Pepper by Judey LaRocca / Mom

Back on December 9,1996 I had to have my beloved cat, Wookie, (who was over 20 years old) put to sleep. I was lost. He slept beside me, in the crook of my arm, every night. He would eat whatever I ate. When I would go to Red Lobster I’d always save him some lobster tail! He was a one-person cat, and I was his everything. Losing him was very hard on me. My husband and my 2 daughters, then 10 and 6, wanted to get me a kitten for Christmas. I said NO!!! I was not ready to bring another cat into my heart.

Months passed by and we were planning a Memorial Day BBQ. On that Monday, May 26, 1997, it POURED! Our BBQ was canceled. As we were having breakfast and reading the paper I began to cry. My husband looked at me and asked me what was wrong. Through tears I told him I NEED a cat!
We packed up the girls and headed to North Shore Animal League.

Wookie was mostly black with some white markings, but not many. There was one color cat I said I would NOT take home and that was a BLACK CAT! I did not want to replace Wookie. While we looked at the cages where the kittens were we had to pass a cage that held a black kitten. As we walked by he came to the front of the cage and rubbed against the bars, reached out to grab my daughter Samantha’s (the 6 yr. old) long braids. I couldn’t ignore him and said “Hi,” stuck my fingers and hand in as far as they would go. He rubbed against them happily. There was only one problem… I DID NOT WANT A BLACK CAT!!!! So we finished petting that kitten and moved on to the next cage. I watched as another family came to his cage. At this time he was sitting as far back in the cage as possible. This family did everything possible to get him to come to the front. But it was no use, he wouldn’t budge. We looked at a few other kittens, they took them out and let us hold them. But none were as friendly as the black one. But…. I DIDN’T WANT A BLACK CAT!! On the way back out of the room we had to pass by that cage again. The black kitten was still in the back of his cage..that was until we walked by. As soon as my daughter, Sam, was in range the kitten quickly came to the front of the cage, reached out his paw and grabbed her braid. At that moment we realized that were not there to choose the kitten we wanted, we were there for a special kitten to choose US! My daughters both decided that he was the one. I said OK, but I knew there was NO WAY I could ever love another black cat.

All the way home I kept thinking that I made a HUGE mistake. I never should have taken that black kitten!!

How wrong I was!!! Pepper quickly captured my heart. His personality was a total 180 degrees different from my Wook. That was perfectly fine with me! Pepper was not afraid of anything! When most cats would run, he’d get this look on his face as if to say “Why are you bothering me?” Even thunder and lightning did not phase him!

Pep was part Siamese he was long and had these huge ears! He was a funny looking kitten. But he grew into those ears and became a very handsome “Man” His eyes were green with a hint of blue. Everyone who saw them commented on his eyes! He was also a very vocal cat. We became extremely close and he would follow me everywhere. I could never be in the bathroom by myself because he’d scratch at the door to come in. When I’d shower he’d be on the vanity waiting for me. I confess to being a shower singer. I’d sing to HIM! I would intentionally stop mid sentence and Pep would promptly finish the song.

Pepper was a joy to have in my life. He was a
loving cat, but on his terms! When he wanted to give or receive affection… it was OK.If he didn’t he would gently bite your hand and even sometime NOT so gently! But that was fine. Pepper was the boss! One way he’d show affection was to hit with his paw as you walked by. If you’d walk by and ignored him a few times he’s use his claws just to grab your clothes.

The only time Pepper was a lap cat was in the middle of the night.If ANYONE got up to use the bathroom Pepper would jump on their lap and purr. Everyone in the family treated Pepper like a KING. We would all wait until Pepper would have enough of the love and affection, jump off and go about his business.

Last year just before Jessie died Pep curled up on my lap a few times. It was so wonderful for me. Then in late summer, September, he started to do it more and more often. I loved every second he was with me. Even if I wanted to get up I wouldn’t move until he left on his own. Remember, he was the King! If he was on the couch in the spot where my husband sits…well my husband would have to sit somewhere else.

In early October Pepper’s appetite started slipping. He was always a big, strong, muscular cat. I was concerned and took him to the vet. They kept him for a week running test after test. He was anemic but they couldn’t find out why. All the tests they did were negative. There was no reason for his anemia. So..they sent him home with medicine to treat the symptoms. He was home almost 2 weeks and had to go back in the hospital again. This time they gave him injectable steroids. He came home and looked EXCELLENT! His blood count went up to almost normal. The vet explained that it could go up and down and Pepper must be checked out every few weeks. They sent him home with different meds. Within a few days he was not eating. I brought him back and saw a different vet in the practice. She became Pepper’s angel. She took such good care of him. He was not afraid of her at all. She started him on Epogen. It’s a drug that tells the body to produce RedBloodCells. She gave me her home number and cell case I needed her when the office was closed. I took advantage of that! There were nights when Pep would be “mopey” and I’d call her. She would reassure me.

In January my family went on vacation and I had to leave my precious Pepper. I decided to medically board him. This was because he was on medicine. I did not want to leave anyone responsible for giving him his meds (it was hard enough for me to do it) and I didn’t want anyone responsible for watching him to see if he was OK. He stayed under the care of his angel for 8 days. I was updated daily VIA text message as to how he was doing. When I got home I was thrilled to pick him up and bring him home and I promised him never to leave him again.

He was so STRONG and so much like his old self when I got picked him up. I couldn’t understand why after a few days his appetite started slipping. I called my vet and she told me that while boarded he was on indictable meds. I asked why can’t I do that at home if it is what works best for him? She went out and purchased the medicine and “equipment” for me to be able to do it for Pep. She would not even accept any money from me!

For several months it was the magic that we needed. Within a few hours of getting his medicine Pepper would eat and beg for treats. He’d wake me up in the middle of the night for me to give them to him. (Which I happily did!) I’d have to hide the container because he’s knock it to the floor trying to get to the treats himself. He knew where I would hide it too! If I put it under my pillow .. I’d feel his paw going under it scratching to find the hidden treasure! Pepper was doing great!! He still went for frequent checkups and Epogen shots. All the time we still questioned WHAT CAUSED HIM TO GET SICK!!

Then a few weeks ago even after getting his medicine his appetite was not that great. He would eat, but was not that interested. As always, I would buy his favorite food and treats. But he was really not interested in more than a few treats..or a few bites. I called my vet and we decided to do another run of Epogen. Pepper went 3 times in one week for these shots. He was getting his medicine at home as well. Although he didn’t lose any weight he got very skinny. It took him a long time to get comfortable..and even then he wouldn’t stay in one spot too long, There were nights in the past when he’d sleep in the “V” of my legs and I would NOT move so as not to disturb him. (He also slept with me every night!) But now he just couldn’t find the right spot anywhere. Last Saturday, 5/22/10, he went to see his angel. She gave him his medicine and gave him an antibiotic shot in case he was fighting something. (The steroids he was on would sometimes suppress the immune system.) I brought him home, I fixed his special blanket and put him on the couch. He looked very comfortable and relaxed. I thought everything was going to be OK. We both fell asleep on the couch.
When I woke up Pepper was in the den on another chair. He still looked “OK” so I went to mass, lit a candle for him and said my usual prayers. I even asked my priest to say a special prayer for my Pepper.

I thought Pepper was doing better. I was exhausted from the day and went to take my shower. I left the door ajar, in case he wanted to come in the bathroom. When I stepped out of the shower I heard Pepper wail. I grabbed my robe and went to him. He was on the floor just outside the bathroom door, I picked him up in my arms and he cried. I placed him on my bed and he was limp. I thought it was the end. I cried and kissed him, tried to comfort him and told him he didn’t have to fight anymore, I asked my mother and father to please come and get him and take him to Heaven. I didn’t want him to suffer! After a little while he tried to get up. Then he DID get up! He was going to jump off my bed. I helped him down. He seemed as if he was coming out of what ever it was that happened. Much to my dismay, he had a few more of these episodes during the night. Each time it was the same. I’d take him to my bed, comfort him and cry my eyes out! Then he would come out of it. I honestly don’t know how, but I fell asleep just before dawn. When I awoke I couldn’t find him. I was heartsick thinking he went to hide and was “gone” and that he died alone! I looked under my bed and found him. He was still with me! I prayed that he would not have another episode, telling myself the medicine his doctor gave him needed to kick in. If he didn’t have anymore episodes he’s be OK and I would take him to see the doctor on Monday. This was not meant to be. Shortly there after he had another episode. That was when we made the decision to send him to Heaven. I called my vet, but she was not answering. I could not let my Honey suffer anymore.

My husband, daughter and I took Pepper to the Animal Emergency Hospital. Let me tell you, that was not a pleasant experience! Not that having a beloved pet euthanized IS pleasant. This was a BAD experience. We were the only ones there at that time. We were greeted my the vet tech who took Pepper’s information. He asked us if we wanted the doctor to examine Pepper to see if they could help him. I declined. I knew that if there was anything that could have been done, his special angel doctor would have already done it! He explained the procedure and told us that they would be with us in a few minutes. When they finally came to take Pepper to prep him I was both relieved (that his suffering would soon be over) and distraught that I’d have to say good-bye! The tech gently took my Pepper. We waited over 45 minutes to be called into the room! I was sick waiting! What was taking them sooooo long!!!! I heard Pepper crying from the back. My husband and daughter told me it was not him, but like any good mother, I knew my “baby’s” cry.
They finally brought us into the room. The receptionist told us they had and emergency… (I didn’t believe her) and that the vet had a hard time getting a vein. FINALLY, the vet and the tech brought my Honey into the room. I cried. One of his front paws was bandaged, the other was bleeding with a fairly large hematoma on it! (Why couldn’t the bandage that too?) They were able to get the catheter in his rear paw. I knew then why I heard him crying!!! I was so sick from thinking what he went through. The vet said they had a very hard time because his blood pressure was very low. I did understand, but was still upset thinking of my poor baby. Then she told us that his body temperature was very low as well. That really annoyed me! They knew we brought his there to be put to sleep. Why did they have to take his temperature?? Why did they have to do that to him??? I turned all my attention to my Beloved Pepper, my Honey Man…for the last few minutes I’d have him with me. I told him what was going to happen, that I was going to miss him so very much, that he would be in Heaven with my father and Jessie soon and that I will be with his as soon as it is my time. The last thing I said to him is that I will love him forever!
The vet asked me if I was ready. She gave him the sedative, followed by the final shot. Pepper died in my arms. I stayed with him for as long as I could.

Now I am left with the memories of my Honey and the many pictures I have of him. I know that he is still with me. The first morning after I felt a cat jump up on my bed in Pepper’s spot. I sat up in bed thinking it was my other cat, Muffin. I was not! I know that it was my Pepper! He jumped in HIS SPOT and curled up either me like he has always done!

I will always remember our special bond and I know that when God calls me to Heaven I will be with my Pepper again.


I will love you forever Pepper,
Judey LaRocca