Bonnie Olson's 8-year-old cat has had a few names through the years. "Dart" for his speed, "Monster" for his hunting tenacity. These characteristics were surprising coming from the sickly kitten he'd been when Bonnie took pitty on him when he was being given away at a local feed store. But he grew into a big, muscular cat that thrived on the 12 acres they lived on in Black Forest, Colorado.
Sadly, the most destructive fires in Colorado History began to threaten their mucn-loved home. The Olson's were able to evacuate two dogs, three horses and their other cat. But Monster was nowhere to be found. Olson's husband, Eric, arrived a bit later, found the cat and put him in the car. But since Eric didn't have another carrier, the terrified Monster escaped into the forest as the fire was exploding all around.
Eventually the Black Forest Fire consumed 16,000 acres, destroyed more than 500 structures and killed two people.
The Olsons grieved thinking there was no way their cat could have survived, especially when they returned and found their 20-year dwelling had burned to the ground. They weren't allowed to stay, but just in case, Bonnie left cat food and some water bowls.
Twelve days later, they were allowed to return again. Their home, the barn and their RV were also burned to the ground. Strangely, the dog run piled full of hay and covered with a tarp survived the inferno.
So did the animal that hid inside. A sooty Monster wandered out from the hay to meet them.
"We don't know if he spent all the time there, or went somewhere else and came back," Bonnie said.
"It's a mystery."
He had lost a lot of weight, which was not a bad thing, because he was such a large cat. Otherwise, he appeared no worse for the wear with no injuries.
They decided he now had earned the name Phoenix, after the Greek mythological bird that arose from ashes.
Phoenix is adjusting to being a house cat in their temporary home.
"He's a smart cat. He'll make it work," Bonnie said.
It's been tough to lose their long-time home, but the Olsons have found the good in the situation and are blessed to have their cat back.
"I think we have the responsibility to find good in every situation," she says. "So I hope I will look back someday and be grateful. Not grateful that everything burned down. But life is a spiritual journey and so be thankful for the path our lives take because of the radical changes."