Almost two weeks ago, our cat, Jabberwocky, lost the ability to walk. His back legs stopped working. He could drag himself around a bit with his front legs, but his hind end was dead weight. This happened, as these things always do, late at night. I was already asleep. My husband had just come to bed when he heard Jabber yowling at the bottom of the stairs. He wanted to come up, but couldn’t. We took him to the emergency animal hospital and handed him off to a vet tech. Because of Covid restrictions, we had to wait in the car in the parking lot. That night, temperatures in Denver dropped to single digits. The vets at the emergency clinic had no answers. They loaded Jabber up with painkillers, though he showed no real signs of pain. They referred us to a neurologist, someone we could see the next day. The neurologist said the problem might be due to a number of factors, but it was most likely the result of a thromboembolism—a blood clot. Jabber might be permanently partially paralyzed or the blood clot might dissolve and he would recover. We would have to wait and see. He told us to come back in a week. We should know more by then.
This was very good news.
During the nearly two days he spent at the neurologist (and, honestly, I know how ridiculous it sounds to talk about a neurologist for a cat), my husband and I researched pet euthanasia services. We wouldn’t keep him alive just to suffer. We had already come to terms with the loss of our cat. We had already begun grieving. But then we got the instruction to “wait and see.”
We waited. The first few days were not encouraging. He struggled to use a litter box, unable to lift himself out of his own mess. We took to bathing him with baby wipes. We did so much laundry. Jabber slept a lot. He woke only to eat or to struggle to relieve himself. Our dog stayed by his side, often resting her head on his body. She worried when we crated him at night. She whined and paced. Well, I said to my husband, it doesn’t look good, but at least we have one more week with him. At least we don’t have the make the decision in a panic in the middle of the night. At least he isn’t in pain.
For several days, nothing changed, but about 24 hours before our follow-up appointment, Jabber stood and took a few steps. Later I got some ice cream and he came to my side, begging for a taste. Look at that, we said. We haven’t seen that before. Still, we expected the worst. How could he possibly rise up from such a low point? How could he recover from such a traumatic injury? How could anyone?
This was on election night.
We watched our cat lurch gracelessly, as we viewed the election results. One disappointment after another. Florida. The Mississippi Senate race. The Kentucky Senate race. The South Carolina Senate race. The confirmation that, yes, a huge number of Americans fully support racism. The realization that this thing was going to drag on for a while. But there were a few positive moments. Here in Colorado, Cory Gardner went down early and John Hickenlooper is now our Senator-elect. Colorado said no to an abortion ban, yes to paid family and medical leave. Watching the news was like watching our cat: grim, but interspersed with moments of hope.
At the cat’s appointment the next morning, the vet was thrilled with his progress. He confirmed that Jabber was not in pain and said we should cease giving him any painkillers, which were probably just making him sleepy. Further, he noted increased strength in his back legs. He said he believed Jabber would recover. He would walk again, maybe with a little limp, but he would walk. We just had to be patient. We just had to wait.
So that’s what we’re doing now. We’re waiting and watching. Last night, he felt well enough to walk out to our front porch, where he tried to eat the dog’s food. He can’t walk more than a few steps without flopping over and, honestly, he moves like a drunk. But the vet says that’s temporary. He’ll get stronger. He may not ever be as rambunctious or active as he was before, but he’ll have a good life. This is a happy cat, the vet told my husband.
We’re waiting and watching this presidential election too. We’re cautiously hopeful about Arizona and Nevada. We’re surprised by news from Georgia. We’re trying not to worry about Pennsylvania and North Carolina. We’re practicing patience, looking for signs that our country can stand up again. I know it won’t happen quickly. We might continue to limp for a good long time. But I look forward to the day when we stand up and lift ourselves clear of the incredible mess we’ve made, when we begin to wash away the filth of the current administration, when we begin to heal.
I haven’t lost hope. Not yet.