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In a pickle

 There is a woman I sometimes see walking underground through the QVB. She uses two crutches and swings her legs (together) forward to walk. I’m sure when meeting someone with a disability, one of the first thoughts would be regarding the physical exhaustion just to get around each day. Yet sometimes I think the mental tiredness is just as bad. The thoughts and planning never cease. As an able bodied person if I want to go check out an art store – I just do. Worry-wart that I am I tend to get concerned about where I’ll be able to park and how long but other than these things, I can pretty much go to any art store in Sydney I choose. With a physical disability, it’s just not so easy.
Recently 4 and I set out on a mission to acquire a kitten. Before we could go get one, I first rang Cat Protection Society at Enmore to check whether we could get in there with the wheelchair. Fortunately the kittens are on the ground floor and although a tight squeeze, we would fit through the hallway.
Next was a check of the whether forecast. Ala Dustin Hoffman in rain man ‘we don’t go out when it rains’. Well, at least we try not to. The tyres slip, the wheels are wet to push and it’s just generally unpleasant.
Ok, now we can access the builing and it isn’t raining – where are we to park? I used to think that all that was required was a park close to the premises; and often one can find a disabled park. Wrong. I’ve since learned that even some disabled parks are off limits if the gradient of the road is too steep. (By steep I’m not referring to something the slope of the gap here. Even a subtle gradient on the wrong day can be too much).
Next 4 and I spend well over an hour – if not more – discussing which kitten would be best. Unfortunately some animals spook with the chair. I’ll never forget the black swan that decided to stalk Andrew at Centennial park. I guess he saw Andrew as one even bigger black swan. After much consideration, we settled on the kitten we were to name pickle. He seemed a very confident little man and we figured he wouldn’t be afraid of the chair. We were right. He wasn’t frightened of the wheels. He didn’t seem to care whether when in Andrew’s lap he moved across the floor. What a fantastic choice.


Other little things cropped up yet we managed all these. Then pickle started attacking the walking stick and getting under Andrew’s feet when he tried to walk. Uh oh. This is one thing we hadn’t considered. Nothing 4 did seem to deter pickle from getting under Andrew’s feet. After all, he is but a kitten and life is one giant game.

A common way of deterring cats – a quick short sharp spray with a water bottle – was one of my first thoughts. However I’d already tried this to deter pickle from stealing the food on my dinner plate and he was unphased by it. After adjusting the strength of the spray to be a little firmer, pickle did seem to dislike it. Unfortunately what I hadn’t thought of was that this put water on the floor, creating a slip hazard. All our planning seemed to be unravelling.

I think this is one of the most distressing things about a disability. At a fundamental level you think it simply inhibits physical movement. Yet it affects so much more. The more movement is impaired, the more it seems to cut off some of life’s pleasures. The thought Andrew may not be able to keep pickle because he could cause him to trip and fall was heartbreaking. Cats – and pets in general – are such a joy. The offer laughs, companionship, and – at least in my case – someone to talk to. (Licorice, Saffron and I have conversations every day). Andrew has already had to give up on his dream of owning another dog. Cannines are just a little too hard to handle and many do not like the wheelchair at all. To think that Andrew may not be able to have a cat either, just seemed especially cruel.

I’m pleased to say that we have come up with a few options for trying to prevent pickle causing a walking hazard. There is no magic bullet but we have enough ideas for the moment. I’m very thankful to the girls at Cat Protection Society for trying to assist us in finding a solution. So far it seems that pickle isn’t very keen on the orange oil we have dabbed on the end of the walking stick.

Yet just as a disability seems to take away many of life’s pleasures; weirdly, it brings some too. It may sound corny but one comes to appreciate some very simple things indeed. 4 and I spent the early part of Saturday evening watching the sun set over La Perouse. I was fascinated by a man flying a ‘parachute’ like kite and Andrew enjoyed the passing cars – in all shapes and sizes.2011-01-29 Kite Ship and Sun

We both love acquiring fish and chips and sitting watching a view. There is a delight in watching dogs playing in the park. Discussing the array of fashions displayed on a short drive through Enmore and Newtown is a favourite pastime. There are many more however it’s getting very late. (11:20pm and I have to work tomorrow). Below are a couple more pictures from Saturday night at La Perouse.
2011-01-29 Kite Surfer
2011-01-29 Kite Surfer II
2011-01-29 The absent fisherman
2011-01-29 Fishing at Dusk