick them obsessively, but never hurt them. He took to new cats upon meeting them. When we moved him to our small town home and introduced him to our cranky tortoiseshell, she disliked him, but he gradually won her over.

And as he grew, he got more affectionate. He still had a habit of doing 'drive by cuddles', as we called them, but more and more he'd do long cuddles as well, or join us in bed. And he purred often and readily.

But something happened. We're still not quite sure what. For a few days, he had a bruise on his nose and was acting unusually nervous. I guessed that he'd hurt his nose and this had scared him, and tried my best to comfort him. He seemed to be getting better, and we let him go back outside again.

Then we left for our weekend visit with Mom (she is working in another town, so we have to have two households). After one of our previous cats got hit by a car while we were away, we'd decided to make the cats stay inside when we were gone, but we couldn't find him. Hoping he was just hiding, we finally decided to leave.

When we got back, we searched for him, but still couldn't find him. Then our elderly, hard of hearing neighbor, who has a cat of her own, came over. She told us that he often came to visit her, and she'd play with him. She told us that while we were gone, he came to see her and he was not feeling well - listless and unhappy. She made him a box to curl up in, and tried to give him food, but he wouldn't eat it. She didn't have any way to contact us, but she did her best to care for him. And then he died, and she put him in a metal box and left him on our property. She showed us where.

We don't know what killed him. He might have been hit by a car. Another neighbor of ours has a rat infestation, and he might have eaten a poisoned rat. It's the right time of year for anti-freeze spills, too. We don't know what happened to him, and we don't know if our other cat and our neighbor's cat are safe.

So both us and our neighbor are keeping the surviving cats inside. And we've taken his body to the necropsy lab at the vet's, so they can tell us what killed him. But the answer won't bring back my dear friend. He's gone forever, taken from us in his prime.