Caitlin UltimoPet Parenting / Pet Stories

Pets Doing Good: Dogs With Jobs and Cats on a Mission

Feline Fur-lanthropists


Stanley: If it’s Friday morning, you’ll know exactly where to find Michelle Gardner and her cat, Stanley. Since last August, they’ve been volunteering their time at Heritage Assisted Living in West Knoxville, Tennessee. Stanley is a beautiful, nine-year-old Turkish Angora mix with a white coat, one blue eye and one green eye. He was a stray who made his way to Michelle in 2011 by way of Shelter Animals Rescue Group, and he soon made his home with her other kitties—Bing and Little John. Michelle and Stanley spend an hour and a half every Friday visiting with residents. “I have always known there were therapy dogs, but did not realize there were programs for cats and other animals until I saw a post on social media about the H.A.B.I.T. program,” says Michelle. “Stanley is so friendly and has such a laid-back personality that I knew he would be a perfect fit. He has never met a lap he didn’t like!” The senior citizens that Stanley visits miss the pets they left behind when they moved into assisted living, and he helps fill that void. “They love to tell stories about their pets and share memories.” It’s something they can look forward to each week—the cuddling comfort of animal-assisted therapy, as well as a chance to socialize and bond with the other residents. “They really love Stanley and visiting with him—you can see it on their faces and hear it in their voices. Their faces light up when they see him.” Michelle says that Stanley’s Heritage family spoils him rotten with rubs, scratches and attention, and she enjoys the special outings with him. “Stanley is a part of something very special and is enriching people’s lives. So many people along the way donated what they could—time, money, services—to programs like SARG and H.A.B.I.T., and now Stanley is giving back in a way that he can. He is paying it forward for all of the blessings in his life, and I am so proud of him.”