If you hang around me long enough, you’ll find out, in bits and pieces, that my childhood wasn’t normal. It wasn’t normal in a variety of ways, but one of those ways was that we were never allowed to have any pets long term. Instead of bonding with a pet and getting to move through the stages of life with a furry friend, what we got was an exercise in brevity. In what was a typical pet cycle in my home, we’d obtain some kind of pet, usually a dog. It would live with us for weeks or months, but never longer than a year. These pets would exit our home at the point at which they began to annoy my mother. For pets and children, my mother had little patience. She was sort of forced to keep the children, though. But the pets would vanish. Gone to live on “a farm” and we’d never see them again. To this day, I have no idea what happened to all of them.
It was only when I was an adult that I got what I consider my first pet. I decided on a cat and beyond that, I had no idea what I was doing. I vaguely remember reading about Himalayan on the internet and somehow I wound up at a local breeder’s home. When she brought out the kittens that were ready for purchase, one caught my eye. She was way smaller than all the others and she came right to me. Have you ever been in the presence of multiple kittens at one time? They get each other all jacked up. It’s like watching a physical manifestation of A.D.D. in animal form. They were everywhere. But this kitten came to me and ignored whatever shenanigans were going on behind her. She was sitting in my hand and I was petting the top of her tiny head with my finger when the breeder lady rudely interrupted our bonding.
“Not that one. You don’t want that one.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“She’s smaller than all the others. She doesn’t even weight 2 lbs. She’s the runt. Plus, the mother’s begun to reject her. She probably won’t live.”
That was all she needed to say. I scooped up that kitten and handed over my money. I left her house and never looked back.
I ended up naming that kitten Phoebe, after the Friends character. It’s appropriate that I picked a name from a show entitled Friends because Phoebe and I were BFFs.
I had no way of knowing, at the time, but I had chosen one of the sweetest, smartest cats that ever lived. She had tons of what they call “dog behavior.” She was very social and loved attention and to be petted. She adored all humans and they were her friends instantly. Phoebe also did this incredibly human thing when I would talk to her. When I was looking right at her, speaking to her, she’d cock her head to one side, like she was listening and thinking about whatever I was saying. I nicknamed her Phoebe the Wonder Cat, because she was mazing. Phoebe and I had grand adventures. She traveled the United States with me. Wherever I went, Phoebe went. She was my little love bug. Phoebe was meant to be my cat and I was meant to be her human.
In April of 2017, something was wrong with Phoebe’s eye and I took her to the vet. I’ll spare you all the details but the condition deteriorated until there was so much pressure in her eye that she began to bleed from the interior corner on a constant basis. That eye was constantly weeping blood. The vet seemed to think she had a mass in her brain that was pushing on the area from the inside, causing all the pressure. The vet said there was nothing more to do. I threw all the money I had at the situation. But there was nothing I could do. It took me months to adjust to the idea of letting her go. I just couldn’t do it. It was only when the degree of her suffering became unbearable to watch that I made the decision to let her go.
On October 6, 2017, I held Phoebe in my arms while she crossed the rainbow bridge. It was the 2nd hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I have so much guilt over it. She trusted me and I took her somewhere to die. Yes, we can use all the nice words we want. I ended her suffering and on and on. But at the end of the day, I decided that she would die that day, and it fractures a piece of my soul. I prayed so hard that she would die in her sleep, so I wouldn’t have to decide anything. That wasn’t how it happened, though.
It’s been 7 months that she’s been gone and I cried the entire time I was writing this. I miss her constantly. Just like with people, it doesn’t truly get better. You just become numb to that particular crack in your heart and you learn how to carry on.
I have zero regrets, though. I wouldn’t trade a single day with Phoebe and each of those days with her makes the pain of missing her worth it. We were BFFs and there’s no emotional price tag too high for that kind of love. I swore that I wouldn’t get another pet after Phoebe died. I didn’t want to do any of that again.
It wasn’t long before I realized, though, that if I didn’t regret any of my time with Phoebe, it would be worth doing again. So, this past Sunday (April 29, 2018), I made a new friend. Her name is Lailah Blue (like the Clapton song “Layla” just spelled differently). We’re already on our way to being BFFs and she’s only been in my life 24 hours. But in that 24 hours, she’s helped heal a piece of my heart. I am super excited to see what adventures we will go on together. And Phoebe will be there, too, even if we can’t see her.