Our sweet little kitty passed away on Sunday morning and the place feels terribly quiet without her.
I took her in as a stray a year and a half ago. We didn’t know anything about her – where she came from, who her previous owners were, or whether she even had previous owners, though she wasn’t feral so I think that she did at some point. I still remember how fast Ruggie would run towards us when she saw us. She came at us like a bullet, lay down at our feet and rolled around, showing us her tummy, just crying out to be picked up and petted, which of course, we did. She was so desperate to get inside the house. The first night we let her stay inside, she curled up on a cushion and purred all night long. I think she might have slept, but I do know that every time anyone entered the room, she was purring loudly. She was just so happy to have a safe place indoors to sleep. How could we not take her in?
My sister-in-law is a cat lover, but she already had 2 cats that weren’t exactly friends with each other. Adding this particular kitty to the mix would have created a problem. I volunteered to let her stay with me but firmly stated that I would only keep her until we found her a new owner. She knew some people that might be looking for a new kitty and I was hopeful that one of them would want this little furry bundle of purring and friendliness. They didn’t. I took her to the local SPCA thinking of giving her up for adoption, but it was obvious that she’d be one of a sea of animals all waiting to be adopted. I wanted to know who her new owners would be, and I actually wanted some say in the matter but was told that once I surrendered her, I would not know anything more about her. Even though I kept telling myself that I didn’t want to be a cat owner, I certainly wasn’t going to leave her there, and walk away never knowing her fate. I guess at that point I was already falling in love, but didn’t yet know it.
There were other local adoption agencies that would allow me to at least know who she was going to, but I didn’t pursue that option. Deep inside, I wanted to keep her but hadn’t yet admitted it to myself. Slowly, the little annoyances became part of her appeal. I had to cover my bed with towels and my nice leather sofa with an old comforter to protect them from scratching and the occasional throwing-up incident. My room didn’t look quite as nice as it had before, but what I began to realize was that it was beginning to feel more like a home with this adorable little creature as resident. My partner Antoinette, who lives just a mile away, wanted to call her Chloe, and I wanted to call her Rug, so we called her Chloe-Rug. On an everyday basis we called her Rug, Ruggie, Rugster, Rugsto and other variants on her name. Occasionally we’d call her Chloe, but most of the time it was simply Rug – and boy, did that little Rugster work her way into our hearts.
Every morning she would do her best to wake me up for her breakfast. She was a mainly wet-food kitty, so I didn’t have the luxury of leaving dry food out for her at all times and leaving her to take care of herself. Nope – just before first light every morning, she would jump onto the bed, meow, then sit next to me purring and waiting patiently for me to get up and feed her. If I didn’t do that, her next move was to jump on the desk and start punching away at the computer keyboard keys. I guess she must have seen me do that all day, and figured that the computer was something that was important to me, so if she messed about with something that obviously was an object of my attention, she knew that she could get my attention too. Most mornings it worked but on the days that I really didn’t want to get out of bed at around 6 to feed her, she moved to part 3 of her plan, which was to start knocking parts from my latest home-brew project off the shelves above my desk. She was smart and just KNEW that once she started knocking radio parts off the shelf, I would be up and out of bed within seconds. Smart little kitty! I could never get mad at her. If you’ve ever watched a little cat clatter away at keys on a keyboard, or knock things off a shelf just to get your attention, even if it happens before you’re fully awake, it’s just one of many things about pet ownership that will open your heart. Many a morning I was shuffling around, barely conscious and feeling slightly grumpy, but with my heart open and full of love for that little creature.
After her breakfast, she would sit patiently next to me while I ate my yogurt, knowing that I would leave a small amount in the dish and then place it by her side. Some mornings, we’d have our yogurt together on the balcony. If I sat at the desk with a bowl of cold cereal, she’d smell the milk, jump onto the desk and sit down patiently right next to the bowl while I ate. I knew what she was waiting for, of course, and would leave just a couple of teaspoonfuls of milk in the bowl. She was so good – she’d wait until I backed away from the bowl before taking that as a cue to move in and have her milk. She never wanted much – barely more than a taste, before she jumped back on the bed and curled up for another nap.
I spoiled her in a way that some pet owners wouldn’t agree with, but it was just her and I living together, so no harm was done to anyone else (unlike the outcome if you spoil your children when raising them). After eating her food on the kitchen floor, she would invariably leave her dish after a few minutes and jump onto the bed or sofa, waiting for me to move the dish up there so she could finish her meal in the ambience of those more exalted surroundings. She had a lifelong problem with her digestion and quite frankly, I was happy to do anything that would encourage her to eat. Even first thing in the morning after dragging my weary carcass out of bed to put a dish of food on the floor, after 5 minutes, she’d jump on the bed and start meowing again, just as I was going back to sleep. This was my cue to get out of bed again and move her dish onto the bed so she could finish her breakfast at my feet while I attempted, usually without success, to get a few more winks.
She had many little quirks of behavior that made it all the easier to love her and since she’s been gone, I’m realizing more and more how very much I did love her. It will seem a bit silly to many people who have never owned a pet, but little Ruggie was very important to Ant and I. When Ant woke up in the morning and called me, one of her first questions would be “How’s little miss Ruggie?” to which I’d reply with an update of her activities so far on that particular day. Sometimes there was a funny story to tell, like the morning that I walked to the bathroom in bare feet and stepped in a little Ruggie dingle-berry while still half-conscious. It took me a few seconds to realize what the squishy feeling between my toes was. More often, I’d simply tell Ant whether Rug had yet had her breakfast, how well she had eaten, whether she was now lying on the bed giving me her famous “I’m the queen of this territory so please keep a respectful distance” look, or perhaps sitting at my feet meowing for food. She had many little behaviors, all of which were very, very endearing.
I hope you don’t think this is too much information, but The Rugster’s bathroom habits were quite comic at times. When performing a number 2, at the very moment of finishing, she’d leap out of her litter box and fly down the corridor, turning the corner into the main room at high speed, whereupon she would race around the room with her tail high, executing a kind of “victory lap”. Unfortunately, being a long-haired cat, she didn’t always successfully complete her mission in the litter box, and while turning that corner at much velocity, a dingle-berry would fly from her rear end, only to be discovered by my feet at some later time. We loved her all the more for these little mishaps.
She was a good radio ham too. She was my assistant op in the 2011 Zombie Shuffle:
We never got very high scores in contests though, despite her valiant attempts to dig the weak ones out of the noise:
We don’t want to say goodbye to you Chloe-Rug, but we have to. We’re both finding this hard to deal with, but I’m hoping that time (and it has only been 2 days so far) will make things better. Our lives were so much the richer for knowing you, and I wish so much that we’d had a lot more than 18 months together. From my initial conviction that I didn’t want a cat, I changed to thinking of my future life with her and knowing that wherever I went and whatever I did, Ruggie was going to go on that journey with me. It hurts to know that she won’t be able to do that now. She left us far too soon.
Rest in peace my sweetie, and thank you for opening my heart.