On July 29, 2015 we lost Pepper. The loss of Pepper devastated us since upon adopting him, he'd always been our most sturdy and healthy cat and we thought we'd have many more years with him. We'd only adopted him 3 years earlier after he'd spent 9 months in the Evergreen Animal Protective League's no-kill shelter. The shelter believed he was around 8 or 9 when we adopted him. Pepper's story touched us--his previous owner (I don't like that word, so perhaps his previous human or his previous mom works) passed away and her family, rather than take Pepper, simply tossed him outside. A neighbor found him and took him to the shelter.
The first photo is of Pepper at the shelter. The kind people there told us he was depressed for months after his owner passed. We visited the shelter and I found Pepper beneath a bench and all I could see were two yellow-green eyes peering back at me. Pepper came out of hiding and ended up following us around the shelter's cat room, apparently that was rare since the woman working there remarked on his emergence.
It took a while for Pepper to completely trust us, maybe an entire year, though he certainly let his guard down around us quite early on, but in the last year or so he was so happy. Take a look at this photo, he couldn't be more relaxed, right? He loved nothing more than taking a nap on his mom's legs while she read a book or took a nap herself (well, he loved food, too--all sorts of food).
Pepper was a huge presence in our home, a presence we miss (and our other two cats have not acted the same since Pepper passed). We still expect to see him lounging around, or following us, or running into the pantry when it's dinner time. Pepper contemplated every move he made--he never simply reacted, but pondered his next action. Pepper didn't leap without looking. He's probably the smartest cat I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Though Pepper was thoughtful and serious, he could also do goofy things, and not always on purpose, like the next two photos:
Below is a little more detail on Pepper's illness and his passing if you're interested:
Pepper was taken to the vet on Friday, July 24th due to his sides ballooning out. He was immediately referred to an animal hospital for ultrasounds. The ultrasound revealed what they believed to some sort of structure--they would not label it a cyst or tumor. The surgeon recommended exploratory abdominal surgery--the hope was they'd take out this "structure". The belief was that this structure could be pressing on an organ and causing fluid build-up, but also that this could be cancer. The surgery was scheduled for Tuesday, July 28th, so we were lucky to have Pepper back home with us over the weekend. For the most part he was his old self--eating, relaxing, and rolling around on the deck, but by Monday he had gone down hill quite a bit. He didn't want to eat and barely wanted to drink water. Tuesday morning I found him in the cat carrier (which was odd considering he used to fight us like crazy when we had to put him in there) ready to go to the vet. The carrier wasn't out in the open, it was in a closet downstairs that wasn't all that easy to access.
We took him to the hospital Tuesday morning and learned a lot about cat anatomy from the surgeon, who was really friendly (all the people at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital were great). What they found when they opened Pepper up was not a "structure" at all, but all of his organs pressed together by the fluids that had built up. And it was cancer. No cure. Nothing they could do, but possibly shoot him full of drugs that may have killed the cancer cells, but not cure him. Pepper's blood pressure was low (70/40) throughout the entire night and into the next day. We spent time with him that night and the next morning, Wednesday, July 29th. Our vet called and offered to come down from Evergreen to the hospital in the Denver area.
Once the vet arrived, she explained how dire the situation was for Pepper and we had no choice but to put him to sleep. She explained that his death would likely be ugly and painful--either his organs would shut down from low blood pressure, or the cancer would get him even if his blood pressure came back up. So we had to make one of the hardest decisions of our lives, even though we knew it was the best for Pepper.
Behind Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital is a courtyard with grass and some trees. Pepper was unhooked from all the various monitoring equipment and drugs keeping him alive and we took him out to the courtyard. My wife held Pepper in her arms and he lifted his head as the breeze touched his nose. He glanced up, and this is what he saw above:
We petted him, told him how much we loved him, and he drifted off and passed away in seconds once the vet administered the drugs. Reliving the moment just now transported me back to the 29th of July and that courtyard, and brought me to tears, making this difficult to finish.
Pepper deserved happiness and peace, and I hope we were able to provide that for him during the three years we were lucky enough to have with him. During those three years, Pepper taught us so much. He taught me patience. He taught me the value of quiet contemplation and deliberate action.
I came across this quote from A. A. Milne: "Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem." Pepper spoke to us quite often--he communicated with us and it took us so long to understand what he wanted or how he felt about something we were doing.
I miss Pepper. I miss all his little quirks. I miss his slow blinks and his tongue sticking out of his mouth. He used to sit on our luggage before we'd go on a trip--he hated when we were not around. Pepper woke us each morning, based on when the sun would rise--and if he heard us move a little, he'd go away and come back in 10 minutes, just like a little snooze button. When I was out of town, Pepper would hop up on the bed and check on my wife as she went to sleep, just to be sure she was okay, then he would hop down and crawl into his own little bed.
I miss his presence. The house seems so empty without him.
Here is Pepper with his favorite person, his mom: