R.I.P. LOWKEY

by angeliska on January 13, 2021

You’d think that after being with Lowkey for 15 out of his 19 years on this earth, I’d be more prepared for his passing… But it was more brutal than I’d ever prepared myself for – even with so many close calls over the years. Lowkey ran through all of his 9 lives (and then some!) in his time on this earth. I’ve never seen a creature more dedicated to fighting to stay alive, despite all odds…

                            Lowkey almost a year before he died, January 7th, 2020

Lowkey was found by Colin and Jana on the train tracks, abandoned as a kitten with no voice (just little a hissy rasp). He must’ve had some damage to his larynx & vocal cords, because he was never able to make an audible meow. I’m guessing he was tossed out of a car, and injured in the process (sadly very common, and the second of my cats to have survived that). A few years after that, he was viciously attacked by dogs, who ripped him open from his gullet to his zatch. His guts became necrotic, and he was only saved by intensive hydrotherapy & echinacea tincture in glycerin for his wounds. It’s a miracle he survived that with only a hernia and a forever slightly crooked butthole. He never liked to be inside much after that, because he was stuck in one room while he was healing for weeks and weeks.

.  Several of these beautiful photos (including this one) were taken by Katie Cowden, who would come to petsit for my animals, and captured Lowkey so beautifully. I’m so grateful to have these images now, and so thankful for Katie’s help and loving care for my critters.

Lowkey was always stubborn, tough as nails, and extremely independent. When I got Rusty Jack Knife, the two became very close – always cuddling together and hanging out the porch together. They had a very deep, sweet relationship. It’s interesting, the way cats do that – or don’t. Lowkey and my last remaining, (but ever elusive) kitty Shrimp Scampi have never been fond of one another. I never imagined Lowkey would outlive Jack – not in a million years. Lokes always looked a bit decrepit, due to his crookedness after the dog attack, and a mosquito allergy that made him look very scabby and Chernobl-y.

.                  The “bad brothers” – tough kitties protecting their turf

. They loved lounging and cuddling together – especially in weird spots like metal sculptures, or on top of motorcycle seats.

October before last, Lowkey let me know that he was ready to be an indoor cat full time, and since then rarely left the kitchen – only making occasional nightly forays into the living room to be with the rest of the pack. He loved to snuggle with the dogs, and really just wanted to be close to us. He started have seizures not long after he moved into the kitchen, which resulted in him spraying pee everywhere. It got so bad, he was having several a day – until I figured out what was causing them, and got them under control. It was awful to witness, and no fun to clean up (amazing how much territory a seizing cat can hose down, man).

       Lowkey and I during one of the very rough spells where I thought I was losing him.

Taking on any animal is such a huge responsibility. A lot of people don’t really stop to consider the fact that their pet might live for multiple decades, and require much attentiveness and care, depending on the state of their health. My first kitty, Junior (who I got as a kitten, when I was five), lived to be 21 years old. Lowkey was close to that. My border collie Thelonious lived to be 16. Caring for elderly animals requires immense patience, unconditional love, dedication, and devotion. It’s really not for the faint of heart. It is also expensive, messy, heartbreaking – and an incredible privilege that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m so grateful to have been able to care for these beloved, incredible creatures until the end of their days. They taught me so much.

Almost exactly a year ago, on January 9th (the day before my birthday) Lowkey vanished. I thought maybe he’d crawled off to a hiding place in the house to pass in peace, the way some animals do. The night of my birthday, there was a wild storm, and an eclipse. For days afterward, I called, and looked, and sniffed – hoping to suss out where he’d gone to. After no sign for 10 days, I finally gave up, and figured that he had hidden himself very well to die, or had been transported to another dimension. I cried as I moved his litter box out of the kitchen. It hurt – not being able to say goodbye, and not knowing what had happened. That evening I came home to discover him on the front porch, looking a bit dehydrated, but otherwise fine. Where did this ancient cat disappear to for 10 days? It’s still a mystery. All I can think is that he must’ve traveled to another dimension for a bit. Cats seem to surf between the worlds, in their dreams – and maybe even sometimes in waking life. They have powers that we’ll never understand – unless one day, we have the good fortune to be reincarnated as felines.

After that strange foray into other realms, Lowkey had a few more near misses – nearly dying in my arms at least twice after small strokes. But every time, he miraculously recovered. There were so many moments where I thought for sure that he was passing in my arms while I wept into his ratty fur, but then he’d get up and seem fine – apparently having changed his mind about dying that day. I lost track of each time I thought, “Okay, this is really happening – he’s passing right here, right now”. I’d hold him and sing to him and soak him in my tears, and then after a while, he’d stumble up, and go wolf down some food. He never lost his voracious appetite for kibble or for being petted and adored. Most recently, he crawled back behind the refrigerator. I was was absolutely sure he was dead that time, but managed to rouse him with a can of salmon and lured him out enough to grab him by the scruff and pull him out of the narrow space between the fridge and the wall. It was like birthing a baby goat. He was really out of it, and covered with dust bunnies, but thrilled to gorge himself on salmon.

                                                     Snowy and Lowkey

I hesitate to share this part, but I think it’s important, and I need to tell what happened, in the long saga of this badass brown tabby cat. (CONTENT WARNING: violence/gore/trauma) – I had to put Lowkey down because my wild white husky dog Snowy attacked him for trying to eat his food. Snowy has always had pretty bad resource guarding issues from being neglected before I got him, & Lowkey was basically blind and dealing with dementia & for some reason constantly tried to get into Snowy’s bowl (why did he ONLY want the food belonging to the one dog that would fuck him up, I have no idea). I was just thinking this exact thought, and had JUST moved him away from Snowy’s food & turned back to my own meal for a moment when it happened. I guess he went right back over there as soon as my head was turned.

It was bloody, shocking, & very traumatic. I didn’t see it happen, but I’m guessing it was a classic shake and toss. He had no external injuries, but likely internal damage to his lungs. Blood was coming out of his nose, and he was struggling to breathe. I won’t go into anymore of the gory details, but trust me – it was fucking awful. I held him and sobbed and wiped his bloody, bubbly nose and called my amazing vet friend TomCat to come and help him go. I’m so grateful to them for coming to help us – especially in a pandemic, and on such short notice.

Other than this incident, Snowy & Lowkey loved each other, & used to snuggle all the time. I don’t blame Snowy for what he did. He’s a husky, still fairly feral, and went through some stuff before he came to live with us. I blame myself for not paying closer attention. Normally I sit on a stool throughout feeding time to monitor for bad behavior from Snowy, but I was trying to finish my lunch before my tarot clients for the day, and made a bad call.

                                          Snowy and Lowkey snuggling

Lowkey’s quality of life had been steadily diminishing pretty severely for a long, long time. He pretty much just lived on the heating pad I put on his bed, (and was constantly turning back on for him, because it shuts off after two hours). He was mostly blind, his back legs barely worked, and he wasn’t really making it into his litter box or grooming himself anymore. But – he was just SO tenacious! That cat lived through so many near death experiences. I had been long delaying making the call to put him down – until it was absolutely unavoidable. But Snowy made the call for me. I didn’t wanna put if down unless I could really tell he was in pain. And that day finally came.

I know it sounds odd or bad, but I’m kind of grateful I didn’t really have a choice. Or that my hand was forced. I’m trying to see that as a blessing in disguise, but it was just so rough. I know it was getting close to his time, but goddamnit – I’ve just never seen a creature cling so stubbornly to life. Even when getting his injection, it took several tries (old kitty veins blow out like whoa) and he clung on until the bitter end. Toughest cat, ever. It took some doing, his dying. It was a relief to see him finally at peace, not hurting anymore. But after TomCat left, I just sat on the floor in a sunbeam holding my dead cat and wailed for a long, long time. It’s still just so fucking hard to let him go.

It’s helping me, though – to think that Lowkey chose a warrior’s death for himself – that he was so determined to go on his own terms to Kitty Valhalla that he orchestrated a sort of “suicide by cop”, with Snowy unwittingly playing a part. He just had to go out with a bang, a big ruckus – no quiet passing in the night. I think on some level, I knew he wouldn’t go softly – though for months and months I’d wake up and peek into the kitchen, wondering if he’d still be alive that morning. He always was – though at times it seemed impossible that any creature so decrepit could continue to keep going, day after day. My kitchen has felt unbearably empty, ever since I returned my cat to the earth. It’s wild to realize what an enormous presence such a small animal commanded.

Before Lowkey, I thought of life as being very fleeting, and fragile – and, sometimes, it is. But he taught me that life protects life. Our spirits will keep fighting to be here, often long after our bodies have given up the ghost. That cat had no business being alive as long as he was – and yet… I think he just wanted to stick around for more lovin’, more sunbeam naps, more of everything. I didn’t want to get in the way of that. Not until I had to, anyway.

There were so many times I would just look at him in awe, and think – “HOW is he still alive?” His coat was stinky, because he’d stopped grooming himself, and tufts of tabby fur would sometimes just fall out in patches. He was like the Skin Horse, friend to the Velveteen Rabbit (if you haven’t read those books, or if it’s been awhile, I highly recommend having a good cry over both. They’re incredible.) Lowkey was always a real cat, rather than a stuffed animal, but – when I would pet his ratty coat, and love on him, I’d think – “Oh honey – you are becoming so, so very Real.”

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

“The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

The day he died was so long, so traumatic, and so, so difficult. I felt like I got hit by a truck. I managed to get him buried by myself, though. I had my landscaper friends dig his grave at the beginning of the pandemic, so I wouldn’t be caught off guard when the day finally came. I cleared the hole of dead leaves, and put him in the earth, with flowers and herbs to bless him. I sang and cried over him, and pet his sweet black toe beans for a long time. Some wonderful mysterious person (who are you, sweet friend?) sent me a persimmon tree for my birthday, so I planted that over his resting place. He’s right near Rusty Jack Knife and Thelonious, now. I hope he’s with them somewhere across the rainbow bridge, cuddling and frolicking. If you’ve read this far, thank you for bearing witness to my and Lowkey’s journey. It was a lot to live through, for both of us – painful, scary, wonderful, but always, always worth it. I really needed to write all this out – for my own healing, and to bear testament to everything we went through together.

“Weeks passed, and the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby, but the Boy loved him just as much. He loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey, and his brown spots faded. He even began to lose his shape, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the Boy. To him he was always beautiful, and that was all that the little Rabbit cared about. He didn’t mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real shabbiness doesn’t matter.”

― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Rest In Peace, Lowkums my love. You were the best, toughest, sweetest old man. I’m missing you so fucking much already – your grumpy little face, your short, curly white whiskers, your beautiful stripes that looked like the dark fudge-y ripple in Blue Bell Tin Roof ice cream. I miss your black lips, and your pale little chinny chin chin that loved getting skritches, and the way you used to drool on me when I’d pet you there. I miss your almost silent, raspy little meow, and your loud old cat snores. I miss all of you, buddy. Colonel Lowkenmuntz, fierce grizzled old sea captain. What a badass cat you were – tough as nails, and sweet as molasses. I love you forever. 💔

3 comments

💔💚

by Mister Mykow on January 14, 2021 at 3:33 am. Reply #

Oh, thank you for telling the beautiful story of Lowkey’s amazing life. How lucky you were to have found each other. It’s sending me straight into the paws of my old man Nix, whose slightly stinky fur I also love sinking my face into and whose bumpy old bod I love holding onto many times a day. The old ones are the dearest… they know so much.

by brixton on January 29, 2021 at 2:21 am. Reply #

Angeliska,
I’m so sorry for the tragic loss of your beloved Lowkey. It is so painful to lose someone that is independent, yet, dependent and loves unconditionally.
I lost my Yorkie to my own German shepherd in the same described way.
My heart bleeds for you.

by Lani on January 29, 2021 at 9:47 pm. Reply #

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