Hurricane Irene in 2011 turned Pepper’s life upside down. One of many strays rounded up after the storm, the little tortoiseshell was spayed, vaccinated and shuttled in a crate all the way to a shelter in Maine. It must have been an experience that felt like an alien abduction. No wonder she hid under the bed in the guest bedroom when we brought her home. For two months. Daily we would lie on the floor and talk to Pepper, coaxing her with treats and toys to come out, but she wouldn’t budge, her green eyes frozen with an unblinking stare.

Patience won out, and Pepper finally ventured into the rest of the house and into our lives. This sweet spirit found her voice and greets us with a chorus of squeaks and trills all through the day, and waves her tail to say she is happy. In the mornings, Pepper is Sarah’s loyal work companion; in the afternoon, a master soccer player bursting with energy; and later at night, curled up between us on the couch. There she will gently nip my hand when I scratch her ears and steal my spot every time I get up.

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