Senior, toothless therapy cat in Summit County spreads joy from the comfort of his stroller
Harry Stuart’s second chance at life has brought love to him and happiness to many.
Harry is a formerly obese, 15-year-old cat with no teeth.
At one point, it may have seemed like life was over for Harry. After 14 years, his owner died and he was surrendered to JJ’s Helping Paws shelter in Cañon City.
There are many animals in Harry’s same situation, but something about Harry made the shelter workers want more for him.
Holly Holden, a Summit County local and the person who gave Harry his second chance at life with a loving owner, said a shelter worker at JJ’s Helping Paws recognized something different about Harry that told her he deserved more.
So last summer, JJ’s Helping Paws posted ads, asked if anyone would consider taking a senior cat and even reached out to Summit County Animal Shelter to see if it was more likely for him to be adopted in Summit County.
Holden recalled the shelter worker saying something along the lines of, “This is a long shot, but this cat is special.”
The Summit County shelter took Harry in just in time for Holden to find him.
Coincidentally, at the same time last summer, Holden was looking to adopt another pet. She has already adopted three shelter dogs in the past, all of which had become therapy animals.
Not expecting much, Holden said she went to the Summit County shelter wanting to explore her options and meet the cats. So, she brought her knitting with her, plopped down, and figured she would get to know a cat or two with no commitment to bring one home.
As she sat there, a cat shyly, gently placed his paw on her arm and left it there. That cat was Harry.
“He’s got that quietness about him that just lends itself,” Holden said.
Before she knew it, she was signing the papers to bring him home. With her positive history of owning therapy animals, Holden already knew — especially with Harry’s special character — that she wanted to get him certified as a therapy animal.
By November last year, Holden started taking online classes of her own through Summit Therapy Animals to prepare for his training. They received his certificate by February 2022.
Holden said that because Harry is so old, there’s no “official” training he can learn from. However, she laughed, Harry got perfect marks and she was the one who was docked a few points.
Each week, Holden parks at the back parking lot of Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon, pulls a red stroller out of her car, gently nestles Harry in, and enters through the basement entrance of the church.
On Wednesdays and Fridays, the church hosts two hours where people can come shower, do laundry, eat a hot meal and socialize with others. They also host Harry.
For those two hours, Holden chats with visitors while Harry sits in the stroller, occasionally taking a trip around the room to sit on people’s laps or to use the portable litter box Holden travels with.
Jeff Warren, who has been in the county for 15 years, said he’s been coming to the program at the church for a couple of weeks, and he adores Harry. Holden said Warren will hold Harry on his lap, and the two will sit quietly while Warren relaxes in an armchair.
“He’s such a charmer,” Holden said. “People are drawn to him.”
Holden also brings Harry to the Summit County South Branch Library in Breckenridge to interact with children. One of her favorite stories about Harry is about a time during the branch’s summer reading program.
The first time Holden and Harry ever visited the library together, Holden said a child who was autistic had attended while visiting out of town and was having trouble settling.
Holden said the child was also showing fear of the cat. So she figured out a plan with the child’s parent of how to move forward. The child would sit on the couch next to Holden, with Harry in the middle.
“I said if that’s a problem, I’ll just move him to the other side,” Holden said. So the child’s helper started reading to the child while Holden and Harry sat close by in the way they had discussed.
“I looked down, about a third of the way through this session,” Holden said. “And this cat, it just reached over quietly and put his paw on her leg.” Holden was astounded at Harry’s empathy and, seemingly, his understanding of the child’s needs.
According to Holden, the child immediately quieted down. By the end of the session, the child reportedly loved Harry and asked Holden to take him home. “It was so heartfelt and heartwarming,” Holden said.
Though Harry is no longer in his golden days of youth, Holden couldn’t be more proud of the joy Harry has brought to the community.
“I think he’s an ambassador for adopting an animal, and also for an elderly animal,” Holden said. “Typically, they’re not adopted. Unfortunately, everyone wants a kitten or a puppy.”
But for the rest of his second life, Harry the elderly therapy cat will continue to spread joy from the comfort of his red stroller, sure to make anyone who walks by crack a smile.
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