Peppe was a cat and he taught us many wonderful lessons about love in the all too short time he lived with us. We affectionately called him "Peppe Le Pew" because he wasn't very well groomed when we first met him.
Mark and I lived in a condominium with our two cats, Pumpkin and Dusty. We had a ground floor apartment with a covered patio which we used as our main entrance since parking was so close.
The first fall that we lived there, this mangy, but still beautiful, white and dark-grey long hair cat started hanging around. He started greeting us at our car when we came home — I had no idea who he belonged to, he looked well fed even if not well groomed. Since we already had two cats (one of which adopted us shortly after we moved to the condo) we really weren’t looking to take in a third; we still let this stray take refuge on our patio in inclement weather.
After about two weeks a young blond haired little boy came bounding on to our patio screaming “TJ, I found you!” and started hugging the cat. Of course I came out to meet him and he tearfully told me how TJ had gotten out of the house a few times, but this was the longest it took for him to find his cat. He told me that he lived on the other side of the condo complex and that this was the second cat they had that kept getting out. After a little while he bundled this big cat into his arms and took him home.
The next day TJ was back! And a little while later, so was the little boy. There were several repeats of this scenario, it worried me because the weather was beginning to turn frosty. Finally one day my next door neighbor, whose patio was next to mine, knocked on my front door to complain, she had an unbearable fear of cats (which I didn’t know about) and asked me to stop hosting this cat so close to where she had to walk (she also used her patio entrance primarily). It was clear that she regretted having to ask me but I also understood her fear.
When the little boy showed up again, like clockwork, I asked him for his home phone number and last name. While he played with TJ on the patio I went inside and called his mother. The phone call did NOT go as I expected.
· The mom: No, he’s not getting out. I don’t want him anymore. (She then told me that she was upset that her son kept bringing him home) Besides, I’m planning on getting another kitten, I like kittens, not full grown cats.
· Me: Look your son keeps coming here to find him. My neighbor is scared of cats…
· The mom: (angrily) So just shoo him away! Eventually he’ll disappear. I know, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to do this.
· Me: (my blood was boiling) Look you know that there are laws about letting animals run free and the association has rules about that as well.
· The mom: (expletive deleted) Alright, I’ll be right over to get him to take him to the shelter to have him euthanized.
· Me: Wait a minute! You don’t want this cat even though your son does? Tell you what, he is not yours anymore, he’s mine.
· The mom: Hell no. You want him? You can’t steal him like that. He’s purebred Angora, I have his papers!
· Me: Screw his papers. You’re going to come over to get your son and tell him you gave me the cat. And I better not ever hear that you went out and got another kitten. (I cut off her protest) You have five minutes to get here or I am calling the police, the humane society and then the association.
And that was how Peppe came to live with us… INDOORS.
Mark and I were still not convinced we wanted a third cat, but there was no way we would abandon him. BTW, as long as the woman lived there, I never heard of her getting any other pets.
My recently widowed mother had suffered a stroke after my dad’s death. She was in a facility receiving therapy and we had hopes she would one day be able to live in a nearby handicap-accessible accessible apartment. I remembered how much she enjoyed playing with my other cats so I asked her if she wanted one; she was excited at the idea. I brought Peppe to visit her one day and it was instant mutual love. Unfortunately my mom passed away before being able to leave the facility. Mark and I promised her that we would always love and take care of “her cat”. It wasn’t just my imagination, even the cat seemed to know she had passed.
|Peppe guarding Jenni|
Peppe soon developed severe kidney problems and required medication and eventually fluids (under the skin) which we were able to administer at home. An acquaintance commented that we should get rid of the cat, he was costing too much money, but Peppe was a family member (and I did ask the vet if he was suffering). We managed for a few years like that until Peppe seized and coded late one night — he had been a part of our lives for about a dozen years. We buried him in the backyard. My children stayed home from school that day and we lit a Sabbath candle (that burned for about an hour) and sat Shiva* for that hour to give each of us time to mourn Peppe’s passing; we’ve done the same routine for each subsequent loss.
Through the years we’ve had the joy of living with several more pussycats, each of them with very individual personalities. The strange thing, and very beautiful, is each of my cats have often conversed (meowing) with “someone(s)” unseen. It’s a comfort to know that they are each with us to this day. When we moved a year ago we took a handful of dirt from above each of their graves and buried it in our new backyard and I am sure that all of them have come with us. We will never forget any of our beautiful felines, they’ve been more than “cats”, they have truly been family.
*Shiva — A structured period of Jewish mourning