Vets in Need Find a Friend in Tom the Cat

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(Salem VA Medical Center)

His name is Tom, and the hands on comfort he provides is better than medicine for ailing veterans in the rehabilitation unit at Salem VA Medical Center in Salem, Virginia.

“You can’t beat a good, purring, loving kitty cat,” Army veteran James Gearhart of Bassett, Virginia, told TODAY.  Gearhart got to know Tom the therpy cat while he was being treated for throat cancer while staying at the hospital’s community living center, which   provides rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term skilled nursing, according to TODAY.

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(Salem VA Medical Center)

“Tom knows when someone is having a hard time. He laid on my bed a lot and I rubbed and scratched him the way cats like,” said Gearhart, who shared his Ensure vanilla drink with the ginger tomcat.

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(Salem VA Medical Center)

One day when the hospital’s chief of extended care service, Dr. Blake Lipscomb, had to pronounce a veteran dead, he too was comforted by Tom, stood by him. “Tom looked up at me and meowed. He had been with the veteran and his family at a time that was hardest for them, doing exactly what we wanted him to do — to help make a more low-stress, ‘homelike’ environment.”



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