Wayne Rainey - April 15, 1994 - November 3, 2006
He was an amazing cat and he deserves an obituary.
Born the spring of 1994 in my lap at a float house in Cocktail Cove, bursting from the loins of his mother the stray, who showed up one day all charm and good intentions but failed to tell me she was in the family way. Two days after the kittens eyes opened the mama went hunting. Later I looked in the box where the kittens were crowded into one corner, frightened and hissing their tiny hisses. In the other corner (kitty corner you might say) was a huge dead vole. They didn't even have teeth yet and their mama was bringing them fresh kills. I thought they'd all be in therapy when they were older. My mother left dead things in my bed, too, and look how I turned out.
Although he was more of a mouser, in his early days Wayne caught the occasional bird. So when he felt like hunting I would go out and sit with him. I'd say, "I will always give you good food, I will never abandon you, and the birds just want to be free like you and me." I put the pictures in my mind and reinforced this daily. Eventually I would find him asleep under a blooming lilac that was abuzz with hummingbirds.
When a day-old, orphaned hooded merganser duckling joined our home, Wayne went against instinct and joined the journey. I have no pictures of them together because every time he extended his gentle nose to her she'd go for his eyes. I learned I could trust Wayne implicitly, and together we have raised many chicks, foundling wild birds, and a fawn. He allowed Beedoop, the baby robin, to share his window shelf, no cage, and they would sit together for hours watching the bluff.
One morning I awoke to Wayne sleeping beside my head with Beedoop asleep on top of him. A baby flycatcher came to us one spring, and when I let it out of its enclosure for the day it flew out and landed between Wayne's paws on the bed. I left them there, nose to beak, and went to the kitchen to blanch the morning mealworms.
In my magical backyard I feed dozens of wild birds, and Wayne would sit among them. They knew he was on their side and fed around him on the ground, but if another cat came by they would fly into the trees and tick angrily. They differentiated.
He was my best friend (sorry Kathy, you're just my second best friend), my significant other (though not in the biblical sense - he was neutered), and the one who showed me communication with animals is wide open. Anyone can do it. It just requires respect, attention, and curiosity.
When he died I spent the next two days building the meowsoleum. I schlepped heavy boulders from all over to make the walls for the new garden. I lugged huge flat rocks for the stairs leading up to it. I made dirt. I used to think a labour of love was something you did not because you had to, but because you wanted to. Now I know it is much more. It is hard work that drives you up through sadness. It's a way to spend grief.
Wayne was sick for a month, though only really uncomfortable on his last day. The night before his death I wrote of his incredible bird spirit, and that I would bury him with feathers. By 4:00am he was gone, and I placed him on his window shelf. With only a candle lit, I went to my stereo to play the song I'd been singing lately and associated with our experience together. On top of the stereo my headlamp lit up a wren. We watched each other, and after a moment I said, "Little wren, I have to put you out." I reached forward and it flew to the desk. I went to get it there and it flew to the shelves, and finally came to rest on Wayne's body. I stood before it, now knowing why it had come. I reached out and it let me hold it. I nudged the door open with my foot, opened my hands, and the wren flew up into the starry, predawn sky.
Wayne is survived by Gumby and Pokey (the rescued African pygmy hedgehogs), Little-Chicken-Who-Loves-Me, Pearl (who spent a month trying to hatch an oyster shell), Flabbergastia, L.B.J. (Little Black Jewell), Spot, Speck, Sam, Our-Lady-of-the-Outhouse, Big Bertha, and Tiny - chickens all. Also Dead-Eye Dick, One-Eyed Wanda, and Tail-Free Freddy (damaged raccoons that feed alongside the chickens by day, though I wouldn't trust them for a minute after dark), the fawn I raised, Beedoop the robin, herds upon herds of wild birds, me, and these two magnificent ravens who watch over us all.
Jay Rainey is an artist living on an island in British Columbia, Canada.