Haley Karnia 1990-2005
We put Haley to sleep today. A very sad day for the family. We adopted her in 1990, Judy's first year in vet school. Walking through the shelter, we saw her hanging by all fours from the front of her cage, meowing loudly. She had attitude. We took her home that day. Those of you that met her know that she never lost that attitude. Haley challenged nearly everyone she met. Most people probably met her for the first time at one of our Christmas parties. She guarded the coats on the bed with a fierceness that suggested her larger, wilder relations. She also prevented anyone from sneaking out of a party without saying goodbye. People needed permission to get a coat.
We trained her on a leash in Champaign-Urbana. That is, we put her on a leash and followed her wherever she went. I remember walking her around Crystal Lake park while listening to an outdoor concert. In her middle years, I never would have done such a thing, but as a young kitten, she still could be trusted to behave.
In Cincinnati, she liked roaming the back yard on her lead. She'd sleep in the ivy or stretched out on the deck. In the house on Glengyle, she bit me twice. Once when she confronted a stray cat at the back, screen door. I was in the front room, reading, when I heard my first (and only, so far) blood-curdling scream. I bolted to the kitchen and Haley, at a frenzied peak, bounced off of two walls and sunk her teeth into my calf. She seemed apologetic later, but it hurt like hell. A year or two later, trying to untangle her leash from around the pole, I let her off her harness. I hadn't seen the neighbor's new kitten lounging in the yard a few feet away. Haley shot off for blood. I ran after her, but before I could scruff her neck, she had two lightning quick strikes on the back of my hand. Those eventually put me in the hospital for a night to recover from the infection.
In Oak Park, she was mostly an indoor kitty. She liked running the long hallway and sitting in the front window watching the passing traffic on Humphrey. She still guarded coats at Christmas. In Omaha, she started to slow down, but was still pretty misanthropic and mis-felinethropic. She liked hanging out on the front porch and sneaking down the steps to eat the tender grass by the spirea bushes. One day she spotted a stray across the street. Like always, she assumed the stalking position and quickly, quietly--quite cat-like, actually, in her movements-- she headed across the lawn. I grabbed her in plenty of time, but before I could get her back in the house, she wriggled free and bit me for a third time. Always, at her heart, she was a warrior. Interfere and you paid the price.
She faded fast after Christmas. She had been on some medication, but she quickly showed signs of a system-wide collapse. She hobbled noticeably. Her abdomen swelled. She stopped eating. The choice to send her on her way was not easy, but was clear.
For as cranky as she could be, Haley was never really anti-social. When guests arrived, Haley, rather than dart under a bed, brazenly strolled out to confront them for invading her home. She was a master at mind games. Rubbing up against a leg, purring, and then hissing the moment the hand reached down to pet her. No question, she was a diva. Cool, unapproachable, but always aware of her desirability. She was the first to transform us from a couple to a family, and when Ciela was born, Haley played mama-cat for her. She would meow and rub against our legs whenever Ciela was crying. She would roll over on her side, offering her milk to the new kitten in the house.
I'm sure she thanks all those who helped take care of her when we went out of town. Those who want to honor her should remember your local shelter. There's nothing better than a pound cat.