Inspiration comes in many forms. In one recently recognized case, that form is a partially paralyzed individual who inspires by example, although he has no idea of how inspiring a hero he happens to be.
That hero is Scooter, the latest ASPCA Cat of the Year.
Scooter and family, including Dr. Betsy Kennon and her husband Steve Nehus, were among those honored earlier this month at a luncheon in New York City hosted by the ASPCA.
It’s unusual enough for cats to partake in animal-assisted therapy programs, let alone a partially paralyzed cat. Scooter has visited the HealthSouth Harmarville Rehabilitation Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa., for four years; he also visits local nursing homes. Most patients Scooter sees are in wheelchairs and can relate in a very personal way to Scooter. It doesn’t matter that he’s a cat. In fact, many patients say they’re “inspired.”
On therapy visits, the paralyzed cat’s back legs are supported by a custom-made wheeled mobility device from K9 Carts. At home he doesn’t use the wheels. He scoots around by using his front legs to pull his rear end, which is padded by a baby diaper. He goes up and down steps, and because he’s a cat and he knows it – he finds ways to get up on to couches. He plays with the family’s other cats and dogs. If given a chance, he even kills mice, which is something the other cats don’t mess with.
He was about six months old when he was found on the street utterly exhausted – by a dog. That dog probably saved the failing kitten’s life. Scooter was rushed to the Harts Run Veterinary Clinic in Fox Chapel, Pa., where Kennon managed some life-saving techniques of her own.
The kitten could not move his hind legs because his last thoracic vertebra was fractured. Kennon said the kitten looked at her with “big expressive gold eyes,” and she decided to try to save him. Scooter’s zest for life became instantly apparent, as he sailed through rehab – just yearning to get on with his life.
Scooter seemed a natural at helping others from the start. During one of Scooter’s first hospital visits, he met a stroke victim. Doctors who said the patient would never open her eyes or speak watched as the cat snuggled up close to her. Scooter began purring, and the patient opened her eyes and began to talk to this miracle-working cat.
The ASPCA Dog of the Year award went to a Miniature Poodle-mix named Fiona. She was found living blind in a trash heap in South Los Angeles; the videos of her story of survival went viral, resulting in 5.5 million YouTube views calling attention to the plight of homeless pets everywhere.