Since arriving at the VA Medical Center in Salem, Virginia, in May 2012, Tom the Cat has comforted many patients. Laura Hart, the lead physician’s assistant, said she came up with the idea to bring Tom to the palliative care unit after hearing Dr. David Dosa speak at a conference in Denver. Dosa is the author of “Making Rounds with Oscar,” a book about a cat named Oscar who comforted Alzheimer’s patients in a nursing center in Rhode Island.
“We’re trying to make it a home-like environment, which is hard to do in a hospital,” Hart said. “But we know the little things, like a pet, make it more bearable.”
“We have seen first-hand the impact that he makes on the families and the patients and even our staff,” Dottie Rizzo, the VA’s hospice and palliative care coordinator, said. “A hospice can be a really sad place to be and work and Tom brings a calmness and normalcy to our unit. We try to be a home-like environment and a pet kind of takes it to the level that maybe it is a little more like home here with him.”