Bear The Therapy Cat Forced To Retire After 7 Years Of Bringing Chemo Patients Comfort

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I happened upon a story out of Colorado about a very special cat. For one, the story is thoughtfully written by a reporter with the local Steamboat Pilot. Within the first few sentences, Kari Dequine Harden had already brought tears to my eyes. Now, maybe that personally hit me because I’m about to watch my father start chemotherapy for recently diagnosed Lymphoma. But truly, anyone with a heart and an ounce of compassion likely felt just as I did. I can only hope that my father can find the inspiration from another’s open heart, like these patients did. And they did that so well, with the help of one loving cat named Bear.

Image: www.heelingfriends.org

Bear has been a part of the Heeling Friends program for the last 7 years. 

I get the happy, goosebump chills thinking of all the good a solo small cat did over that time. And that’s exactly what Kari’s story was obviously meant to do. Here are the first 3 sentences; you’ll see what I mean.

Over the course of seven years, Bear the cat spent nearly 200 hours in the [UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center] hospital, bringing comfort to anyone and everyone in need. 

He curled up on the laps of chemo patients during hours-long treatment, sat next to patients suffering traumatic injuries in the emergency room and consoled children in lobbies waiting for their mothers to come out of surgery.

There were some patients with whom Bear spent many an hour who made full recoveries and others who lost their battle with a devastating illness.

Image: www.heelingfriends.org

But Bear also had a very dedicated and loving humans supporting HIM through the years.

Jan Theadore has been with her beloved gray cat on their amazing journey since their family rescued him in 2008.

Originally born into a breeding program, poor Bear had a “flaw”. He was about to be euthanized because of a small white “tuft” of hair…despicable. Jan recalled to the news outlet that:

She knew she wanted the cat, but had to wait out an ice storm to get him, and was warned he may not make a good house cat because of abuse.

Image: www.steamboatpilot.com ~ Jan and Bear

“He was in bad shape when he arrived by plane from Oklahoma to California”, Theadore said. “And [he] was ravaged with fleas and ear mites. He had never been out of a crate.”

The breeder did ultimately lose his license, she said. In the following years, Bear [also] overcame a diabetes diagnosis.

So when they learned of the therapy animal program, they knew Bear would make a great addition to the team.

It had begun when she took Bear to visit her adopted mother who was sick. 

Bear immediately curled up with her in the bed. It was clear Bear knew she was ill and needed comfort.

Primarily for dogs though, Bear had to undergo intense testing before he could be certified. And he is only 1 of 4 cats to have gone through the process! 

[It began] with the composed cat sitting amid a group of hyperactive terriers and goofy Golden Retrievers.

Image: www.heelingfriends.org

Bear passed every test with flying colors. He was truly unflappable, cool under pressure, always easy going, friendly and amendable. And that was exactly what he needed to be to be one of only four human-pet teams allowed in the emergency room.

Bear and Theadore sat with people after snowmobile and car accidents, including one badly injured and severely depressed young woman who later wrote a thank you letter saying she didn’t know if she would have gotten through it without Bear.

Image: www.heelingfriends.org – Bear in the 2012 Spring Training for therapy animals

And when Jan unexpectedly lost her husband in 2015, it was Bear that was by her side to comfort her.

Their trips to the hospital helped her through her “horrible grief” as well. By focusing on helping others through the most difficult and heart wrenching times, she could heal too.

Images: www.heelingfriends.org ~ Jan was crowned the 2016 Heeling Friends Queen! 

That is exactly why therapy animal programs like this should be implemented in many more facilities. 

The moment Bear walked through the double doors of UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center on his leash and harness, the hospital staff rejoiced with calls of “Bear’s here!”

He also comforted and brought joy to the staff — those who spend their days confronting sickness and death and comforting others.

Image: www.heelingfriends.org

But after 7 long years, the caring cat wasn’t ready to retire though–he was forced to. 

At first, Theadore was told that UCHealth’s policy had changed regarding cats, but that Bear would be grandfathered in. However, he would no longer be allowed in patient rooms. He would still be able to hang out in communal areas — lobbies, waiting areas and the sports medicine area. She was okay with that.

Then came heartbreaking news that Bear wouldn’t be allowed in the hospital at all. And Theadore still doesn’t know precisely what about the policy changed.

Image: www.steamboatpilot.com

Infuriatingly, according to the story it seems like this is a nationwide trend.

According to an article in Healthcare Business & Technology, “Cats and kittens shouldn’t be allowed in an animal-therapy program for various reasons. Cats typically can’t be trained as well as dogs can. They also pose a bigger infection risk: Cats are more likely to bite and scratch humans than trained dogs are, and cat injuries tend to spread more bacteria.

One more reason to avoid having cats in a hospital: People are generally more likely to be allergic to cats than dogs.”

According to guidelines form the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, only dogs should participate in hospital therapy programs.

I can see where they would generalize the population of cats to dogs in general with more canines being a “good match”. But Bear went through the same rigorous testing as the dogs! And there are hygienic procedures that are followed regardless of the species. He certainly is one to stand out in a crowd. 

Image: www.heelingfriends.org

Sadly, now Bear has left the building. 

But we can continue to share his amazing story. Hopefully this will show the world that cats CAN make a positive difference in healing. I mean…it’s not like they have done tests or anything…*cough cough sarcasm cough*. 

The healing power of cat purrs. Cats purr vibrates within a range 20-140 Hz, known to be medically therapeutic for many illnesses. Healing of bones frequencies of 25 and 50 Hz are the best, and 100 Hz and 200 Hz the second best frequencies for promoting bone strength. Healing of muscles, tendons and ligaments injuries.

Jan is not one to give up though. She and Bear are planning on visiting other locations that participate in the Heeling Friends program. And last weekend, Pastor Craig Henningfield, of Concordia Lutheran Church blessed Bear in a honorary ceremony. The pastor had spent many an hour with Jan and Bear visiting with patients in the hospital.

The pastor proclaimed “Angels surround us in many forms, including animals.”

REMEMBER: SPAY/NEUTER, FOSTER, VOLUNTEER, TNR & AS ALWAYS, ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!

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