I was in O’Hare airport in January when a woman sat down next to me and asked if I was allergic to cats. She was flying with her cat. As we started talking I learned that “Radar” was a therapy/service cat. He could detect if his human’s blood sugar was getting too high or too low. He paws on one side of her face if the blood sugar is too low and on the other side of the face if it is too high. He is the first ever cat trained to be a diabetic alert animal. He is so well trained that he alerted on a young child setting next to him at the Chicago Planetarium that his blood sugar was high.
This encounter reinforced to me the amazing talents that dogs and cats possess. Dogs and cats are being used to help identify seizures, assist with people who are blind or deaf, help arthritic people stabiIize their movements, provide comfort to children in times of great stress and trauma, companionship and support to wounded soldiers, calm those who are in hospice , the list goes on and on.
All our animals’ companions are special to us and provide us with wonderful support, but those dogs and cats have specialized jobs to handle their human’s special issues. It takes a significant investment of time and money for both the animals and humans learn to use those special skills.
Remember that these special animals are always working, and we all need to respect their job. Ask their humans if you can interact with their companion. Remember that they may look like an “ordinary” cat or dog, but they have very special responsibilities and are on the job all the time.
I encourage you to support organizations that do the specialized training for these animals with your donations so that they can train more animals. There are many people in need of these special companions who have literally life saving skills. In Minnesota a great organization is Can Do Canines in New Hope, MN. They can be reached at 763.331.3000.
Dr. Sharon Hurley- New Ulm Regional Veterinary Center and River Hills Pet Care Hospital