Therapy Cat Series: Little Cat on the Prairie

In her two most recent adventures, Rainy has boldly gone where few cats dare to tread—into the land of dogs. In August, Rainy and I attended Paws on the Prairie, at which she was the only cat among almost four dozen dogs; in September, we attended a local church’s pet blessing, where during the all-pets part of the event Rainy was one of only two cats among a few dozen dogs.

The Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center partnered with the Capital Humane Society to host Paws on the Prairie on August 10. Forty people and 45 pets attended. Those included my husband and me, along with our dog Barnaby and our cat Rainy. I brought Rainy in a transport backpack.

Participants enjoyed a prairie walk on a trail specifically marked for the safety of pets and wildlife for this event only. Normally, pets aren’t allowed on the trails, both for their safety and for the protection of wildlife. The SCP Audubon Center has plans to eventually create a pet-friendly trail that will extend 10 miles through a tallgrass prairie, beginning at the center and ending at a park.

When we arrived at the SCP Audubon Center, I was nervous. I was worried about Rainy’s safety among so many dogs, even though I was carrying her in a protective pet transport backpack, and I wondered how the dog owners would react to a cat team.

The volunteers at the Capital Humane Society table cheered when they saw I had a cat. Their enthusiasm was infectious, and soon I began to feel excited about Rainy being an ambassador for cats. As Andy and I walked the prairie trail, most of the dog owners we met were intrigued by the sight of a cat in a backpack. They asked questions about Rainy’s training, and one dog owner asked permission to take our photo. To my relief, the dogs showed little interest in Rainy (or weren’t aware that was a cat nearby) and she in turn didn’t flinch as they passed her. Soon I became secure enough in Rainy’s safety to take photos of the scenery.

The event wrapped up with an educational presentation, a pet parade, and an awarding of prizes for best pet costumes. Jason St. Sauver, director of education and outreach at the SCP Audubon Center, talked with a captive audience about wildlife trivia, pet and wildlife safety, prairie conservation, and new prairie projects. Rainy and I joined other dog owners for a pet parade. For bearing the sun, Rainy got her photo taken by a local reporter and the photo appeared in our local paper. In addition, she won a toy and treat by default as the only cat.

On September 29, Rainy and I attended our second Blessing of the Animals at Christ United Methodist Church. CUMC Church holds a Blessing of the Animals “to remember and celebrate all of God’s creations, which includes animals,” said Jessica Estes, Co-Chair of Hospitality.

For the past four years, CUMC has invited animal welfare groups to host tables at the event. “We see [these] groups as an important ministry of caring for animals and so we want to promote their work,” Estes said. I hosted a table for Love on a Leash.

The Capital Humane Society, Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, Hearts United for Animals, Healing Hearts Therapy Dogs, and Paws 4 Fun each hosted a table. I talked with each of the group’s representatives prior to the start of the event, and Rainy brought smiles to their faces.

The first hour of the blessing for was reserved for cats. One older woman brought her cat Boots. To my surprise, Rainy was civil to Boots. Maybe it helped that Boots’ owner kept sprinkling treats in Rainy’s stroller. Treats are the way to Rainy’s heart!

The second hour of the event was for dogs. Attendance picked up, to the point that at times it was hard to hold a conversation due to the commotion. One big dog strutted up to Rainy’s stroller and sniffed her. Rainy promptly arched her back and hissed, and the dog in turn retreated. All the other dogs maintained a respectful distance. The five-year-old daughter of one of the church families not only took a fancy to Rainy but also made it her mission to protect her. She gave Rainy treats, petted her, and shielded her from all dogs. For her hour of service, I rewarded her with a photo I had of Rainy.

I have more adventures planned for Rainy this fall. We’re hoping to visit the Farmer’s Market before it closes for the season. In addition, later in October Rainy is again participating in Lincoln City Libraries’ Read to a Pet program—and all of her time slots are already full!

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