Our Ballantine came to me and Matt twelve years ago as a tiny, tiny kitten, back when our local Humane Society was not the nice place that it is now, but instead bank after bank of dreary, small cages, and they'd give you tiny, flea-riddled, ill kittens just because they had a better shot with you than with them.
In fact, we adopted two kittens that day twelve years ago, but even tinier, even more flea-riddled, even more ill grey Prudence didn't survive her first night. After that, tiny Ballantine slept in our bed every night, in between our two pillows, so that I could wake up, reach a hand out, and check that she was still breathing every hour or so.
I named Ballantine after the building that houses the English department at our local university, since that's where I spent the vast majority of my time in those years. On the weekends or evenings when I had work to do in our grad student lounge in that building (they had MUCH faster internet than we did at home back then--we were still on dial-up!), Matt and I would actually bring little Ballantine with us, because we couldn't bear to be away from her for that long--she was too cute! We'd sneak her in and bring along little dishes of food and water and even a litter box, and I'd work and play with her and watch her explore.
Ballantine grew into a fine, sleek, sweet-tempered cat--
--who was good company for me when I got pregnant and suffered terribly from hyperemesis gravidarum, and near the end of my pregnancy when I was too paranoid about going into labor to leave the house alone. After Willow was born she switched much of her loyalty to Matt--what was that small, yowling, grabby thing that I always insisted on holding now?--but remained fine and sweet-tempered and good company.
When we moved house to a safer neighborhood, Matt and I, after a giant amount of angst, tentatively made the decision to let Ballantine roam outside, as she clearly so longed to do, and were happily rewarded for our risk by the fact that Ballantine never, to our knowledge, left the yard, never hunted small animals, never did more outside than make a comfy little nest for herself from which she could watch the world go by.
Still more Matt's cat than mine, Ballantine's favorite time of day was night, when Matt and I would finally lie down to watch a movie together before bed. Sensing the very second that Matt lay down, Ballantine would appear from whatever indoor nest she'd made for herself and run to the bed, leap onto it, and settle herself down onto Matt's chest, her face exactly right in his face. Matt would try to scootch her down so that he could see past her, and she'd gradually, with all the subtlety she could muster (which was not much), scootch back up until their noses touched. Matt would scootch her down, she'd scootch back up, and so the night would progress.
In the last few years, Ballantine suffered constantly from some sort of mystery rash that made her want to scratch her back and her belly until they bled. Vets had various theories, none of which panned out, and so she lived a life of constant itching and discomfort with the same even temper that she lived out her years of perfect health. Her suffering ended abruptly, unexpectedly on Wednesday morning, however; she had a delicious breakfast of dry cat food, then just fell over--seizure? stroke?--gasped a few times, and with the kids and I looking on, horrified but still totally uncomprehending, she simply died.
We laid Ballantine to rest in a fine spot in our backyard, a multiflora rosebush behind her, a Syd-made plaque at her head:
She had a happy life, she made all of our lives happier because she was a part of them, and as is the reward of all good kitties, she will be deeply missed.