On a peaceful, moonlit, October night in 1999, Bob the Remarkable Cat coiled around a gravely ill feral kitten. Bob was in little better shape. His long tail was a mysterious stub and a gash decorated his left side. Threads of gangrene had begun weaving through him.
A dust of stars scattered when dawn broke on the outskirts of Detroit Lakes, Minn. Bob, 4 months, uncurled. The kitten was dead, and fate was thinking about slipping a Mickey to Bob.
Exhausted from a timely surgery and in the clasp of a strange new life, Bob slept in a sedan’s back seat during the entire 200-mile drive to his new home in Long Lake, Minn.
Bob shrugged off the twist and tear of his early days to spend the next 18 years as “the most laid-back cat I’ve ever seen,” a neighbor observed as Bob calmly watched fireworks flash overhead on one of Bob’s July 4 birthdays.
A solidly muscled orange and white tabby with dashing good looks, Bob delighted in beachcombing through wildlife-tumbled lakeshore brush or chewing kale that had floated to the kitchen floor.
Bob’s body died Monday,
Intestinal cancer was the cause, according to Harper Mingus, his friend of seven years.
With considerable swagger, talkative Bob was known to pad his white paws toward strangers and chat them up, often during his evening walks on the Luce Line Trail behind his home.
One afternoon, he visited a carpenter who was banging a hammer on a neighbor’s deck. Swathed in sunlight, Bob high-stepped toward the detonations.
“I’ve never seen a cat come up to a stranger with a hammer in his hand,” the man said.
Another time, Bob sent currents of communication through a cat-averse insurance salesman who said, “Bob gives cats a good name.”
Not that you want to win over too many insurance salesmen.
Bob’s stubby tail was a topic for all.
“Bob told me that his endless thirst for people was because that short tail couldn’t hold much love, so he had to keep searching for more.”
“I suppose he really just didn’t want to talk about the tail.”
Bob alone knew what had happened.
Mistreatment seemed unlikely. Fearlessness of people had saved his life.
That was when Bob approached a stranger who was standing near a truck at a Detroit Lakes gas station. Bob verbalized his imperiled situation as, “Can you help me?” Young Bob didn’t hesitate when he heard, “Hop in.”
Bob soon arrived in Long Lake, where he cherished sisters, Alvy, Wilma and Croucher, each of whom preceded him in death, along with everyone else who has ever died.
Unlike his sisters, later to include Harper and Rikki, Bob resisted outdoor supervision.
“I caught a couple of birds. Mice. Pounced on one on a fall night when it was pitch black, and chased a rabbit toward a busy county road,” Bob said when interviewed for this obituary in 2013.
“The rabbit stopped in thick brush under a tall pine tree rather than cross the road, or I probably wouldn’t be here to tell you about it.”
As he tore deeper into his nine lives, it was decided that spring-loaded Bob needed a leash. Bob took subsequent walks in a harness. Soon, other neighborhood cats were seen on leashes.
“People would approach me and say, ‘Is that a dog?'” Bob said.
“Were they blind? But I guess I am loyal as any dog. That slowwitted guy with the leash and I are the best pals in the history of the universe.”
One evening, Bob taught the slow-witted guy that he was just humoring him about the harness.
Tied to a tree, a fuse was struck when Harley the neighboring Rhodesian ridgeback/pit bull mix galloped toward Bob with questionable intent.
Bob Houdinied out of his harness and flashed his snowy white paws up his deck steps and plastered his claws into the front-door screen 6 feet above the welcome mat.
Bob was chaser, chasee and savior. He not only had comforted that dying kitten in Detroit Lakes, Bob’s fidelity was on display when the independent, ailing Croucher Mingus was preparing to fly through the universe. He kept vigil at the foot of her bed during her last nights on earth.
The peaceable little fellow also stood over a motherless, baby squirrel struggling for life in the shade of a pine tree one bright Sunday afternoon until someone with opposable thumbs arrived to drive it to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
Weeks later, Bob received a letter informing him the squirrel was outside doing squirrel things.
Asked to reflect on his life, Bob said, “Every day was great. Soon as the stars faded into day I’d wedge my nose between the shades and window and hope to see the sun bouncing off the green of the grass. I ate that grass most every day in the summer.”
“Puked it up more often than not.”
“I’ve lived in two different centuries spanning three decades. By a lake. For a while with some white lab mice and a sugar glider. Most people don’t even know what a sugar glider is.
“You might think that I was a throwaway kitty who loved life because I got a second chance. But I was always a high-fiving ball of optimism. Surviving those early days just let more people see that I was the happiest cat ever born.”