Tom is a wonderful orange cat that has a special gift, a gift to show unbelievable empathy to ailing veterans at the VA Medical center in Salem, Virginia. He is the appointed animal friend, the caretaker and counselor.
More and more hospitals have these kinds of programs, where they use animals to make hospital rooms as a more low stress and home like areas. Tom is in charge of the love giving and attention seeking part but he is also aware that his patients are giving back as much as they can. There isn’t a single patient that had the honor of petting Tom to not say a nice word for him and thank him for his love.
The hospital staff that works with Tom says that they all treat him like one of the team because he takes his job very serious, even when they have a staff meeting he is present. They say that Tom knows when and where he is supposed to be and with whom, and most certainly he knows how long he has to spend time with the patient.
There are times when he senses that the end is nearing for someone and he stays with the patient till the very end and after that Tom spends some time alone. There is this time when he wasn’t allowed inside the patients room by his daughter but once she left the room for a while Tom entered and went outside straight away and tried to get her back. After a while the patient passed away and the patient’s daughter wrote a book about Tom thanking him for doing such a thing.
All sorts of patients that stay in the hospital say that having Tom makes their stay easier and more bearable. He manages to keep them focused on other things than their illness and even makes them calmer and more accepting of what it’s next to come. Families that visit never miss to bring Tom a treat and they are very thankful for the hospital having Tom as a friend for their loved ones. Almost every hospital, staff member uses their break to come and treat Tom because that kind of cat he is – a loving one.
But at the end of the day it is the ailing veterans that find the most comfort in this cat and that is the most important thing for Tom.