Peppermint, 2005-2012

Precious Peppermint

The first time I saw her, I had just signed up as a volunteer at the SPCA to help care for the cats that were housed at our local Pet Smart store.  She sat in her cage playing with a small yellow ball with a bell hidden inside, seemingly as happy as could be.  She’d already been there for several months and only left her cage when one of us volunteers would let her out for twenty minutes or so.  She rubbed up against my leg, purring like a miniature motorcycle, her perfect moon-face tilted to her right, forever looking as if she might have a question or two for me.  On her records I noted she’d been rescued from a woman who had been keeping some thirty cats in her home and I knew from one the notes left by another volunteer that he was considering adopting her.

I went every Monday morning at eight to feed the cats and clean cages.  It was a way for me to get some kitty time and have time out of my house where my mom was slowly succumbing to lung cancer.  My best cat friend, Hannah, had died only a few months earlier and I was missing the soft, gentle love that only a lap cat can provide.

Several months later I decided that being around homeless cats living in cages was not making me any happier that being at home with my dying mom. I gave notice that I would be leaving my post.  Peppermint was still there, waiting for the right person to come along and take her home. On my last day, a young family came in looking for a cat to adopt.  They had three children who seemed a bit wild, but I didn’t think much of it until they wanted me to let Pepper out of her cage so they could see if she would be the cat for them.  As I put her down on the floor, the kids lunged at her, squeezing her and fighting over who would get to hold her next.  Pepper was not happy and I found myself in rescue mode, saying that I had forgotten that she had already been spoken for.   The family considered a couple of the other cats and I sighed, very relieved, when they walked away without one.  That night Peppermint, Peps, Pepperoni, or sometimes just Pepper, went home to live with me and my pack of two dogs and another cat I’d  recently rescued.

She was my sweetheart, never learning how to stalk birds or squirrels, simply running toward them with all of her might as they fled way before she could reach them.  She loved to play with anything that rolled across the floor and took to stealing pens from tables and desktops.  Meowing loudly, as if she was bringing me a mouse, she’d deposit her treasures in the same place every day.  I often watched her walk down the hallway from my office with a pen sticking out of her mouth, dangling like a cigarette, until she got to the place where she stored them.  The only times she ever meowed was when she was carrying a pen or when I’d force her into a crate to take her to the vet.

About a year ago, she started having difficult walking at times and looking at all of her test results and her head tilt, the Doc thought that she might have some kind of brain difficulty.  We dosed her with Prednisone and she got better.  Just a week ago she went missing in the house for a full day and I finally found her hiding in the dark basement, not feeling very good.  Bill and I took her to the Emergency Vet, and they could find nothing wrong with her, saying that it was likely her brain condition, and that they would only be able to diagnose it with a brain scan. We were unwilling to put her through that. The odds were that most likely it would be  something that was untreatable.

We brought her home, checked in with her regular Vet, Richard, on Monday. He told us to just watch her and get back to him on Friday with a report.  She started getting better, no longer hiding in the dark, eating well and using her litter pan.  On Friday morning I called Richard and he felt she’d probably be fine.

Later in the afternoon she went outside and immediately got hung up in a shrub, unable to walk.  We rushed her to the clinic. Within the hour she had four seizures and bit one of the technicians, something she had never done before.  We all decided that there was nothing to be done but to gently and quietly put her to sleep. She died in my arms with Bill and Richard mourning along with me.

It’s been a big year for losses at my house.  Molly, my little Maltese mix, died suddenly last Thanksgiving of cancer and just a month or so ago, Cleo, originally my mother’s cat, crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, at age seventeen.  They leave behind super dog, Sam, and Lilliput, a crazy tuxedo cat who spends most of her time outside, threatening and often succeeding in murdering the local wildlife.

We’re hoping and praying that this string of losses will end for a while. It is so difficult to part with these special creatures that come into our lives.  In the meantime, I take solace in the fact that they were all once homeless animals to whom we gave their second chances. They lived out their lives in comfort, surrounded with love.

Just a year ago I complained that with the five animals we kept, the house often felt like a daycare center.  Today, it’s very quiet and somewhat empty. I wish they were all back sharing their lives with me.

This entry was posted in Animals I Love, Friendships, Life, love and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Peppermint, 2005-2012

  1. Gail Livingston says:

    Oh, Joan, I am so sorry you are having to go through this again so soon. You will have a special place in your next life as a reward for learning in this life to liberate so many living beings from suffering. There was a cat I loved once. His name was Sam, a magnificent gray and white Manx my daughter rescued from having to grow up in Mississippi. In a weak moment, I agreed to migrate Sam to Atlanta. His name was actually Sammy Davis Junior, and we’ve never been sure what possessed my nine-year-old to name him that. In a trip to the underworld I took a few years ago, Sam actually emerged as my Power Animal. You are lucky to have a partner who is willing to join with you in your cat rescue activities. I feel sure Jim would move out himself before he agreed to have another cat. You probably don’t remember that my story about growing up in Mississippi was titled, “Learning to Love Cats.” It was just a metaphor, but in fact my family wouldn’t have anything to do with cats. Part of it was allergies, I later learned. Not wanting my girls to be deprived of kitty love, I let them each adopt a cat. One, named Carson, was clearly schizophrenic and soon ran away from home. But Sam stayed, moved to North Carolina with us, then finally died a long, unpleasant death that involved his throwing up all the time. I took him by myself to the vet when it was time and held him until he went to sleep. I still miss him. We have two 12-year-old dogs now, both rescued from cousins, one of whom died with no one to leave Flapjack to. Both my daughters’ dogs are rescues. I would never have anything else. Like our children, we hold their paws for a little while, their hearts forever.

    • jzrart says:

      Gail, Thanks so much for your kindness. Those little 4 legged creatures are really our best friends, accepting all that we are, including our darker sides. They have many lessons to teach us as well, and I’ll never be without someone furry in my life.

  2. Ruth McCully says:

    Dear Joan, I was so saddened to read your story about Peppermint. How fortunate she was to have found a home with you, a writer with an unlimited supply of pens!

    Nearly 40 years ago, I had my first pet a wonderful kitty named Simon. He was fearless, and a lover. We lived on a farm and Simon would run right up to the horses to say hello. He could have been crushed and he always left us mice on the front step after a day of hunting. I only had Simon for two years and wept and wept when we had to put him down due to a urinary tract blockage.
    I was catless until 2005 when we adopted Sadie and Zeke. They bring us such joy. Zeke is the alpha male who reigns over Sadie. Yet he is the first to snuggle in my lap, making it impossible to read because he wants his pets. His motor is loud and powerful. So I pet him and I am happy for his warmth in the winter. Sadie is the curious one and the hunter. They are indoor cats, but she sits at the window and goes after the birds and chipmunks from afar. She is in her hunting posture, crouching lower and twitching. Sometimes they are more like dogs than cats. They bring us joy, make us laugh, and keep us warm in winter. Wherever we are in the house, Sadie and Zeke are with us. We are their entertainment.

    So dearie, I am so sorry that you have had so many losses this year. I am also so happy that these little creatures were blessed to have you and Bill as their companions, caretakers, and friends.

    • jzrart says:

      Ruth, You are so right about being lucky to have had 4 legged companions in my life. I have learned so much from them, especially about myself. Thanks for your story about your own kitties and I agree that we are their entertainment, rather than the opposite. Give Sadie and Zeke a gentle tail tug for me.

  3. patti stark says:

    So sorry about Peppermint, Joan and Bill. My thoughts are with you as you once again work through the sadness and missing her part of the journey. I loved the description of her walking down the hall with a pen in her mouth. I very much enjoyed Gail and Ruth’s posts too. I have 7 rescue’s in my household; 2, 3 year old dogs, 4 kitties, 2 ancient white doves (15), and a darling canary. Each have a wonderful story too, and as I was reading your “Peppermint Post”, I was thinking that these stories would make for a good book! One time I wrote down all the animals I have ever had in my life, and it added up to a LOT, all of which were rescues! I had Ma-Ma Kitty when I was growing up, and she had 65 kittens. We would put a “free kittens” sign in the yard, and off they would go! The stories could go on and on, couldn’t they? My life without them could never add up to the joy they have always brought me, and I’m grateful that I have a friend like you who shares such great stories for people like us who choose to embolden our lives with these precious critters! We are the lucky ones, not to mention brave, to take the responsibilty to see them through to the rainbow.

    • jzrart says:

      Thanks for your beautiful words, Patti. Go sit down right now and start writing!! I mean it, girl. You are filled with so many beautiful stories and it’s bit fair to keep them secret!

      • patti stark says:

        so true – maybe i will start up a blog again using this feed that you and bill use – thanks – p

  4. bacon says:

    Dearest Joan,
    My heart is saddened for you. I, also, know the deep loss of our beloved furry family members. Sending you peace and hugs.

  5. jzrart says:

    Bacon, Thank you so much. You are a sweetheart.

  6. Brenda Neil says:

    Sorry for another loss in your life Joan. Peppermint was very fortunate to have all those years with you and Bill and the rest of the pets. May your memories of her help you through the harder times. Hugs and love…Brenda

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