I have had cats since the 1970's and each cat has been very special in its own way. Smidge is one especially special cat. I went to an Oklahoma City cat show in November of 2000 just planning to kill some time. While there I just happened to come across the Humane Society booth with little kittens on display. I had just put my 22-year old Siamese mix, Bastet, to sleep due to health reasons, and really hadn't planned on getting another cat, but this little kitten just beckoned me. She was a little American short-haired domestic tortoiseshell. I had another "tortie" named Cleo and knew what a loving cat they could be.
This little orphan just melted in my arms. They wouldn't take a check, so I had to run to the ATM and take out the money for adoption. She was the sweetest little thing. I immediately named her Smidgeons as she was just a little thing. I had no idea what I was getting into with her. I had another Tortie named Cleo as well as one little ferral cat I was trying to tame enough to get adopted. Missy, the ferral cat, was very territorial and would attack Smidgeons, so I ended up keeping Smidge in the bedroom when not home. When I was home, Smidge rode on my shoulder. Missy eventually ran away and that left Smideons and Cleo.
By that time Smidgeons had become so attached to me that she had to watch me at night and sleep by my face. In addition, I started to take her to PetSmart. At about that time, I saw a volunteer article for PAWS for Friendship. They were looking for therapy animals to visit nursing homes and hospital. I became very interested in that. I was working in a nursing home situation at that time and thought that would be a perfect match. As it turned out, Lyndia evaluated Smidge at the PetSmart I would take Smidgeons to for shopping. Smidge passed with flying colors.
Lyndia Glover, the Chapter Coordinator for Oklahoma City PAWS for Friendship, agree that there is no real training for a therapy animal. They have to be flexible, adaptable and calm in nature. Smidgeons is very unusual as a cat. We visit a 100+ facility nursing home every week along with Lyndia Glover's therapy dog, Fancy. Smidgeons is subject to extreme noises, actions, and other distractions when visiting, as all therapy pets are subject to. In a nursing home, you experience cleaning equipment running, patients very distraught and vocal, a lot of visitors, etc.
Smidge is very unusual as a cat as she tends to just melt in the patients arms. She will make herself comfortable in the armchair or bed of a patient. She will walk from patient to patient to visit them. She is leashed trained and is not declawed, I just keep her claws trimmed. I can read her moods, and only have pulled her once from a visit. That was this weekend when she spent 4 hours at a health fair Saturday morning then had a visit scheduled at the nursing home Saturday afternoon. She gave me her signal that she had it, so we did pull out of the visit.
It is very important that the handler and pet have mutual respect for each other and understand each other. Smidge and I have a bond that I have never had with any other cat I have had. I understand her moods and she understands mine - imagine that. I am very, very lucky to have such a wonderful friend available to me with Smidgeons.