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Sally the Cat Comforts Dementia Patients at the End of Their Life

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) -- It's not every day that you see an animal walking the halls of a nursing home
but at Riverside Transitional Care, Sally the Cat is a star.

Kris Fry's mother died two years ago. She said Sally knew.

"She sensed that Mom was dying and she got off my lap and went and laid on the bed. I was there with mom for two days and Sally never left unless someone came in and did comfort care. She was right there even after Mom passed," said Kris.

Sally's job extends beyond end-of-life care for residents. She's also a comforter to families.

"Sally came in and got on my lap and walked right up to my chin and put her shoulder right on my neck cause I was feeling bad," said Kris.

Janita Larson has worked at Riverside for sixteen years, the same amount of time Sally has been there. She says if she hadn't seen it for herself, she wouldn't believe it.

"Sally would know when someone was passing away and we would find them on the back of their chair for no apparent reason or she would just start being in their room and she's never been in their room before. And then they will actively begin to die," said Janita.

Sally helped this daughter make peace with moving her mother here…because growing up…her mother always loved cats.

"My Mom took a really bad fall here about a month ago and I think Sally was around her a bit more. I think she senses
when she needs to comfort people more."

Sandra Rockwell's mother, Hazel has enjoyed Sally's visits for 3 years now. Hazel is 100 years old and cats seem to cheer her up.

"It's given me a lot of comforts. She talks about Sally and she knows Sally will lay in her lap and she does. She really enjoys having that cat around," said Sandra.

Sally spent most of her life in the dementia unit.

"In the afternoon we have a little anxiousness or agitation but oddly enough Sally seems to know who are the people that might go into crisis and sure enough you're gonna find her on their lap," said Janita.

There is no scientific evidence that says cats have this innate sixth sense to predict death, but there isn't any proof that says it can't happen either.

"It was a very peaceful passing. I am very grateful for it. It was a wonderful thing to have that happen at a time when you're having a hard time saying goodbye and to have that memory of this wonderful thing that happened with this cat, it takes some of the stings away," said Kris.

In 16 years, the staff said that there was only one person who had a problem with Sally being in the room at the end of life. That person wasn't a resident, but a relative who simply said they didn't like cats.

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Heather Armstrong

Heather anchors Live at 5 and co-anchors the weekday 6 & 10 PM newscasts

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