THE VB MASCOTS
Runa, Akele & Tyra
Runa ("roo nah") and Tyra ("teer ah") formed the original R.A.T. (Runa And Tyra) pack when they became part of the VB Team on November 29, 1997. At about two months of age, the young sisters were selected from several rats at a local pet store in the small town of Weert (former location of VB headquarters in the Netherlands) to begin the long hard work as official VB mascots. Paws firmly in the cyber age, the new mascots thanked the internet for their names. After searching the web and finding hundreds of different names, the VB team chose Runa and Tyra, both Swedish names, which sound suspiciously like 'ruin' and 'terror'.
Fortunately the pair did not live up to their potentially destructive names. Quite quickly they adapted to their new surroundings and made them their own. Tyra always remained a bit wary of any "other species" but could be found on occasion actually enjoying herself while playing with the "non-rat" team members. Runa, on the other hand, was born for the role of mascot. She was friendly, charming, well-groomed and... loved to eat.
On April 31, 1998, Akele ("a keh leh") joined the team. She was discovered at a flea market. The small, thin rat was sitting completely alone in a small cage in the chilly afternoon air. After hundreds of market visitors simply passed her by, the VB Team decided to offer her a home. Her tail was permanently curled from her hamster-sized running wheel, but she was full of life, energy and curiosity. Her name is the Hindi word meaning "alone".
At first there were plenty of scuffles and disagreements but eventually every rat fell into place. The three rats were required to work hard for the team, being subjected to many hours of video. As a result, their images provided much artwork for Vermin Brewing. Runa even got her own beer label.
In March 1999, the team was required to travel to South Africa to investigate the beer in that part of the world. The mascots were to remain in the Netherlands and keep things under control back at the home front. Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, Tyra fell ill. One morning she was found at the bottom of her cage hardly able to move or breathe. She was rushed to the vet but the verdict was a sad one. Runa waited and waited, but Tyra never returned.
Eventually the team returned back from the trip and Runa continued her on with her life and her work, accompanied now only by Akele, a lone rat by nature. In early May, she started to show signs of illness. She no longer came out for her favorite foods and she seldom wanted to play. Gradually her condition worsened. The team sought the advice of many veterinarians and specialists, but no one could help. Surprisingly Runa made a bit of a recovery and even began sleeping in her favorite box again. But the drastic loss of weight and her constant difficulty with breathing eventually drained her strength once again. Finally one rainy morning, the vet administered one final shot while she was held by those who loved her. Within a period of 4 months, the VB team had lost two mascots.
Akele, the last member of the official R.A.T. team continued the never-ending work of mascot alone. She was a determined little rat and did her best in honor of her two beloved cagemates. But eventually time caught up to her as well. She was required to go in for surgery for a cronic and painful inflamation on her inner thigh but never woke up from the anethesia.
Times were sad and quiet for a long time, but slowly the remaining VB team members gathered their strength and continued on, so that the hard work of these loyal, tireless rats would not have been in vain.