Have you ever been saved by the love of an animal? Saved by a Cat? I was. I really was…I’m alive today because of a stray grey cat (Simon the Cat). It was 1983. I was just out of college and living on Abbott Avenue, just up the road from SMU. I had my first miserable job at the NBC Affiliate, Channel 5 News here is Dallas. I was a journalism major. My internship was there, and they hired me. The day my internship started I arrived at 7am, by 10am I knew I had just spent four years at SMU, and a load of money on something that I didn’t like. I stayed a few years in hopes of convincing myself I hadn’t truly made such a yucky choice.
As you know, most of the time it takes bad news to make news. I was the person that pulled the report of Princess Grace’s car crash off the wires. I called the morgue three times a day for updates. By the time I added the fourth lock to my apartment door, I knew I needed a change.
The catalyst for this change was a private plane crash at a small DFW airport. It killed a father, his little girl, and their pilot. A cameraman went out for photos. We only needed photos for a one-minute-twenty-second story. However, I stood in the editing booth looking at photos of things no one should see. I was asked to phone the family for details. I couldn’t do it—now firmly convinced this was not my path…I quit.
Now, how does this lead to a cat, you ask? Well, the back story to this misery is that I also was very alone in the world. My father had passed away from a sudden unexpected heart attack when I was thirteen. I was an only child and unbeknownst at the time, my mother had Borderline Personality Disorder. What this means is that I was her sport—her target. Anything possible to make me fail, or feel bad about myself was her end goal.
I was a runner. I started the morning my dad died. As the funeral home carried him out of the house, I dashed out the door running up-and-down the street until my Aunt Mary arrived and stopped me. I kept running…every day…running. By the time I graduated college, I had worked up to running ten-plus miles a day—a day.
I would roll out of bed, pull on my spandex, kneel at my bed and pray: “Dear God, Please kill me today. If you need a body quota, take me, not someone’s mother or daughter or sister or wife—take me. I have no one. I affect no one. No one will miss me. Please Kill Me Today. Amen.”
Then I would go run three-plus miles, clean up, get dressed, expect to be killed, go to work—make some of the most beautiful artistic stuffed toys in the world carried by Neiman Marcus, FAO, and many other stores, come home and run another three-plus miles. I usually couldn’t sleep, so I went to the SMU track between 10 p.m. and midnight for another three-plus miles…only to wash and repeat the next day. Today I laugh and say, “I couldn’t get killed if I ran down the freeway holding a dagger point side up! Yay!!!”
Since I was praying to die, I was also trying to figure out how to kill myself, but efficiently, painlessly and well done. I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t want to stay.
I lived in an apartment building with all the doors facing an inside hallway. I saw this grey cat a few times when I would come in at night. He would peek at me from behind the stairs. I always stood and talked to him for a few minutes.
One night there was a nasty electrical thunderstorm. It was about 5am when I heard a racket at my door. I looked out of the peep hole and saw nothing, but the noise was still there. I opened the door, looked down, and there he stood—desperate, wet and spraddle-legged, braced for anything as he reached the point of needing a human.
We stared at each other, he said, “Meow”. I said, “Come in, your name’s Simon (I have no idea where that came from) and we’ll go to the vet.” I had no idea how to care for a cat. I think I actually offered him a bowl of milk! I couldn’t go back to sleep. I just stared at him. He was gun-metal grey in color, intense in personality, possessing a raspy deep voiced meow, thin as a bone, almost ghost-like, and awesome—he was home, and so was I!
I loved Simon so much, I couldn’t kill myself. I no longer prayed to die. In a complete reversal I started taking better care of myself. I was worried about what would happen to him if I wasn’t around. He hated everyone, but me. He hid in the drapes when my mother was in my apartment. One day he flew out—airborne—and bit her so badly on the thumb, she had to go to the doctor.
Simon slept on my pillow, followed me to the bathroom, sat on the counter while I cooked, rode in the car anchored between my neck and the head rest. He was a traveling, “Love his Mama” kinda cat. I was offered an opportunity to teach English in China, I declined. I couldn’t leave Simon. I married Mac because for the first time ever, Simon liked someone else, so I thought I’d better pay attention to his instincts. Yep, I married Mac because my cat liked him. Well, it was the starting reason.
Years later I had a visit with a Huna Shaman. A woman. She knew nothing about me. She mentioned that one of the greatest sources of help in my lifetime will be from boy cats. Well, I couldn’t stop laughing. I thought that was such a silly thing to say. A few days later I thought about what she said, and she was right. Yes, I’m convinced I’m alive today because of a ghost-like, grey cat named Simon.
…and now Harold
Roll forward to January 2017—up walks Harold (known at the time as “The Kitten with the Big Head”) and his mother. We watched as they ate from our outside community food bowl. Unable to get close to humans, they nibbled and hid, taking up residence behind pots and a bamboo screen in the courtyard of my studio. In February, Mac saw fur on the ground. We never saw the mother cat again. However, we could hear rustling sounds behind the pots, and the food bowl was continually eaten clean. In March, Kitten with the Big Head moved outside the gate, into hedges where he meowed to passers by, but was untouchable.
I began to worry about all the other kittens that would show up if I didn’t do something. So, I invested in a feather toy with a bell. Mac taped it to a long stick and I sat for weeks on the back steps waving it at KWTBH. He was cagey. I kept shortening the stick. Finally close enough, I got a head-pet…and a photo of the moment.
A few days later, April 8, the sliding doors were open. I heard “Meow, Meow” and KWTBH was standing in the center of my studio. I closed the door. I said, “Your name’s Harold (I have no idea where that came from) and we’ll go to the vet.” He walked under my desk where he fell asleep and never again returned outside.
Now at this moment in time, there’s no personal crisis. The last cat, Tibby, passed away in 2008. I just longed for a cat. I missed having a cat, and deeply hoped for one. I knew one day Mr. Perfect would arrive…and he did.
Once again I find myself saved by a Cat.
You may see lots of photos on my Instagram Account under my name, or you may go to his page on Instagram at #HaroldofGod.
From the book, On Cats by Charles Bukowski, pg. 87
“Having a bunch of cats around is good. If you’re feeling bad, you just look at the cats, you’ll feel better, because they know that everything is, just as it is. There’s nothing to get excited about. They just know. They’re saviors. The more cats you have, the longer you live. If you have a hundred cats, you’ll live ten times longer than if you had ten. Someday this will be discovered, and people will have a thousand cats and live forever. It’s truly ridiculous.”
Those after Simon and before Harold
What good is this post if I don’t bore you with photos of all the others; Simon, Sebastian, Sophie-Willow, Tinker and Tibby…a small dog named Fred, of course Poodle Henry and now, Harold-of-God.
The Literary CatCast Podcast is Coming Soon
The Literary CatCast is a bi-monthly podcast no longer than seven minutes. I will be reading sections of literature with cats as the featured character…stay tuned!!!
Phebe Phillips lives in Dallas. Her first book, Why Me? Positive Verse for Loss and Sadness is forthcoming May 2018. Her poetry has been published by literary journals world wide. She’s working on two podcasts: The Specialness of You and The Literary CatCast.
I am glad you were saved by a cat!
Phebe Phillips says
Peter L. Gebhardt says
Wow! Thanks for sharing Phebe💖🎉🌹💜👍 more reasons why I love you…but I didn’t have a reason when I bumped into you at Whole a foods, You were just you and your presence, in the moment grabbed me, and well, ever since, you & Mac are on my cool cats list. I just made that up, but I like it. Happy Valentines Day Phebe💜💗🌹💚🎉😘 Thanks for showing u in our lives…you make it better…by being you🎁
Phebe Phillips says
I like being on “The Cool Cat” list. Glad you enjoyed the post. ~ Phebe
Love your stories🐱❤️
Phebe Phillips says
Elitania Ortega says
I have so many beautiful memories of when i was a little girl and my mom worked with you. I always loved being at the shop and watch how you and her made all kinds of animals come to life. I always remember car rides with you, they were awesome, I remember you teaching me how to color with your amazing animal drawings. Remembering how you would go above and beyond to help animals. Thanks to your advice one of my moms dogs is healthy and living, after the vet told us he wouldn’t live very long. Long story short, the meaning of any animal is incredibly important to me. And I have you to thank for that. You are an amazing person, genuinely kind and beautiful inside and out. You always helped my family in way that you could.
Happy Valentine’s Day Phebe!!!!!!
Phebe Phillips says
Happy Valentines Day, Elitonya. You were and are special. I loved having you go places with me. I love your Mom. She was an awesome part of my life in that business.
I’m so happy her dog is doing well. And happy that my blog is meaningful.
I love you, and your Mom, and always will. ~ Phebe
Happy Valentine’s Day, Phebe, Mac, and Harold of God. I’m so grateful that God chose to send Simon that day.
Phebe Phillips says
Yes, me too. Simon was an awesome cat. He passed away in the late 90s.
Happy Valentines ~ Phebe
Elaine Davis Baker says
Phebe, you are an inspiration to me. I have suffered from depression for many years and have had much similar feelings about living and dieing, I have been to several counselors only to find that my horses , dogs and cats were what really pulled me through. I have a couple of serious health issues that really pull me down.
Your story today has helped me a lot. Most people do not understand those feelings . Thanks
Phebe Phillips says
Isn’t it the truth that most people don’t understand. It would appear my life was charmed, but in reality it all fell badly apart when my father died. I had a terrific therapist in my late twenties. For a while all I could do was lie in her floor the whole hour and cry. She would move out of her chair, crawl across the floor and sit on the floor holding my hand. That was before I started talking to her.
I do think animals are magical. I am sorry they suffer so much for human industries. In many ways they are an answer. That cat, Simon was magical.
I like to think you and I grew up in a golden age, but sometimes I’m not so sure. Breathe deeply, hang in, and keep focused on the animals. We share a lot of each other’s history.
I love you much ~ Phebe
I love you too, and thanks for the advice ❤️
Novelist Paulo Coelho wrote, “Stress, anxiety and depression are caused when we are living to please others.”
EXCEPT where cats/pets are concerned! Lovely, thanks. Similar story for myself.
Phebe Phillips says
Thank you for this wonderful comment…and isn’t it true!