Posted in Anxiety and Depression, Life, Pets

Pandemic Pets

In March of 2019, our old, evil cat, Ember (my Kittyface McGrouchypants), finally passed on after a fairly quick decline. We had a feeling the writing was on the wall when she started having trouble jumping up even half a foot to get on the bed or use the litterbox properly (she did try, at least), but she finally reached a point where she couldn’t lie down without help, could barely get up without help, eventually had to be confined to a bathroom with her litterbox, and was just so old and miserable that we couldn’t let her continue like that. So we took her to the vet for her last appointment, and she was off to reign Kitty Hell for all eternity as their new queen… (We joke, but she was my cuddly cat for 18 and a half years, and I did kind of miss her. Kind of. She made our lives somewhat hellish in the end, but nevertheless interesting. She’d always hated the kids, and really anything else that wasn’t me or string cheese. We probably weren’t as sad as we would have been if she’d died more tragically or younger.)

In August of 2019, we put down our 12(ish) year old Golden Retriever, because the writing was on the wall for her, as well, and we could not put her through the next few months of prolonged pain and suffering in order to just keep her alive out of obligation and guilt. She was beginning to have trouble going up and down the stairs; struggled to get up after laying down for hours, waiting for us to get home, on a hard floor because she was incontinent and we couldn’t keep her anywhere else in the house but barricaded near the door downstairs; had constant UTIs and ear infections, despite all the antibiotics (and mitigating tactics to keep down yeast overgrowth); and, finally, a panel of scans and bloodwork came back looking dire (and needing more expensive scans to diagnose what looked very much like something fatal, before even more expensive therapeutics to slow down what was going to kill her eventually, anyway). We were about to hit a point in my husband’s career that might have made it difficult to pay for vet bills, and we were going to be gone from the house for long periods of time in the following months. If she lost the use of her legs, I wasn’t going to be able to get her in and out of the house while my husband was gone, and she was going to spend more and more time alone on a hard floor, because we couldn’t trust her on carpet. Besides that, if she stopped being able to go up and down stairs, she’d have to live downstairs, away from everyone, and that was just not the quality of life we wanted for her. We just had to make a decision that is hard to make for a pet, but in the end is the best decision for them.

The next few months were the first time my husband and I had been pet-free since early marriage (we’d only been married four months when we got Ember). It was…liberating, to say the least. We didn’t think we wanted pets for awhile, especially since we didn’t know what the future held for us, job- or location-wise, and if my husband was frequently TDY for work or school and the kids and I had a lot to do outside the house, it just made sense to not get more animals that needed time and attention we might not be able to give them.

Then the lockdowns hit, and we were ALL home, ALL the time. My husband was suddenly working from home. Everything we were supposed to do outside the house was cancelled. Anxiety grew, Suddenly, I s[]tarted craving animals — walking in areas of my rural “neighborhood” (outside my housing mnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[

(No no! Too early! I’m not ready to introduce you yet! GET AWAY FROM MY COFFEE!!)

Ahem, AS I WAS SAYING…

Anxiety grew, emotional flooding became more frequent, and if I managed to get outside for a walk (the only form of exercise I had access to or space for at the time), I would hope that by visiting other housing developments in my area, maybe there would be some dogs that would come out and say hi and let me pet them, or walkers who didn’t mind me petting their furry companions (of the four-legged variety — lord knows there are a lot of shaggy, unshaven humans out right now, too). My kids and husband might have been getting pretty fuzzy, with no opportunities for haircuts, but they didn’t exactly purr when I tried to hug them (especially my youngest, who makes dodging affection a competitive sport).

So we started talking about getting a dog, and maybe a cat. Or a cat, and maybe a dog. Or a couple of cats, and eventually a dog. Cats would be simpler, we figured, because trying to get our yard laid out with a fence and landscaping was something that was going to take more time, and we wanted something sooner than that. So we looked through the adoption websites, waffled a bit, then finally made the decision to actively look for a pair of cats to adopt.

I’d found a couple on one site that were from a local Humane Society (nearer our hometown than the town we live in now, maybe 30 minutes away), but that particular Humane Society branch had the WORST Covid-avoidance schedule, to the point where we could be waiting months to meet any cats at all, and by that time, there wouldn’t be any left that we’d looked at online, let alone any kittens. They want you to check their appointment calendar (could differ, depending on the kind of animal you wanted to see — so you couldn’t even make an appointment to see all the animals) right after midnight on the day that is two days from the day you’d like to make an appointment, to see if any slots had opened. If the month was full, you would have to do this every day to get anything that month, because otherwise the calendar looked completely full. This was an unsustainable search for me, so I abandoned it, especially after the one cat I really wanted to meet was marked as adopted before I could even check the scheduler after midnight that day. They have a ton of cats for adoption listed on Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet, but I had to scroll past them all while searching, because I couldn’t put myself through that kind of Sisyphean torture every day.

My husband had been TDY to teach a class for two five-day sessions, but had agreed before he left that we could look into any cats I thought were interesting or worth meeting while he was gone. After that Humane Society cat hadn’t worked out, I decided to wait till he was done with that TDY, so we could all visit any potentials together. The Saturday morning after he got back from the final session, I called a local PetSmart to see if they had any animals we could view that day or that weekend (because not a single one of these stores post their policies for meeting any adoptable animals, and each store is different 🙄). They listed four cats, two of which were a pair of bonded female kittens — exactly what we were looking for. I tried to make an appointment to see the kittens, but apparently there was an adoption pending for them. They said they could put us on a waitlist, though, and call us if the adoption fell through. I said okay, expecting that those weren’t an option anymore. So I looked up another PetSmart that had a different viewing policy, about 20 minutes and a toll bridge away, and we all took a field trip to go see those kittens.

We didn’t get to that other PetSmart soon enough — all the kittens they had there were going to be adopted by the time we got to them, since we were about fourth in line and there were maybe two left that weren’t already pending. So we abandoned that idea and went back home. I was surprised by how sad I was for the rest of the day, even while I was kind of relieved — because were we really ready for kittens? Or cats? Or pets of any kind?

The next day, I had a total brain fritz. I mistakenly thought that, if the first PetSmart I’d tried to make an appointment with hadn’t called me by the time slot they gave me, we could still arrive for the appointment and view the other cats — maybe…if they were still there. I’d managed to locate the other cats they’d listed (young adults, maybe three years old), which were sheltered with a different local Humane Society, in a different county but actually closer than the one our hometown (maybe 10 minutes and a toll bridge away). Their appointment policies were far less stringent and unrealistic, so I thought that at least maybe we could get some information about them — either from PetSmart or any representatives they had there — in order to try out that shelter next (they didn’t describe their cats at all, other than age and how long they’d been at the shelter, so it was difficult to see whether the cats we were looking from there might get along with other cats, people, dogs, etc).

So we showed up at PetSmart at 1pm Sunday afternoon. They were short-staffed — as everyone is right now — and were kind of unsettled that we’d shown up when we didn’t actually have an appointment, after all, because we were on the waitlist. OOPS. My bad!

BUT! They did let us see the kittens, anyway, mainly because the adoption pending for them had been pending for some time, and we’d shown up just after things had calmed enough that their adoption-room person was free to help us out. I was totally thrilled — even if we didn’t get to adopt those kittens, getting to hold them for a bit would fill my cup for a little while. We were even allowed to fill out an application for them, in case the other adoption didn’t go through, and the gal said the owner of the shelter (a kitten rescue in yet a different county, kinda nearby) would call us if our application was accepted.

That night, the shelter owner did in fact call me, SO glad we went in that day to see the kittens — because she was literally about to go pick them up and take them back to the shelter, since they’d been at PetSmart for nine days already (I guess there was some time in there when they had to keep the kittens out of the normal adoption area, because one of them sneezed, and they needed to be kept under observation for a little while — or so I understand it). The shelter owner then asked the important screening questions they have for adopters: do you plan to keep them indoors, and are you okay with having two litterboxes in your house for the next 15-20 years (because they will be indoors)? Of course my answer was a resounding YES, because I do not want an indoor/outdoor cat and all the fun that comes along with that (worse than having two litterboxes in my house, honestly). Then she said that her liaison at PetSmart (she referenced him as a male, but we didn’t speak with any male employees, overt or otherwise, so we must have been surreptitiously observed by him somehow) had called her earlier that day, while she was on her way back from the eastern side of the state, to tell her we were the perfect couple for the kittens, with perfect kids — like, he was totally impressed with our children, especially. This, of course, warms my mother-heart, because we really did luck out in the kid department, even with all the food issues. 🙂

What a happy accident! We weren’t supposed to go in that day, but because of my mistake, they found the right applicants!

Anyway, we were advised to call PetSmart for the earliest possible time to do the rest of the paperwork, pay the adoption fees, and pick up the babies. I did that as soon as I hung up with her, and we made an appointment to pick them up the following day — Monday, at 5:30pm. That gave me time to find some supplies and clear out some space for the old, wire dog crate that we would keep them in at first and at night, until they got used to the house and we got used to them getting used to the house (the baby gate in front of the stairs lasted all of two days, before they were jumping it and escaping to the uncharted jungle that is our downstairs).

And now we have two of the most adorable, sweetest, relatively mellow kitty sisters, who don’t hate children and are just the best emotional therapy ever! This is good, as the days I can spend out in the sunshine are numbered, and the daylight hours are getting shorter every week. This winter could be rough if we’re still dealing with lockdowns and face-shaming, but I suppose it will be less hectic, since almost everything we used to be involved with is either postponed or cancelled. More time to spend with purry furballs, I guess!

As you could see earlier, they are very curious about the computer, and like to walk on the keys and drink my coffee if I leave my desk. But they are super snuggly and purry and funny, and the best decision we’ve made this year. 🙂

Meet Nelly and Nova! (Those are the names they had at the shelter, and we liked them so we didn’t bother to change them.)

Nelly wants the camera
Nova’s widdle cheetah face and tiny paw.
Nova steps on Nelly’s face — “Get out of my close-up, sis!”
Nelly sleeping like a jungle cat
Purring in stereo earlier this morning, while I gave up any hope of doing anything two-handed for the next half-hour. Nova is behind me and I’m holding Nelly. This is bliss.

(Comments open on this post, because, well, KITTENS.)

Posted in Anxiety and Depression, Blogging, Life

Hindsight Has Been, and Always Shall Be, 2020

Here’s a quote from my last post:

Anyway, I hope 2020 is short on deaths, but long on growth. If I make any resolutions, I might post them. One of them is to blog more in 2020. But I think I’ve been recycling that one for years. Oh well! Maybe this is the year I actually achieve it?

Here’s another one!

It’s amazing what one can adapt to, given the need. I might not like the need, but I have no power over it, so I must accept it and adapt. And keep a sense of humor — if I don’t laugh, I cry. And I hate crying.

I’ve had to do a lot of personal journaling this year, because it’s just not safe to post opinions right now — and I’m so emotionally drained that even thinking about inviting debate by posting my own opinions is exhausting. This lockdown (aka “quarantine”) has been a big challenge, and I’m just not going to get into the particular reasons why here.

What I am going to talk about are the effects of this challenge. How all those behavioral (and physical) achievements I managed to just barely unlock last year are all but gone now. I have no regular exercise outlet anymore, nothing resembling a routine, and I haven’t been singing. I’ve actually felt a bit like I’m circling a drain — and I’m not even someone who’s economic livelihood has been affected, like so many who’ve been forced to close for months.

But, hey, my husband is home 24-7 now and has a steady job, and while I am grateful for more time with him (and more time for him to spend with the boys) and financial security, it was a big adjustment all at once. I’m somewhat grateful for the forced rest now that everything is cancelled, but it was not a choice I got to make by myself, and it only increased the anxiety and depression I’d managed to keep at bay. I had to fight resentment that I was suddenly less free to go do things sans children almost as soon as my husband got home, due to the statewide lockdown, because I’d been looking forward to going out with friends, hanging out alone in a coffee shop to write without guilt that the boys are at a babysitter or their grandparents’ AGAIN so I can get some alone time, and not spending so much extra time and mental energy being “on” all the time. It is sort of nice that I can more easily leave the boys home and go to the store for as long as I need to, but that small freedom has been stripped of its joy and doubled in anxiety, due to the thick layers of fear and judgment the public now bear toward each other.

On top of all that, my first year teaching choir didn’t get a final performance, and I will never get to have that same group of kids together to sing the songs they wanted to, or show off the work they’d put in. Granted, I will get most of them back next year — and more! I have twelve kids signed up so far — but I’ve decided on a different approach, especially since my oldest kids are 12 and my youngest is 7 (probably 8 in the Fall). It won’t be singing gorgeous harmonies and complex rhythms, but it will be fun. I want kids to fall in love with choral music.

But choirs are suddenly being viewed as vectors for disease, which, while true (and has always been true), feels slanderous and is exceptionally depressing. And our Symphony organization — just barely recovering from a major financial crisis a year ago — is now back on the brink, with very little revenue coming in until at least 2021 that is not donated or loaned.

On a happy note, this has forced us to become extremely creative in how we try to present music, but the virtual model will exclude a large number of those who are just not technically inclined, who have now all but lost their creative and/or social outlet. I am generally technically inclined, and will be able to produce virtual concert material — but it will never be the same as learning together and performing en masse, and that hurts a little.

I’ve been going through phases of feeling relatively normal again, but it doesn’t take a lot to start spiraling. I guess I used to bleed off a lot of excess emotional energy in exercise, social activity, and singing, and haven’t been able to do that, so I’ve been having gigantic mood swings with nowhere for those big feelings to go. And I realized today, while learning a virtual-choir song for the first time in months — I’ve barely sung anything for months — the lyrics of which are meant to bring comfort for singers and listeners, it will be a challenge to not get emotional while recording it. It embodies all the reasons choirs exist in the first place.

Anyway, I am currently struggling against my lack of motivation to try to channel any skills I have toward more personal goals: More writing and getting back in touch with my writing buddies, warming my voice back up again and braving my own individual musical pursuits (alone and in collaboration with my husband’s current music endeavors and those of my brilliant BFF, as well as virtual choral opportunities), purging my house of the metric crap-ton of clutter in every corner, and picking up some potentially lucrative new hobbies that my family can participate in, as well.

But I need to train my brain and body to welcome these changes as good, exciting new adventures, even when I’m mourning the loss of my former activities. Not that all are lost, but it’s going to be a very different rest of this year, especially since society lives in such divisive fear right now.

Anyway, I felt moved to write about it, and found the last post’s final paragraph a little ironic. So here we are.

In other news, I’ve been cooking a lot, we’ve saved tons of money in gasoline and bridge tolls alone (just as we’re making more money with Husband’s promotion), I’ve been growing plants inside, and I have a hammock I can retreat to in the backyard when it’s warm and sunny. In fact, I think I might head out there now… Bye.

🌞