LIFESTYLE

Cat-owner duo in Ohio shares amputee journey while helping others through animal therapy

Dec 20, 2023, 10:03 PM

This image taken from video shows kitten Lola-Pearl looking up at attendees during a Amputees Comin...

This image taken from video shows kitten Lola-Pearl looking up at attendees during a Amputees Coming Together Informing Others' Needs meeting on Monday, Dec. 11, 2023, in Troy, Ohio. More than five years ago, someone left the kitten with twisted back legs at a Missouri animal shelter. The cat was transferred to specialists in Iowa who amputated her left hind leg. She was soon after adopted by a woman who lost her left leg after a near-fatal car accident. Now the duo has partnered with a non-profit that registers therapy animal volunteer teams. They visit hospitals, nursing homes and even amputee support groups to aid in therapy and other activities to improve well-being in communities. (AP Photo/Patrick Orsagos)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Patrick Orsagos)

TROY, Ohio (AP) — Each morning when she wakes up, Juanita Mengel removes the silicone liner of her prosthetic leg out from under a heated blanket so that the metal parts of the artificial limb don’t feel as cold on her skin when she straps the pieces together.

The 67-year-old Amanda, Ohio, resident then does the same for her 5-year-old dilute tortoiseshell cat, Lola-Pearl, who is missing her left hind leg.

The duo is one of an estimated 200 therapy cat teams registered in the U.S. through Pet Partners. The nonprofit sets up owners and their pets as volunteer teams providing animal-assisted interventions, where they might visit hospitals, nursing homes or schools to aid in therapy and other activities to improve well-being in communities.

“A therapy animal is an animal who’s been assessed based on their ability to meet new people and not just tolerate the interaction, but actively enjoy it,” said Taylor Chastain Griffin, the national director of animal-assisted interventions advancement at the organization.

Pet Partners registers nine different species as therapy animals: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, birds, mini pigs, and llamas and alpacas.

As part of her research, Chastain Griffin studies the impact of therapy cats and argues more research needs to be done. There’s abundant research on other therapy animals like dogs, she said, but there’s often a “shock factor” involved with therapy cats because many don’t know they exist.

“They go into a setting and people are like, ‘Whoa, there’s a cat on a leash. What’s happening?’” Chastain Griffin said. “It kind of inspires people to connect in a way we haven’t traditionally heard talked about in other therapy animal interventions.”

Mengel said she knew Lola-Pearl would be a good therapy cat after she brought her on a whim to an amputee coalition conference about a month after she adopted the domestic shorthair.

“She was so good with people I just knew she would be a good therapy cat,” Mengel said. “People really were attracted to her, too.”

During a recent visit to a limb loss support group meeting, Mengel pushed Lola-Pearl around in a stroller — labeled “Therapy Cat” — so attendees could pet the kitty as she woke up from a nap.

Whether she was sitting in the stroller, walking in between participants’ legs or cuddling on their laps, Lola-Pearl brought a smile to whoever she decided was worthy of her attention in that moment.

“She’s very intuitive of people,” Mengel said.

Lola-Pearl isn’t the only cat in Mengel’s life; the former traveling nurse who lost her left leg in 2006 after years of surgeries following a near-fatal car accident is a mother to seven felines, most of which have disabilities.

“They find you, you don’t find them,” she said.

Lola-Pearl was found at only a few weeks old with her back legs completely twisted together. She was unable to walk and brought to a friend of Mengel’s at an animal shelter in Missouri, where veterinarians could not help her. The shelter found specialists in Iowa who were able to splint Lola-Pearl’s legs as an attempt to save them, but they decided her left hind leg needed to be amputated.

Meanwhile, Mengel had been in talks with her friend in Missouri about adopting the cat, and after Lola-Pearl healed from surgery, Mengel officially adopted her.

Despite the obstacles Mengel has been through, she exudes a spirit of gratitude for Lola-Pearl and for the work they do together.

“It’s a really rewarding experience,” she said, “I get just as much out of it as the people that I visit.”

Lifestyle

Associated Press

‘The Outsiders’ wins best musical and ‘Stereophonic’ best play as women make strides at Tony Awards

NEW YORK (AP) — “The Outsiders,” a gritty adaptation of the classic young adult novel, became the essence of a Broadway insider on Sunday, winning the Tony Award for best new musical on a night when women made strides. The musical based on the beloved S. E. Hinton book is about rival gangs of haves […]

4 days ago

Associated Press

Her dying husband worried she’d have money troubles. Then she won the lottery

FREEPORT, Pa. (AP) — In the weeks before his death, Karen Coffman’s husband worried she might have money troubles after he was gone. But two weeks before he died in April of complications from a brain tumor, the Pennsylvania woman bought a scratch-off state lottery ticket that netted her $1 million. “When I told him […]

4 days ago

Associated Press

You don’t think corn dogs are haute cuisine? These chefs, using alligator sausage, beg to differ.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Stefani De Palma, an award-winning chef and head of the a team vying to represent the Americas in a French culinary competition in January, knew she wanted her team’s work to feature flavors of her native California. The challenge at the Bocuse d’Or Americas competition this week in New Orleans was […]

5 days ago

Associated Press

High school president writes notes thanking fellow seniors — 180 of them

Emily Post would be proud. A high school class president in Massachusetts who gave a commencement speech wanted to recognize all of his fellow graduates. So he wrote them personal thank-you notes presented at the ceremony — 180 to be exact. “I wish I could’ve acknowledged you all, but there was simply not enough time,” […]

6 days ago

Associated Press

Silicon Valley-backed voter plan for new California city qualifies for November ballot

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Silicon Valley-backed initiative to build a green city for up to 400,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area has qualified for the Nov. 5 ballot, elections officials said Tuesday. Solano County’s registrar of voters said in a statement that the office verified a sufficient sampling of signatures. California Forever, […]

7 days ago

Associated Press

New York considers regulating what children see in social media feeds

New York lawmakers on Tuesday said they were finalizing legislation that would allow parents to block their children from getting social media posts curated by a platform’s algorithm, a move to rein in feeds that critics argue keep young users glued to their screens. Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James have been […]

14 days ago

Cat-owner duo in Ohio shares amputee journey while helping others through animal therapy