Runt was as he was named, the puny one of the litter. Mr. McLeod adopted him, named him, and made certain that he survived. Runt not only survived, he thrived, and grew to become the pater familias of the yard cats. We live in a rural area, with many pesky vermin about, and the cats,if not actively hunting them, at least keep them away. Runt became the biggest cat here, and lived it, until two interlopers were left here, cats of irredeemable natures, whereupon he faded into the woods for a couple of years, opting for solitude rather than interminable quarrels. When they went away, Runt returned in full vigor, and stayed on. He was big, not fat, and grumpy. He sired a veritable race of tuxedo cats, and did not let them get out of line. At feeding time, Runt had His Bowl, and whoever stuck his nose in to poach from it was soundly cuffed. He was silent, giving a growly chuckle when you scratched his head. He would tolerate a minimum of head-scratching , maybe a stroke of his neck and back, and that was enough. He would shake his head and walk away. He did not enjoy being picked up in the least. He was a Cat's Cat, a tom with no tolerance for fuss or foofery. Periodically he would range back into the woods, and the screams were horrible to hear. Imagine the cries of a rabid baby. Like that. He would come back, sometimes with a limp, ears bitten, legs clawed, and he would set about healing, until the next time.
In the past year, a large and unpleasant yellow tom has been coming into the yard, and I believe Runt's woodland battles were with him. Runt was ten-to-twelve years old, and the final battle got the better of him. He limped for a long time, and then began to lose ground, growing thin and stiff. We were used to his vernal catting about, disappearing for some weeks, then returning thin and hungry. He would eat and lounge and bulk up again.
This year, he didn't. He became increasingly slow, but not doddering. Runt kept his faculties until the end, recognising us, and allowing the indignity of more pets and pats than was normal. He became a more tolerant cat, mellow and more affectionate, actually encouraging being petted, just not for too long. I suppose he had his reputation to see to. This weekend past, while I was away at a convention, Runt went missing, and my wife found him under a bush in the back yard. Cats have a wisdom about this, it seems, and know when the spirit is to return to the God Who gave it. It had rained, and he ws cold, and having trouble moving. She dried him and saw to his comfort - he ate well to the last - and later found him...gone.
I had been praying for Runt for some weeks, that his ending would be peaceful, and that he would go to that place where good cats and faithful go. He lived well, and died where he chose.
If animals have an Undying Part (and the scripture cited above makes me wonder), I shall hope to see him again somewhen. If not, well, we have a host of memories of the Old Man, and that will be sufficient.
Thank you, Runt. You chose to walk with us, when the woods could have been enough.