Mr. Peepers: The Crazy Cat-a-wee Wat-a-wee
|I wake up at 4:15 AM.
"Whadda you crazy?"
"What time do you get to sleep?"
"Isn't that still the night?"
Well initially I would've answered those questions by explaining that it was congenital, handed down from my mother's side of the family. But, on January 19, 2002, Mr. Peepers joined our family and I realized that I had to get up at 4: 15 AM because Mr. Peepers wanted company. My awakening, prior to his arrival, was only practice for the real thing.
It took three visits to the Humane Society of Santa Clara Valley before we found the former Yogi Bear, an 8 week old light tan foster kitten with brown fur around his eyes. According to the questionnaire, Yogi Bear was 'very active and playful.' He is 'self-assured and purrs immediately when you pick him up.' He likes to 'sit on my desk and look out the window, watching the birds and squirrels in the yard or play with the pens and pencils on my desk.' Funny, as it turns out, Mr. Peepers did the same things.
We renamed Yogi Bear Mr. Peepers because of the coloring around his eyes. For the first six months, Mr. Peepers had to be kept in my office with the door closed when no one was home. His brother is Max, a three year old (at the time) Jack Russell Terrier and, although Max has always lived with cats, we wanted them to get used to each other while we were around. It didn't take long though for Mr. Peepers to cultivate his desire to roam. It started with his meow when I would get home and open the front door:
why must I be locked in this room? let me out. I am not happy.
Once I opened the office door though the tone changed and he was happy to be with the gang. Ultimately, the door to the office was left open all the time, but then the door to the basement was shut. He was still to young to go prowling about the dirt-filled crawl space. But he did enjoy his new found freedom and although Max and he weren't quite playmates they were resigned to the fact that they were together.
It was my rule that Mr. Peepers would not go outside until he was a year old. First though, after nine months of house arrest, I opened the door to the basement. Mr. Peepers was in heaven! I would drive home from an outing and Mr. Peepers could be seen looking out the grating from the basement crawl space. Not only was it an adorable picture but it gave him time to see the outdoors (and its possible dangers) without actually having to experience them yet. This went on for a few months although Mr. Peepers started getting antsy. There was a new meow:
you and max are in the back yard and I sit on the window sill looking out?
Our backyard is fenced in but, I still wanted to kitten proof it by stapling screens over a few holes. I decided that once Mr. Peepers was agile enough to jump the six foot fence and leave the backyard, he was ready for the outside world. In the meantime, I wasn't going to make it easy for him to scuttle through some openings on the ground. I did try turning him into a cat with a harness and a leash that I could walk but his meow put a stop to that:
whadda you crazy?
Ultimately, Mr. Peepers not only found his way to the top of the fence but also the garage, the roof, the neighbor's roof and even the old fish tank stored in the garage. Ain't no stopping him now.
When Mr. Peepers started getting a little paunchy, I changed to light cat food and only filled his bowl twice a day. That's when the 4:15 alarm clock started. So I would get up, fill his bowl with food and he ate happily. If I went back to sleep, he jumped on the bed and slept on my pillow. Once I put food in his bowl the night before, assuming he would find it and not wake me up. Not quite, as the next morning there was a new meow:
i saw the food but it's still time to get up.
That's when I realized he just wanted that time with me. So we would get up and I would start working. He would sit on my desk playing with the pens and pencils or just look out the front window. After a while he would let me know it was time to open the back door so he could wander as he chose. I would pick him up, open the door and whisper something in his ear every morning so he would know to be safe: "Remember, at night, all cats are grey." (It was, after all, still dark and every cat needs to remember one line from 'Valley Of The Dolls'.) Every 15 minutes or so after that, he would come in and meow. I would pick him up, tell him I loved him and put him down. He'd walk back out happy in the thought that I was still there for him.
Last night, it was later than usual and Mr. Peepers hadn't returned so I went out with a flashlight looking for him. He wasn't in what had become HIS patch of dirt in the back. I figured I'd have to go out front to find him when the doorbell rang and my neighbor told me Mr. Peepers was on his driveway. I thought he meant sitting there like an Egyptian statue but he was actually lying on the ground, bleeding. We rushed Mr. Peepers to the emergency room but it was too late as he had already died in my arms. The vet said it was some type of heart ailment. He was not in a fight or hit by a car but he had been bleeding from his nose. She brought Mr. Peepers into the room for me to say goodbye. It's funny that he still looked so alive, only sleeping. His fur was warm, his markings were just as I had last seen them, and his mouth still felt the same when I kissed him goodbye. I just wanted him to get up and walk off that table. He was only 2 1/2 years.
Though our beloved Mr. Peepers died young, I believe he enjoyed his time on earth as I enjoyed having him share my time. These last few days have been very difficult: after all, I still wake up at 4:15. Mr. Peepers is being cremated now and I know a certain patch of dirt in the backyard where his remains will be buried. My days will not be the same without the morning meow or his little purr or coming home and seeing him stretched out across the bed or having him sleep with us on my pillow. And I know I'll always be listening for (and sometimes hear) his loud snoring which could be heard from across the room.
I love you, Mr. Peepers, you crazy cat-a-wee wat-a-wee.