Ruth Durkin: A Four-Legged Therapist

The uncomplicated comfort and emotional support provided by pets is touchingly illustrated in Ruth Durkin’s story.

A Four-Legged Therapist, Bobbi the cat

For animal lovers, our pets are more than just a creature to stroke or walk. They provide unconditional emotional support simply by being there. The story I’m about to share is one of a very special feline called Bobbi. This ginger lady came into our lives through a cat shelter and was mine and my husband’s first attempt at parenting.

In 2015 my Dad was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. At first, he was very secretive about it and got angry if people mentioned it even though we asked about it out of concern. He pushed away the comfort and support he craved but his time spent with Bobbi provided the cuddles and peace he needed as she allowed him to simply ‘be’.

My Dad had a particularly challenging life but I’m not going to air his dirty laundry here today. Suffice to say that he had chased material happiness in life and never found what he was looking for.

He didn’t have his own home so our flat was his sanctuary. He used to love coming to ‘Bobbi-sit’ if we went away.

In 2017 he came to live with us for his final days. He had visits from medical staff but mainly watched daytime TV and slept with Bobbi firmly glued to his lap. He referred to Bobbi as ‘his nurse’ and was adamant that her care and love was helping him far more than any of his medication.

His condition got gradually worse and eventually I had to get the GP to come to our home and agree with me that we couldn’t meet his care needs anymore. He was admitted to hospital, where he was able to see out his days in dignity. When I visited him he would always ask how Bobbi was before asking after me (and I was pregnant!). He used to stroke the bed beside him and say he needed his companion back.

One day a nun visited my Dad and spoke briefly to him but mostly just sat with him in peace and quiet whilst holding his hand. He later told me that she had nothing but at the same time had everything.

Unfortunately, it it took the prospect of dying for my Dad to realise what really matters in life. I believe that the simplicity of his relationship with Bobbi helped him to understand that everything really just boils down to love.

I spoke with a local hospice to ask for a bed for my Dad. They were so helpful and kind but by the time his room was available he was too ill to be moved. This devastated my Dad because I’d told him that the hospice had agreed that Bobbi could visit him there.

Just months after my Dad passed away, Bobbi also left this earthly realm. My Dad’s ashes are buried at our family church and he is resting beside his parents’ ashes.

When it came to deciding what to do with Bobbi’s ashes, I immediately decided to scatter them at my Dad’s grave. I have also put a ceramic ginger cat next to it.

As cheesy as it sounds, I believe they are resting together now. My Dad finally at peace away from the pressures of this world with his feline companion nestled on his lap for all eternity.

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