She was a purebred (Bengal) actually, with a formal name: Bellsangels Rune, and a pedigree. Born March 23, 1998, departed this life June 23rd, 2017, aetat 19 years and 3 months. She predated our children and digital cameras and this is the only obit she’ll get, so it’ll be lengthy. But not unamusing I hope, full of stories, and bookended by baseball.
The “Rune” is because when she arrived the senior housecat was named “Bodoni” after the typeface, and we failed to find a font we fancied with a feminine feline name; since she was skinny and angular “Rune” seemed OK. Our next-door neighbor called her “Rooney” and there was no point correcting him.
We bought a fancy cat because we were mad at the Humane Society for sending us home with Millie the kitten, who turned out to have distemper and died in 48 hours. Which prevented us from adopting another for a full year, to avoid lingering microbes.
Rune was the best cat ever, but the fancy-cat-acquisition process gets you into pretty weird territory. Her breeders were in a distant suburb, in a big carpet-free house full of kittens and a morose Great Dane, eye bandaged due to kitten-stab.
Also they operated a cat hotel which we patronized a few times while traveling. Its rooms were themed: I only remember the Bridal Suite and the Sports Bar (walls lined with real booze in miniatures). They’d come and pick the boarders up in an old limo with a huge stuffed tiger in the back.
They never, even once, used the word “cat” — “kitty” and only “kitty”
One time I asked them if they showed their cats and they said No; that they’d found the people who show cats were a little on the strange side.
Above, Rune’s on our exposed upstairs rafters; she leaped from one to the next for pure fun. It felt a bit odd betimes, when she’d park on the rafter over the shower and admire your scrubbing technique; I guess she liked the steam.
She was lethal in her youth, the terror of the local rodents and even biggish birds. One time she and I were chilling on the front steps when a crow landed on the neighbor’s porch railing to caw at us with attitude. On the third caw Rune was down the stairs, through the hedge, up the side of that porch, and the crow’s leg was in her jaws, before the bird or I could react. But she was a small cat and it was a big crow. I intervened to put the bird into the fork of a big tree and the cat inside. Maybe the crow survived.
The other crows learned. In her prime, it was super-annoying the way they’d appoint a posse to follow her around the neighborhood, perch on wires and trees, and squawk at top volume when you were trying to have a conversation or listen to music. She hunched and looked oppressed, but I didn’t feel that sorry for her.
She was a people cat. Unfortunately the three-to-five humans co-resident during her tenure were not nearly enough to meet her needs, so she adopted the neighborhood. The guy who called her “Rooney” is a little bit gruff and territorial; but eventually accepted that if the door was open, she’d be in to look for a lap or a handout.
This was mostly OK; but another neighbor (with whom we carpooled kids to school), seemed embarrassed not outraged when she confessed that Rune had sent her cat to the vet with abscessed wounds.
My personal fave episode was when she visited the upstairs next-door neighbors, which was OK but they forgot she was there and went out. After a while she became upset, which she expressed by pushing objects out their open bathroom window to the pavement two stories below; I think none survived.
Her magic, once again: Nobody complained. I guess they thought it was their fault.
Imperfections · Rune was occasionally a poor citizen of the household; sometimes maliciously so. In her view, the greatest sin, punishable by targeted peeing (more below), was ignoring her.
But the only time she drove me to violence (against any living mammal since I turned 18) was the Great Reshelving. We’d reorganized our shelves in a way that required that the books all be taken out, stacked on the floor, then replaced. This is an onerous task. Our shelves are deeper than strictly necessary, and Rune figured out she could get behind the books on a half-filled shelf and push them loudly out on the floor. What could be more fun?
Dear Reader, I must confess that, after a certain number of gleeful deshelvings, she impacted the sofa (soft, mind you) at fairly high speed and, on the rebound, failed to plant a clean landing on the hardwood. She glared at me and left the room in what P.G. Wodehouse used to call a Very Marked Way. Which she had to, because I glared back with intent.
In this case I have evidence. Here she is, disrupting the “T” section. Fortunately, she never actually realized that the volumes of Gibbons were separable as opposed to just a catwalk.
Peeing with intent · This was her worst, purely malicious, sin. She understood the cat litter (and of course the garden outside) perfectly well. But if when aggrieved (as in, left alone in the house for too many hours) she discovered a garment left on the floor near an attractive perch, she would perch, cock her tail, and express her smelly feelings with perfect aim from as far as several feet away.
“Well,” I lectured the children in a superior moral tone, “what can you expect if you leave your things lying on the floor all sloppy like that?” Having, of course, first suppressed the evidence of my own befouled knapsack.
Table raider · Another major sin. All the cats who’ve lived with us understood that We Do Not Feed Pets From The Table. The kids learned this early too. As did Rune, but she just didn’t care. If you got up, leaving a pork chop or chicken kebab on your plate, and foolishly didn’t push your chair in, you probably wouldn’t get to eat the rest of it.
Once again, I have photographic evidence.
That, by the way, is my son, then aged ten, who just graduated from high school and may make a named appearance in this space soon if he wants to.
The best pictures of Rune are all looking up at her, because of course she enjoyed looking down on us.
I’ll miss her awfully. But so far I’ve left out her purest love.
Video cat · From a cat’s point of view you can’t beat a TV binge, be it baseball or Miyazaki or long-narrative-arc series, because the humans’ thighs are horizontally immobilized on the sofa. She enjoyed us watching (to name a few) Lost and Battlestar Galactica and The Wire and Deep Space Nine and Orphan Black, rarely missing an episode.
Sometimes, knitting was involved.
Baseball brackets · Her end came fast; she’d been going downhill for months, but with little pain it seemed, and then one morning her back legs didn’t work, a blood-clot they said and not reversible, so the decision was easy. My son and I took her to the vet and held her warm while she died.
Neither kid had known a time without Rune, so it was a pretty gloomy household. Casting about the next day, I noticed a minor-league baseball game at the park ten blocks from us, so we went.
Rune had left us gradually, her illnesses mounting; I’d been dealing OK with the grief. But then I remembered a scene from the late summer of 1999 that our friend Kim photographed on film; a bit low-rez, but look at it anyhow.
We’d taken our new baby (the same kid you saw above) to a ballgame, strapped to my chest. It all went OK, the child pretty drowsy, till the home team made a brilliant double play in the second. I leaped up and clapped and cheered, and the poor little guy woke up, panicked, and howled fiercely, much to the amusement of my fellow fans: Spot the rookie Dad.
Whatever, we were going home with our new baby and our little cat would be happy to see us. Shortly after I took that 2017 ballpark photo, I thought of the other, and the empty house we’d be coming home to. I’m pretty sure nobody saw me weeping into my hot dog for a departed friend.
Tonight, I put on a high-tech fleece in the after-dinner summer cool and noticed it still had cat hairs on it in multiple shades of brown. I’m not putting it in the laundry any time soon.