Source of Photograph.....
By Steve Jones/The Sun News
Mon, Feb. 12, 2007
SHALLOTTE, N.C. - Carl MacPhee is pretty sure fate made certain he and Sebastian would be pals.
MacPhee's wife had died five months earlier, and he didn't know what would be next in his life. After all, the couple had been married for nearly 40 years.
"I think I went into a fog," said MacPhee, 81. "I didn't really want to do anything. I didn't know what I was going to do. I didn't really have any ambition."
A flier from Cat Tails, a no-kill cat shelter in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., landed in his mailbox at Heather Lakes and got enough attention that MacPhee decided to drive north and see if there was something for him there.
He was shown 20 to 25 cats, he said, and hadn't more than looked curiously at the 16-pound, solid black cat lounging on a shelf high up on one wall. When MacPhee was filling out some paperwork, the cat suddenly appeared on the table at his side and nudged so insistently into his arm that he couldn't be ignored.
"I didn't adopt him," MacPhee said. "He adopted me."
The two went home together and within six weeks returned to Cat Tails to claim Snowball, a solid white cat that was Sebastian's buddy at the shelter.
As he'd hoped, his life took on new meaning.
"I had to do things," MacPhee said. "They had to be fed, or I had to go to the vet to see that they were OK. I had to wake up that the world was going on."
Pets can have that effect on people, said Brunswick County's Dr. Chris Isenhour. Some patients who come to his family medicine practice say their pets can give them comfort they don't have anywhere else.
"It's more than someone to care about you," Isenhour said. "It's someone you can care for."
There is little, if any, scientific evidence to quantify the health benefits of pet ownership, but Isenhour said he believes the real measure might be in quality.
"I think people are less despondent when they have relationships, and that includes pets," he said.
MacPhee's comfort with pet ownership is buttressed because he doesn't really have to worry about what will happen to his new buddies should they outlive him, which he expects will happen. His stepdaughter and son-in-law in Brunswick Plantation will take one, he thinks.
The other, or both if necessary, are guaranteed a home at the shelter for lifetime if they should ever need it.
Most often, said Trish Kelley, a founder and board chairman of the two-year-old shelter, family members will take pets if they outlive their owners. But that's not always the case, and so the shelter will take them back if they were originally adopted from Cat Tails.
About 10 percent of those who adopt the hundreds of cats from the shelter each year are older than 65 years old, Kelley said. And while a return trip there can stress a cat and send it into a period of depression, she said, "They will re-acclimate eventually."
Kelley and MacPhee agreed that cats, or any pets, may not be for everyone. A dog could be a better match for someone who needs the exercise of walking it, for instance, Kelley said.
But for people with limited mobility like MacPhee, a feline can be, well, the cat's meow.
"It requires self-examination to know if you want to bring a cat into your life," Kelley said. "But I think it can be a great help to a person to have a companion or two."