The Road to Becoming a Volunteer…
After the first time Pip was featured on the news, and we realized we had a special little kitty on our hands, the first thing we began to do was research what other “adventure cats” do. We started reading about all of these cats that go crazy places and do crazy things, but one that stuck out to us the most was a cat named Summer (@summerstravels). Not only was Summer beautiful (she’s a former show-cat), wore outfits, and adventured just like Pip, BUT she also visited children’s hospitals.
We began to learn more about Summer, and her therapy work through @Loveon4Paws, even talking to her mom at length. She even visits colleges (or in this month’s case an accounting office) to help people destress! And that was where the idea of Pip’s volunteering projects were born! Say whatever you want about social media (and I’ll probably agree on many parts) but without it we wouldn’t have even known there was such a thing as a therapy cat!
Our First adventures doing Animal Therapy…
So we started somewhere familiar and close by, the Berlin Nursing Home, to see how Pip would take to the volunteer work. He’s still too young to do traditional therapy, so we count him more as a volunteer than a certified-therapy-cat, but he does almost the same things, just not as much sitting and sleeping.
When word started to get out that we were doing this work, the emails and calls started pouring in. The first person to contact us was Sharon at Harrison Hall in Snow Hill, so we were able to add them to the list on a weekly basis; meaning we were up to two days a week in Berlin, and one day a week in Snow Hill. We didn’t realize that after Sharon called us, we would be contacted by so many other organizations! But we’re so happy we were because we have gotten to meet so many new people and spread so much joy around!
On to New Places…
We’ve begun rotating in visits to other facilities, and this past Friday we went to the John B. Parsons Assisted Living Community in Salisbury, Maryland. This facility is so nice, and truly beautiful, that we almost asked if we could move in!
When we visit a new facility, especially one that we will probably only get to visit a few times a year, we do our work in a group setting, instead of one-to-one. So we arrived at John B. Parsons, and were immediately greeted by the staff. They took some time to meet Pip and ask questions, and then we went down to the activities room.
While Pip was the main event for the day, he was coming in the middle of “happy hour”, so when we arrived, all the residents were sipping on Peep-tinis for Easter! (It was so simple, lemonade in a martini glass, with a Peep on top- but boy was it FUN!)
Our Type Of Animal Therapy: Our Routine…
We have a little presentation that we’ve made that shows people who Pip is. So Pip waits patiently in his bubble (he almost always falls asleep if I start talking at length about him). We show our two favorite videos that were made about Pip. First his AnimalKind feature, because it shows how Pip became a Beach Cat, and then Brooke Butler’s piece about Pip for WMDT which was his first ever news coverage, and also the last time Pip got to go in the ocean because of the seasons changing.
And then we open it up to the group if they have any questions. Some groups have so many, and some just a few. Once the question and answer time is over, Pip comes out of his bubble and does his tricks!
It’s usually pretty funny, because by the time we get to Pip’s performance he has completely passed out from boredom aka my voice, and everyone thinks he won’t wake up. But all it takes is a little shake of his treats or a smell of his tuna packet and he’s ready to go! I call his little tuna purees his smelling salts, because he’ll wake up so fast when he catches a whiff of that in his sleep.
Time for Tricks…
So, he stretches and he gets comfortable, and out of his bubble he comes. He’ll usually sit quite contently for some time, and do his tricks more than once. He’s gotten so good at them recently, that he’ll even do it with other people! So lucky Mr. Paul on Friday got to come up and go through all of Pip’s tricks with him! Watch the video below! But make sure to click enter Fullscreen so you can see it properly!
For this visit, after his routine, we went and did a walk-through of the dementia ward and met some lovely residents there.
Then, we went back down to the activities room and hung out for a bit longer! Pip and I split a Peep-tini and got to visit even longer with the nice people that live there. Two residents, a husband and wife, told us all about their Siamese cats they had all their lives. One of them could hear the husband’s truck coming from blocks away, and would always run to greet him by the door every time he came home! Of course we had to ask them if Siamese cats really are as noisy as people say, and they said, “Oh yes, they were always always always talking!”
I can’t speak for Pip, but I know that when we do these visits it really is the highlight of my day. The directors and other volunteers always say that Pip’s visit is the highlight of their residents’ weeks, but it really is the highlight of ours too, and we hope that we can keep visiting for years to come!
So a huge thank you to Kristi Truitt, the activities director at John B. Parsons, for first of all inviting us to come visit, but second of all, for capturing all of these amazing moments! We rarely get to see what we look like doing this sort of work because it moves so quick, and we’re often doing it just me and Pip, so it’s awesome to get to see everyone interacting through photographs!