Chemo or Cat?

My years as a conventional and integrative veterinarian have taught me that the human-animal bond goes beyond companionship. Animals are here to be our guides and teachers, and to help us on this journey called life. The most important lesson they teach us is to love without judgment. They view us as special people, whether or not the rest of the world agrees.

Our animal companions are also here to help us heal physical and emotional ailments. I remember a very special cat named Stuart. Stuart’s guardian brought him to me for his diabetes. He told me that Stuart was a very, very gifted cat, so I had to help him. This man’s child had died from leukemia, and he believed that Stuart had given his son two more years of life. When the doctors said that his son had only weeks to live, Stuart stayed by his side night and day. He was such a comfort to the little boy. The child made a miraculous turn around, and lived another two years. Stuart’s guardian was convinced that the cat was responsible for his child’s rally.

Now the father had developed a nerve tumor, and knew that Stuart would be there for him. I just had to make him well again. (No pressure there.) I remember thinking that the doctors probably changed the child’s chemotherapy, and that while Stuart had been a wonderful companion, there was no way he was really responsible for helping the child. Now that I understand the energy of the human-animal bond, and the amazing ability of animals to help us heal, I’m not so sure. Chemo or cat? Perhaps it was a bit of both.

I’m sure many of you have heard stories of animals that wouldn’t leave a sick child or a grieving widower’s side. In the days following 9/11, the dogs brought in as comfort to the rescue workers were as important as the search and resuce dogs. I can’t forget the experience of losing a canine patient to smoke inhalation. This beautiful, young airedale pulled his toddler companion out of a burning house. The child is alive today because of his dog. Some would say I’m just anthropomorphizing — giving human qualities to an animal. Am I anthropomorphizing when I sayáthe dogáacted as any firefighter would? I don’t think so. Was it a coincidence that this particular dog came into this family’s lives? I don’t believe so. And would the airedale do it all over again? You bet he would.

Adapted from Through A Dog’s Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health and Behavior of Your Canine Companion, Sounds True Publishing, 2007.


LMj Sunshine

Awesome article, thank you!

LMj Sunshine

Awesome article, thank you!

Abbe A.
Azaima A4 years ago


Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe4 years ago

Susan, what a inciteful article!!

I have 5 cats and they seem to gather around me when I am upset about something! It's like they are saying, "What can I do to make it better?" Like right now, one is sitting on my desk as I type this because I was crying when I read about Stuart, the cat and the Airedale.

I know animals feel love, and give it back!!

Gloria picchetti
Gloria picchetti5 years ago

Animals have souls. I believe they know more than we ever will.

Patricia A.
P A5 years ago

MANY thanks for this Susan - at first you were following the theories you were taught at Vet School - then you began to observe, think and formulate theories of your own and test them - which is after all true science, is it not?

Animals can indeed be exceptional and amazing and wonderful in times of need - I have always known if the pain/severe illness I was suffering was life-threatening or not by the behaviour of my animals. My German Shepherd and my cat used (in times of acute illness when I was totally bedridden and could NOT move) sit beside my bed, just watching me for hours and hours - I'd wake up every few minutes and see them just sitting there, watching me. Then a few hours later they would change shift and it would be the other one, just sitting there, patiently watching over me! This went on for 12 or so hours till I recovered enough to put them first and crawl out of bed to see to their needs - and they went back to being normal, loving animals - who felt like being naughty sometimes. I loved them soooo much for that - and it didn't just happen once, but half a dozen times over the years for different causes.

Oh there was one other thing - once I had pneumonia [I've had it before] that hit so suddenly I couldn't call for help - and my German Shepherd knew she was not allowed to put her paws on the bed - but then she did as I kept passing out - and she would lick me and paw me till I came round - no-one was going to pass out on HER watch! Oh she was

Quinton S.
Quinton Smith5 years ago

It is a lot we HUMANS DON'T UNDERSTAND ABOUT ANIMALS if we get off our high horse an listen we may learn a thing or too "I KNOW I HAVE". =^..^=

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago


Nina Anghel
Nina Anghel6 years ago


Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago

Mutually compatible.