Jul 20, 2023 / Spotlight

WFAA: You’ve heard all about therapy dogs. This therapy cat is raising spirits at a Dallas pediatric hospital

Society is often divided into two groups:  dog people and cat people.
Sometimes, people fall into both categories.
But it can take a lot to win someone over from the other side.
Sarah Dutton has seen it happen time after time.
Every couple of weeks, she straps a clear, hardshell backpack with mesh sides and several air vents into Scottish Rite for Children in Dallas.
Once inside, the precious cargo is removed, leashed, and together, they begin delivery of a dose of medicine that is as effective as it is cute and cuddly.
“You can do anything with Harry,” Dutton said. “ You can touch his ears, you can touch his tail, you can touch his paws, even his whiskers.”
Harry is her cat.
She and her husband found him run over in the middle of a Denton County road.
They nursed him back to health, and now he's a therapy cat.
During his twice monthly visits, Harry might sit in the lap of a child in a wheelchair or curl up in a bed beside a patient at Scottish Rite.
Sometimes nurses or parents hold him.
Often, they gush over him.
“He’s the calmest cat I’ve ever seen,” laughed Sam Bryant, a certified pediatric nurse, as she held him.
Scottish Rite is world-renowned for treating complex orthopedic conditions, especially limb differences.
And that’s one reason Harry connects so well with this hospital’s patients.
When Dutton's husband found Harry, more than one veterinarian clinic said he probably needed to be euthanized.
But the couple wasn't convinced.
He ended up losing a leg and shoulder to amputation. But Harry fully recovered. And as he healed, Dutton saw the potential for him to help heal others.
“The fact that he had three legs. I felt like he could touch some people -- show that you can get hurt and be disabled and be totally fine and live a normal life,” Dutton said.
She and Harry trained through Pet Partners, completing hours of training online and in person.
Harry’s twice a month visits to Scottish Rite are now highly anticipated by patients and staff.
“I have a cat at home and sometimes I go home to my cat and I’m like, why can’t you be like Harry?” Bryant said. “He just stares at you with his big old eyes, and kids just love that. Even kids who aren’t cat people. He really kind of changes people’s perspectives on cats.”
Kaliyah Brownlee got nervous the moment Harry was within view.
“So, this is my biggest fear,” the 9-year-old said under her breath, as she was getting an infusion for Lupus treatment at Scottish Rite’s rheumatology clinic.
Brownlee’s mother, Montranece Randall, said her daughter would normally take off running when she saw a cat.
“She runs. We both run!” Randall said.
In the clinic next to Brownlee was 8-year-old Virginia Chappelle.
While Chappelle got her infusion, she was petting Harry.
“He’s so cute,” Chappelle said. “I love his little nose.”
And as Brownlee watched Harry work his magic on Chappelle, she gained courage.
She wanted Dutton to bring him closer. Touching Harry soon turned into petting him. Then petting him turned into holding him.
“I thought I was going to be scared, but I’m not scared of cats anymore!” she said. 
“I think we should get one,” she told her mom – who also pet Harry.
Harry might not be the kind of medicine doctors prescribe, but the special connection he makes with patients is its own kind of cure.
I feel like he understands a lot of people’s emotions and what they need,” said Dutton.

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