On January 26th, 2021, I said farewell to my dear feline companion.
My muse meows, no more.
Fox was my familiar, and without her the world feels vastly unfamiliar already. She was my sense of Home in the inhospitable world of Los Angeles and beyond.
She was the most benevolent, delicate, magical and peculiar creature I've ever known. This little Korat loved her faucet-fueled trickle treats. For the longest time she refused to drink water any other way.
Kidney failure, a hyperactive thyroid, anemia and a heart murmur got the better of her in spite of our efforts.
In her final days she was emaciated & debilitated. I had a difficult decision to make.
Before we left LA: lounging, gangsta, in her mobile toaster oven / on her last days, in her sickbed.
Before I fully realized what was going on I moved through a dense depression. The thought “I don’t want to live anymore” relentlessly cycled through like an orbiting asteroid belt of world-weary detritus, haloing my head. When I recognized what was happening, the thoughts separated from me. I noticed a doodle from the previous week, illustrating the blurred lines between man & cat. Had I tele-empathically enmeshed with her, as she expressed her wish to give up the ghost?
She was delivered from her suffering at the Kind Animal Hospital in N-Miami, by the hands of the compassionate but unfortunately named dr. Basta.
Actually, I redact the interpretation of misfortune from his appellation. It is literally only now as I write this that it has struck me that his name not only corresponds to the Spanish exclamation for “that’s enough!”, but also the name of the Egyptian cat goddess Bast! And because Dr. Basta is Egyptian this brings a sense of relief, imbuing the experience with a symbolical dimension of beauty. It shifts the narrative considerably, from a cruel cosmic giggle to compassionate cosmic poetry.
My portrait of "Bast", 2005
Before she landed in my care, Fox, also known as Boop, belonged to an African-American poet, who put her up for adoption. It was my former partner (also a poet) who insisted we adopt her, and when we parted, Boop stayed with me (also a poet). We spent the last five years of her fourteen year lifespan together. She was obsessed with me, followed me around wherever I’d go, like Mary’s lil lamb.
Boop loved books. Mostly she loved to chew on their covers after throwing up. I have many a volume marked by her dental indentations. It's the feline equivalent of dog ears, except it doesn't mark the pages so much as it marks the occasions on which she puked. I'll cherish them like a parent cherishes the lines on the wall that measure the growth of a child that has since grown up and moved out.
I already miss our daily rituals, the amiable inter-species intimacy and, indeed, familiarity we shared. I think of how she’d wait until I went to bed each night to come fully alive. She’d jump onto the bed, landing/materializing with a weird meow that roused me from hypnagogia. I’d respond by lifting my blanket to invite her into the little makeshift cave. Once fully inside, she’d turn around, poke her little head out and rest it snugly in the crook of my one arm as the other one—winged with the blanket—enfolded her in a snug hug. We slept like this most nights.
an old snoutbook post, praising her
Over the weekend I watched her delicate condition rapidly decline. She started hiding in her cubby hole in the walk-in closet. Animals do this when they want to be alone, when they’re in discomfort. An evolutionary impulse. In nature this is how they stay safe from predators, by hiding and suffering in secret. I even had a dream of her running out of a house with a leaking roof (symbolizing instability), fleeing into the wild, with other animals (the spirit world), and I went after her to try and keep her safe, because she had been declawed as a kitten, and was a delicate and docile little critter, vulnerable to the menace of the big bad world.
Occasionally she’d emerge from her hiding place, wearily limping, her hind legs weak, losing balance as she staggered drunkenly towards her food or water bowl, to her litterbox, or on her final stroll into the living room, to hang out near my dad (curious, as she preferred to keep to my quarters mostly).
She barely ate at this point, slurped up a little water if I spritzed it in the bowl with her dry food, a special diet for kidney care, prescribed after her first health-scare in 2019.
Twice a day I had to force a little pink pill (for thyroid regulation) and a syringe full of medicine (to counteract her high phosphor levels) down her throat. I tried to force-feed her some wet mashed food this way as well. She didn’t like any of this of course. She’d devised a tongue flicking mechanism to expertly reject the pill like a projectile Pez dispenser; we did this comedy routine over and over until she’d finally swallowed it.
When, on Saturday night, she couldn’t even walk anymore I understood this was a losing battle. I heard her call for me with a weak yelp and found her laying in a puddle of her pee. She had tried, but couldn’t make it to the litter box. I used a towel to make her a comfortable little hospital bed in her carrying case, where she spent the next day and a half, just lying there, barely moving at all. Just the steady rhythm of her heartbeat pulsing through the fur, and the slow rise and fall of her respiration. It had been days since I heard her purr. Once in a while she’d raise her head to look at me, half blind with grogginess. I pet her and played music for her, let her know I was here with her, and would be till the end.
On Monday I made the appointment with dr. Basta, who had handled her case over the past few months, doing the best he could to keep her going. He agreed that to try and keep her alive at this point would be expensive, would require invasive procedures, and in the end wouldn’t guarantee anything. When he saw her on Tuesday he wholeheartedly backed my decision, assuring me I was making the right and merciful choice.
I stayed with her till the end. She faded serenely.
After administering the final solution, dr. Basta checked her vitals and informed me “she’s gone”, he intimated that his own father passed away on Friday. We had bonded during an earlier visit when I told him I was in a Florida taking care of my dad who has Alzheimer’s and learned his own father had dementia, and that he had come here from NY to take over his father’s clinic, which is now his legacy. The depth of the individual stories converging and intersecting, in conjunction with the Kind staff’s sympathies, wove a tangible tapestry of dense emotional connectivity. Dr. Basta and I commiserated for a moment, before he had to move on to the next patient, leaving me with Fox’s remains to say my final goodbye, before she was to be turned to ash.
Afterwards, after crying in the car, I drove to the beach. Wandering along the shore was a meditation on time, tide, tracks, fading pawprints, endlessness. Shoreline, timeline, tideline, watermark, erasure, erosion, revision. The landscape fluently speaks the language of loss, of eternal impermanence. It’s pure poetry in motion. The waves, a kind of oceanic etch-a-sketch, write under erasure. Disappearing, reappearing, disappearing ink.
I sat and I listened to the white noise of the ocean, clearing the channel.
Gazing, I scryed into the tv static of the sand.
A V-formation of pelicans passed over the pastoral scene, sweeping shadows across souls shaded by parasols, all entranced by their phones, oblivious to the prehistory, the timelessness, the beauty in which they are temporally embedded. As they drifted further from my vantage point, the birds appeared like a horizon-line of eyes in the sky.
Grief, suspended between sound, sand, and sadness, moved me.
I ceased to merely listen to the sand and sound, and immersed in, merging with it, mediumystically--I began moving the sand around, gathering materials, and observing as it shaped itself interactively into an effigy for fox.
Holding its form, A cloud that (to me) resembled a majestic cat, with paw outstretched and angel wing wisps of cirrus, lingered for what seemed like forever in the prismatic sky over the sea. As Above, So Below. It almost mirrored the effigy.
If you can't see it as I saw it, I embellished it for you:
The days ebb and flow in waves of reality and unreality. I play back the events in my memory. The way the light in her eyes was gone, replaced by an endless vacuity. How heavy her head and limp her neck when I lifted her lifeless body to retrieve the towel from beneath her; no animate force in place to hold it up. The way the grieving mind plays tricks; detecting/projecting micro movements in her fur where were no signs of life remained. (I’ve seen unsculpted river boulders transformed into breathing human sculptures under my hallucinogenic gaze, so I am aware of the possibilities and able to discern fact from fiction).
Her absence is tangible, but somehow unbelievable. When I enter my quarters, the brain registers a piled shirt as her. The rituals that have been rendered meaningless (like closing the toilet lid so she doesn’t fall into the bowl) echo her absence.
After the beach, I sat on the pier outside the apartment, surrounded by water reflecting yachts, buildings, and mangroves. The wooden boards with the cross-eyed screws all looked like cat faces peeping out at me from the pareidolic interface of the beyond.
In the end we all become memories, stories stored in the memory banks of others. I can say with certainty that that’s where and how we live on, in some form or other, and maybe through whatever other impact we’ve made or impressions we’ve left with our words and deeds, or whatever epigenetic efforts we exert to control our narratives and manage others’ perceptions of us (animals lack this pretense, of course).
Beyond that I like to believe “we’ll always have Paris”—that our moments together are forever preserved, carved into the block universe, and replayed along the time/space coordinates of their actuation, in eternal return, reiteration, and “reincantation”. (see the post Life After Life After Life)
On Sunday I got to feed her a little water; I caught those delicate last sips on camera. “The last sipper”. I’m glad that I documented the last few days, painful as it was to see her move with such difficulty. It’s beneficial to have proof of her decline and final state, in case I ever doubt I made the right decision, or should forget what it was like, if my memory were to fail me or fade.
Another chapter has come to a close, as, for the time being, I continue my role as caretaker in my father’s neurodegenerative memory palace in Oubliette, Florida.
There is a sobering surreality to grief, in how when one writes about the events it’s like growing literary skin that cauterizes the wound. Intended disclosure of vulnerability becomes armor, achieving the opposite effect. It has a numbing effect. Then, maybe, some dopamine drips, awarded for every “like” the post garners, which provide a measure with which the story becomes cemented into reality, like bricks in the wall of a meowsoleum.
Rest in purrs, little Fox.
I will always carry your memory with me.
(not my image, but how I like to imagine her now)