Last night at around 6 pm our oldest cat, Pepe, passed away. My wife was holding him in her arms at the time and he was sleeping, which is pretty much all he’d done for the previous two days. And then he was gone.
Like most of our pets, Pepe came to us from a somewhat tumultuous situation which involved an animal shelter, but this case was very different from the rest. Pepe had previously been named Sydney and he lived with members of my wife’s family. It was roughly fifteen years ago and they had recently had a baby. Somehow subscribing to the absurd belief that cats can be dangerous around infants and having financial issues leading them to not want to pay for cat supplies, they elected to take Pepe to the local humane society and surrender him. It’s not a no kill shelter and Pepe was no kitten, so his prospects were probably not great. Word got to us the same day and my wife – quite unhappy at learning of this – jumped in the truck and drove three hours to the shelter and demanded the cat be adopted to us. That night Sydney arrived at our house where he was immediately renamed as Pepe. This was partly because my wife is superstitious about pet names that begin with “S” for some reason but also because my Aunt had just passed away and she had always named all of her cats “Pepe” for all of her more than 90 years on Earth.
Pepe adapted quickly to his new home, coming out and socializing on the first day. This was in contrast to some other cats who have taken weeks to come out of hiding and actually sit with us. From that point on, while it may be boring to hear, there was very little remarkable or controversial about Pepe until the very end. He was never aggressive like some other male cats we’ve had who fight for dominance in the house social pecking order. Pepe’s big move was always to snuggle with the other cats. Even the ones who didn’t want to would eventually wind up cuddling with him because he would creep up on them slowly, laying closer and closer to them until they were intertwined. He became somewhat famous in our house for literally hugging the other cats, as seen in this picture with Tiger Tom.
Pepe was always quiet and gentle. He was also remarkably healthy with no complaints at his annual checkup until he suddenly seemed to become weak and start to lose weight in 2014. The vets checked him out carefully and found that he had developed some sort of heart problem. It wasn’t immediately life threatening, but he had an irregular heartbeat. Unfortunately he was already too old to risk any sort of feline heart surgery even if such could have helped. But he wasn’t in pain and still managed to keep up his appetite and normal routine. But for the past two years he continued to be less active and his diet was thin.
Pepe eventually lost too much weight to the point where he was barely half the mass he’d previously been. We could tell that he didn’t have much longer and the vets agreed, but he still didn’t exhibit any symptoms of being in pain and had a good quality of life so we just treated him gingerly and made sure he had plenty of his favorite treats. That situation continued until Sunday of this week when Pepe had essentially stopped eating entirely and was sleeping most all of the day and night. It was obvious that the end was near and that was the point where we made a decision which worried us. (And still does.) For most all of our pets over the years, when a pet was reaching the end of their life, medical problems associated with old age would produce problems which left them in pain. When it reached that stage we always took them to our vet to see them on their way humanely.
But Pepe wasn’t in pain. He was just sleeping and laying on the couch with either me or my wife all day and straight through to bedtime. We decided that if the situation didn’t change, we would keep him at home where he was comfortable and at ease. Taking him to the vet’s office to lay on a metal table while they searched for a vein to insert an IV seemed more traumatic than what he was doing. This was what was on our minds as we allowed Pepe to sink into sleep and eventually pass in my wife’s lap last night as she cradled him. He never cried out, only giving a couple of coughs and then he was gone. We discussed it afterward and remain comfortable with the belief that we did the right thing.
Today I dug a grave for Pepe out on the back corner of our property under an ancient, huge maple tree. It’s next to the grave of another of our cats, Spider, who was Pepe’s loving friend for many years until she passed a few years ago. When my wife came home from work we buried Pepe. My wife put some wild flowers in his blanket and I put a fresh sprig of catnip in with him so he would always have something pleasant to sniff where ever he goes. And this is the end of the story of Pepe.
Goodbye my old friend. You will be missed.