Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

July 30, 2013

Local therapy cat helps sick and elderly

By Jessie Hellmann
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Sometimes, a special guest visits the patients who live at Golden Living nursing home in Kokomo. But, unlike most, this guest has four legs, a lot of fur and two pointy ears.

Jaetta Hall and her 5-year-old cat Flash visit local hospitals and nursing homes to bring a little light to the sick and the elderly.

“We do it because he absolutely just loves to see people. He loves to go out and visit,” Hall said. “What makes it for us is just to see people’s faces light up.”

Flash is a licensed therapy cat through Love on a Leash, a national nonprofit organization with local chapters that relies on volunteers to provide emotional support and encouragement to those in hospitals and nursing homes.

About once a week, Hall and Flash stroll the hallways of nursing homes like Golden Living and seek out people to entertain.

“We kind of know the people who like to see him and sometimes we pick up new people,” Hall said.

Hall started Flash off participating in cat shows but ended up wanting to do something more fulfilling.

This led them to do therapy work, which they have done for more than a year now.

“We’re just there to comfort people and to make their day.”

Although Flash is a cat, he knows when it’s time to get down to business, she said.

“He is very calm, cool and collected,” Hall said. “It’s like a light switch. He knows that when we go to a nursing home, he has to be calm. To me, he’s like a working K9. They know when it’s time to play and they know when it’s time to work.”

Hall said because people who live in nursing homes are usually forced to give up their pets when they move in, being able to see Flash is a nice treat for them.

The residents will spend time petting and playing with Flash as he sits in his customized pet stroller.

All this kindheartedness comes from a cat that was rescued as a stray from a barn in Ohio, Hall said.

Flash has grown so popular, his Facebook page accumulated 700 likes from people all over the world, and he’s even received fan mail from places like South Carolina and Canada.

Over the past year of doing therapy work, Hall has a few treasured memories.

“We visited a nursing home and we were on the Alzheimer’s side. There was a lady who doesn’t talk to a lot of people, but we showed her Flash and the lady laughed,” Hall said. “The nurse was shocked because these ladies don’t say much. They don’t talk. But it seems if you just bring the therapy animal around, it seems that you’ll get more communication with them. That was great to see that day. That was one of the big moments that we’ve had.”