In Memory of My Beloved Black Cat, Phoenix
By Tamra Anne Bolles
The first time I saw Phoenix, he was a scrawny kitten. I didn’t have the heart to walk away without him, so I took him home with me. Not long after I adopted him, I wanted to attend graduate school. I wasn’t sure having any pets was a good idea given my plans. But, Phoenix was quiet and low maintenance. He cuddled quietly beside me for six months as I persevered in my preparation for the Graduate Record Exam. For the next three years, Phoenix waited patiently for me to return to our little apartment as I went from work to school, usually getting home around midnight. Each night after I got home, I cuddled with him on the couch and began working on my graduate studies. Most days I didn’t sleep, and if I did, it wasn’t much. I didn’t have time for friends, or family members, so Phoenix was essentially my only companion. He was fine with that, and so was I.
I got very sick during this time. Sometimes, I would sleep from one day into the next. I didn’t have any money to pay a doctor, so I stayed home and used over-the-counter medications to treat the virus. I’m not even sure I fed Phoenix, because I was so sick that I was barely able to stand. He never made a sound. He just let me rest, as he watched over me.
Years passed, and I finally graduated with my master’s degree in education, and so I became a public school teacher. Of course, as a new teacher, I was extraordinarily busy, but once I settled into the new job, things got easier. Meal time became more regular. And as soon as Phoenix adjusted to that new schedule, I added a rambunctious German shepherd to our lives. Phoenix resigned himself to the dog’s antics, not always happily, but he persevered. Then, I adopted another dog. This one was more Phoenix’s style. She was quiet like him, and very laid back. He loved her; still, he wasn’t necessarily a fan of sharing his home with any dog. And yet, Phoenix never resented me for forcing that upon him.
The same year our shepherd passed, Phoenix turned 20, incredibly. He turned 21 the year, Summer, my yellow lab, passed. I was very close to my dogs, so losing both of them within a year of each other was very sad for me. Phoenix sensed that. He stayed especially close to me during this time, because I was awfully sick, only this time, it wasn’t the flu. I was heartbroken. Phoenix was a great source of comfort many times in my life. We weathered many storms during the time we were together. I saw people and pets come and go from my life, as did he. Jobs changed for me as did my work schedule. We were always scrambling for more time together. Still, his enthusiasm as a true friend never wavered.
I think that’s what I remember best about Phoenix. No matter how my life progressed, despite the twists and turns that different years bring, Phoenix was a constant in my life. He got horribly sick once and needed emergency surgery. The doctor didn’t think he was going to survive. It was the sound of my voice that convinced the doctor, otherwise. Phoenix should have still been under the effects of the anesthesia, but as soon as he recognized me, he raised his head and banged it against the cage. “That’s not possible,” the doctor said. Phoenix had a strong will. His 21 years are a testimony to that fact. When I think of Phoenix now, there is only joy, because I know that I was blessed with a friend who always gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it. What a blessing to be loved like that. He never hissed, not once. I never saw him raise a paw at anyone. He was a treasure from the first moment I held him in my arms, till the last. Phoenix will always and forever be special to me.