Boots and Tiger, my two beautiful cats, came into my life over 12 years ago. A policewoman discovered them at age 4 ½ weeks lying on the street between the paws of a dog. She took them to the local Vetinarian. There was a 13 year old boy volunteering at the Vets office and he went home and told his mother about the kittens. The mother told her best friend and the friend worked in the same school as my sister.
When I heard about the kittens, I rushed over to the Vet’s office to rescue them. I had no intention, at first, to include them in therapy sessions. I thought it would be distracting and unprofessional. So, on their first day home, I shut them in my bedroom and went down the hall to see my patients. Somehow, those two little balls of fur opened that closed door and wandered into my waiting room. When I saw my patients’ warm and excited reactions to them, I immediately began exploring ways to include them in the therapy.
In my sessions, Boots and Tiger offer you numerous benefits. They provide a sense of comfort, just to see them walking around - especially should they cuddle with each other, or rub against your feet or, with your permission, sit on your lap and purr. They can help you express emotions more easily. They provide role models for all sorts of behavior such as the ability to relax, to spar with one’s sibling, to be spontaneous and to have fun. In addition, the two different personalities - shy, timid Tiger and the confident out-going Boots - provide wonderful opportunities to identify with those parts of yourself and gain a deeper understanding of them.
If you wish, look in the Publications section of my web site for the two articles I have published about my work with the cats. There you can read about the research on the animal human bond, learn abut Pet Assisted Therapy done in institutional settings, and see clinical examples of my work with Boots and Tiger. You will also see how I work with animal phobias and allergic reactions to the cats.
For many years, Boots, Tiger and I worked as a team in the therapy room. Boots sat in the patient's lap and Tiger sat with me. Sadly, Tiger suddenly and unexpectedly became ill with a brain tumor and died on January 7th, 2016. He was a beautiful and gentle soul who had added much peace in the therapy sessions. Many patients had identified with his shyness and then used his own growth to inspire their own. Both patients and I mourned his passing.
The first week after Tiger's death, Boots stayed out of the therapy office. Then he came back in and resumed his usual welcoming, soothing behavior with patients. Occasionally he sits on my lap too. Perhaps at some point I will bring in another cat, if Boots seems to want company. Or, I may let him live out his life alone, as an "only cat." Either way, he takes his work very seriously and is there to welcome you and assist in your therapy, Of course, if you do not want him in the office, I will immediately remove him.
Early October, 2017, Boots stopped eating and became very lethargic. He had a severe underlying cancer, the doctor said. He died, peacefully, at the age of 17 (84 in human years) on October 18th. Boots had lived a long and meaningful life and both my patients and I mourned him.
Then, late in November, I brought home two 6 month old kittens, a brother and sister. I have named them Lightening Volt and ZsaZsa, aka Boychik and Wonder Woman. Like Boots and Tiger, they were found on the street, though they were raised in a foster home for 5 months before coming to me. They are very wonderful! As their foster mother said , "Street cats are very intelligent and resilient animals." As of this writing they are adjusting well, and already providing patients (and me) with comfort, joy and inspiration.