Refill with Randy – ‘Cat Dad’ says pets provide companionship, lots of emotional support

Posted 18 June 2023 at 8:00 am

By Randy LeBaron

Today I want to talk about pets. You know, those furry little friends we think we own but who really own us. I personally have had many pets throughout my lifetime, some typical and others a little more out of the box.

Growing up on small farm surrounded by 88 acres of woods exposed me to a number of different animals. Besides the pigs, chickens, and guinea hens that we raised we always had dogs and lots of barn cats. Over the years though I attempted to adopt other animals as pets.

First there was the chipmunk that I kept in my closet and would sneak into school until I got caught with it on the school bus and had to let it go. Later I would use that same closet to house a baby bat until my mother found out and banned it from my bedroom.

Another time my friend’s dad cut down a tree not realizing that it was home to a family of raccoons. The mother died but 3 of her cubs survived so my friend, myself, and another neighborhood kid each took one home and were tasked with raising them. At first it was fun, we fed them dog food and crayfish that we would catch in the creek, but eventually they got bigger and became much more aggressive. Shortly after one attacked my friend’s dog our parents said it was time to release them back into the wild.

After that I stopped trying to domesticate wild animals, outside of docile creatures like turtles and toads, but we did have a possum that decided our enclosed front  porch would be a safe place to move her joeys to since they were big enough to leave the pouch. She was not the friendliest tenant though, as she would hiss at us every time we would walk through, so after a couple of weeks my father evicted them. Not too long after that we had a skunk figure out how to use the pet door so, after several tomato baths later, we fixed it so no more critters could come inside.

My current kitties are pictured with Teddy on the left and Karen on the right.

Later on, when I moved into my first apartment, I tried having birds for a bit but that did not go well. Reluctantly I ended up getting a kitten since a dog was not allowed. I say reluctantly because when growing up I always thought of dogs as pets and cats as pests. Against my better judgment though I became a Cat Dad and never looked back. Other than the Dwarf Bunny that I gave my my wife for her classroom, which only stayed with us on weekends and turned out to be more akin to the killer bunny from Monty Python & The Holy Grail than Thumper from Bambi, we have only owned cats and anyone who follows me on Social Media knows that I post more pics of them than my kids.

In case you haven’t guessed it by now… I love pets. And, in the last 1 ½ years that I have been working for Hospice of Orleans, I have learned that there is even more to love about them. I already knew that it could be soothing to pet a dog or cat when feeling stressed or that some animals are trained specifically to be emotional support animals but the level of care and comfort that I witnessed over and over again while visiting home are patients went way beyond simple companionship. Not only did the animals often know what was going on with the patient, refusing to leave their side, but after the patient passed they would outwardly grieve and then offer the same level of care and loyalty to the bereaved who had been left behind.

Pictured above are just a few of the animals that I got to meet in patients’ homes and the center picture is one I took just this past week of Cliff Germeo and his dog Rex. I met Cliff just over a year ago when his wife was a patient of mine and during those first couple of visits Rex would not leave her side. After her passing though Rex quickly became Cliff’s best friend. He will tell you that he can’t even leave the house without Rex by his side and when he turns the tv off at night Rex runs right to the bedroom to wait for him. Many times over the past year Cliff has shared what a blessing Rex has been to him and how he has helped him in his grief.

Even those patients who live in the Martin-Linsen Residence, our local Hospice home, have gotten visits from their furry friends from time to time and you can see them light up when they do. In fact, if you have a loved one who lives there now or may in the future you can bring a pet in to visit as long as the animal is house-trained, you have proof that they are current with all of their shots, and you touch base with the nursing staff or social worker ahead of time. I myself used to bring my dad’s cat to the nursing home to visit him and it really improved his spirit.

So, the moral of the story is that a pet of any shape, size, or species has the capacity to not only bring joy and companionship into your life but also comfort and a peace of mind. You may have to experiment a little like I did in finding that perfect pet for you, I hear Tarantulas are low maintenance, but when you find the right one expect to receive even more than you will be able to offer.