If you keep up with this blog, you will remember our rescue cat, Pepper (see posts “The Christmas Cat,” and “Love in the Shape of a 12-lb. Cat”). He literally attached himself to the Crankee Yankee (my husband) last December when he was in Pepperell, MA attending a model train meeting. He came running up to Doug, climbed up his pants and sat right on his shoulders. The Crankee Yankee called to tell me he was on the way home with a stray cat, so I called our vet and we took him up. It turned out that “Pepper” (as we began to call him) had hereditary restrictive cardiomyopathy, which could not be cured and would certainly kill him sooner or later. We decided to adopt and care for him anyway. At that point he had already won the Crankee Yankee’s heart, and mine, too.
We got him on the right meds and proper food right away, and aside from one trip to the ER, he was doing well. Not only was he responding beautifully to the meds, but he was eating well and obviously feeling well. He often commandeered the toy box and had a great time tossing catnip mice around and chasing them noisily around the house (usually in the early morning hours). He was feeling good enough to actually be naughty sometimes, chasing the other two cats, Nala and Pookie. His favorite place to be was sitting on the Crankee Yankee’s shoulders, purring loudly in his ear. At night he usually slept with us, often wrapped around the Crankee Yankee’s head and rubbing his nose in his ears.
Last Saturday he stopped eating, and nothing we tried tempted him. Another trip to the vet later, his bloodwork showed no problems, but Pepper just wouldn’t eat. We began giving him small doses of Nutri-Cal (a nutritional supplement for animals) three times a day, but he just wasn’t interested in food, although he continued to drink water. He became more and more weak, and we had to hold a cup of water for him to drink. As he had loved sleeping with us at night, we would place him carefully down on one of the pillows. This way he could be with us and look out the back window of our bedroom, which he always loved to do.
We realized that he was telling us in every way he knew that he was ready to go, to move on to where all of our good animals friends go when their bodies stop working. The Crankee Yankee and I chose 9/26 to bring him to our wonderful and compassionate vet to help our Pepper to leave this life in peace with loving arms around him and words of love in his ears.
Anyone who has lost and loved a pet feels the same way, especially when their care has become a daily routine. And we had so many routines that revolved around Pepper! We put a litterbox in our tiny bathroom because sometimes Pepper couldn’t make it down the stairs to do his business. We kept the bathroom sink filled with water because Pepper liked to drink out of it. When it was time to give him his meds (transdermal, and administered to the insides of his ears), I would gently clean his ears and the Crankee Yankee would rub in the meds. When we were giving him the Nutri-Cal, I would clean his chin and neck afterwards as he was too weak to wash himself. And we would check on him every half hour or so to see if he was comfortable or needed water.
We now feel a strange mixture of grief and relief; sad that our boy is gone but relief that he has no more pain or discomfort. We find ourselves laughing and crying together, remembering Pepper and all he brought to our lives. The Crankee Yankee feels that Pepper came to him to help him while he was recovering from his radiation therapy for prostate cancer, and I believe it. Pepper was always his cat; Pepper just lit up around him. He sat with the Crankee Yankee for hours on end; a genuine therapy cat who comforted him greatly. When he felt well enough to work around the house again, Pepper kept a close eye on him. We called him the “Safety Officer,” and Pepper seemed to take it in stride.
In fact, a few weeks before Pepper went downhill, we adopted a stray cat who kept showing up in our backyard. We asked around the neighborhood, and no one seemed to know if he belonged to anyone. We took him to the vet, found he had no microchip and wasn’t neutered. So we decided we would make him part of the family. He got his shots and a microchip, plus a a nifty collar with his tags on it. He’s a nice little guy, black and white like Pepper, only fluffier, with huge feet and a curiously S-shaped tail. As he is a roundish, pudgy boy, we named him Plumpy-Nut. As soon as he is neutered, he will be introduced to the two indoor cats, and will be able to go in and out as he pleases. We feel that Pepper chose this cat as his Safety Officer replacement. In fact, Plumpy-Nut follows the Crankee Yankee all over the yard when he is working, so he is already on the job.
Pepper’s favorite place to be was sitting on the Crankee Yankee’s shoulders; a perfect place for a guardian angel to be. Although we only enjoyed nine months of his company and unique personality, we have treasured that time dearly. It is never the length of life that matters as much as the quality of that life, and our Pepper’s life, short as it was, was quality all the way. We will miss him every day, but know that he is nearby, checking in on us as a good safety officer does.