By KARLENE PONTI of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
Piet, a 19-plus-pound Snowshoe with a very relaxed attitude, is a therapy cat at Providence St. Mary Medical Center.
“I was looking for a volunteer opportunity,” said Piet’s owner, Willy Van Krieken. “He’s such a mellow guy. I had seen the therapy dogs, so why not a cat?
“Their other therapy cat, Radar, had died. So Piet and I started in April 2006. We circulate around, the cancer center, the waiting room.”
Near holidays Piet is in costume. But on an ordinary day he rides on top of his stroller, just being himself.
Patients and staff respond well to Piet’s calm, nurturing attitude, Van Krieken said. They are amazed at how big he is and usually want to pet him.
“Most people are just beside themselves. Piet is quite the guy. He becomes a lot more mellow when he’s with someone who’s sick. He can sense someone who is seriously ill and he’ll sit really quietly with them. With certain people, he purrs. He knows when someone is really down,” Van Krieken said.
“There’s a lot of him to pet,” she said. “He’s declawed so he’s safe. He’s there sitting on top of his stroller; how funny is that? There’s lots of benefits for him being there.”
It helps people remember their own animals at home or ones they’ve had in the past, which turns their thoughts from their illness, fear and pain to joyous experiences and love.
“When memories are good it helps divert their attention,” Van Krieken said.
Karlene Ponti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-3300, ext. 217.