able/disabled, cats, disabilities, Dogs, health, loneliness, loss, pets, Uncategorized


The first thing I did when I got home from the hospital was to lie down and cuddle my girl. She seemed to enjoy it, too. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.


Many of you know that I have been incapacitated since mid-February. At first, the doc thought that my problems were respiratory– bronchitis and perhaps pneumonia, so he sent me to the ER.

My daughter met me there, and after I was finally admitted and assigned to a room, we noticed a couple walking two large therapy dogs down the hall. We invited them in. One animal was a Rhodesian Ridgeback and the other an Akita. It lifted my spirits just to have these animals near me. Nuzzling the furry ruff of the Akita and wrapping my arms around its neck brought me great pleasure. Of course, I know that when we pet an animal, our blood pressure goes down. Aside from the science, when embracing another living creature, it makes us realize that all’s right in the world, or more precisely, I was going to be all right. And eventually I was after surgery for unexpected two compression fractures of the spine and a one week stay in a rehabilitation facility.

Therapy dogs at Las Cruces Memorial Hospital. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.


Decades ago, I wrote a paper called “The Horse Bar Mitzvah,” that became a chapter in a veterinary medicine textbook.* I presented examples and analyses of the relationships between humans and animals in different settings: horse bar mitzvah; cat mitzvah; dog wedding; festivals honoring the human/animal bond, for example, Blessings of the Animals. In addition, I researched the role of service animals: therapy horses, war dogs, rescue dog, therapy dogs.

Since publication (2000), dogs have increasingly played a vital role in our culture, e.g., at airports, sniffing out the taboo garlic and sausages, as well as drugs. And since 9/11, new roles have developed especially at airports, with the focus on explosives and terrorism.

Human/animal relationships keep evolving. Comfort dogs is a new title given to animals that  show up at scenes of disasters. I was moved seeing televised dogs disembarking from a van within 48 hours at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after the school massacre in Parkland, Florida. Who could not be cheered by seeing these eager animals there to be stroked and embraced by traumatized children and staff?


Doesn’t your heart melt at the sight of these comfort dogs brought to the school by a Lutheran Church Charity helping to dispatch K9 Comfort Boots and Paws on the ground?


New duties for dogs progress. Yale University has developed a program utilizing rescue dogs in New York low-income public schools. The dogs become reading buddies and foster social development. At my local university (NMSU), dogs are brought in at exam time to lower the distress students feel during this time of high anxiety. Courthouse Dogs allow specially trained service dogs to accompany children during testimony in a courtroom.

Since my return home from the hospitals, my cat, Sweetie Beattie, is never more than inches away from me. At first, I employed a caregiver to help me with pain issues during the night. Whenever, she came into the bedroom to take care of me, Sweetie Beattie lay at the foot of my bed skeptically eyeing all the caregiver’s movements. Or else she sat on the dresser warily watching the activities. During that time, I called her the Night Nurse for she acted as if she were supervising – definitely looking out for my interest.

The Night Nurse, aka, Sweetie Beattie supervising my activities. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.

As aloof as she may ordinarily be, Sweetie seems to sense that I need more of her attention now. Even as I am here at the keyboard, she is on top of my desk backed up against my computer, and with my extended pinky I can stroke the fur on her back. Can that compete with steroids and antibiotics? No, but she is a fantastic supplement.


Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is mad about her Sweetie Beattie.


*Companion Animals and Us:Exploring the Relationships Between People and Pets. Eds: Podberscek and Serpell. Cambridge University Press, UK., 2000.

Visit my online museum: Gallery of Folklore and Popular Culture,


  1. I experienced the same thing with my girls (cats) when I was incapacitated for 6 months with the shattered ankle. They were always nearby (or on me) and kept me sane when I was in the house alone because my husband was in NYC working during the week. My buddies! Some, however, are more compassionate that others.

    1. Dear PJ: I remember the shattered ankle, but I was unaware of your nurse cats. That’s so amazing. And yes, I agree that some cats are better caregivers than others.

  2. At my senior center writers’ class I teach, Leo brings Michelle, his black lab retired breeder from Guide Dogs for the Blind. She birthed 11 litters and is now his. She is a sweetheart of a dog and inspires the writers and me. My friends’ therapy dog, Emma, a golden lab, helped teach children to read at a local library, laying her head on the child’s knee while he read to her. She was loving and non-judgmental, never correcting his mistakes till he could read perfectly! And post-surgery, my daughter’s two visiting cats would hop up on my bed every day at 5 pm and lie there for an hour, until it was time for their nocturnal romps. Lovely! And lovely for you to have Sweetie Beatty and vice versa. Be well. Love, Yvonne

  3. A beautifully composed portrait from Norine Dresser describing the role and benefit of the indispensable animal-human bond. Traditional (Western) medicine has made great strides to be sure, but it is still the company of our extended families and friendships which help to sustain us – and the part that the non human animal plays in promoting positive mental health in human beings cannot be underestimated. Photographs of our pets and images and videos of other people’s animals (and animals in general) bring us joy and their strange and humorous antics even bring tears of laughter to our eyes. The irony? Animals make US more human(e). We owe a great debt to animals as they share our lives and their service is being more appreciated, as is evidenced here in Norine Dresser’s writing.

  4. First Norine, I’m so sorry you’ve been ill. Human love and hugs sent from me to you.
    Secondly, I have a Golden Retriever who provides exactly what your referring to. I feel so lucky. He’s not quite as portable, nor does he fit on the bed like your laity, but I couldn’t live without him. Thanks for your article. Always appreciated chez moi. ❤️

  5. Dear Norine,
    I fully understand and agree that our pets know when we need extra care. They stay very close and give us their energy, care and love. Damien is my little protector, at four pounds!
    Much love to you, so happy you are feeling better! You are a very special person. Your little fur person knows that!❤️❤️❤️❤️🌺Carol

  6. We pet people know that what you’ve expressed is accurate — but no one could tell that story better than you, Norine. Give SB a cuddle from me for doing her job well, then give yourself one too.

    1. Dear DK: You always say the most flattering things about my writing. You have no idea how good that makes me feel. And for sure I’ll give SB a cuddle but am not sure how to give one to myself. Love you, N.

  7. What Sweetie Beatie has been doing for you Elvis has always done for us. Now he has Cushing’s disease and I have to do it for him –hug him, cuddle him and tell him what a good boy he is. He is the joy of our life and we can’t imagine our lives without him. And when I get depressed about my back he still tries to comfort me.

    1. I don’t know what Cushing’s disease is, but I know how crushed you must be to have him in distress. And after all he’s given you. I’m so sorry, and of course, we give back to our loved ones in time of their need — and that includes Elvis. Love you all, N.

  8. First of all dear Norine I am SO darn happy to hear that you are home and doing better….and that you have such a loving “night nurse” to watch over you! Great blog and I am a total fan of our beloved furry friends and their incredible capacity to love, nurture, and even help to heal us! I am petless at the moment after having to put my dear SunnyBunny to sleep about a month ago finally after weathering the challenges of canine cognitive disorder and her other issues for quite some time. Trying to hold off for the moment adopting any more pets, but I so miss their loving and humorous company. Give Sweetie Beattie a hug and a good petting for me!!! Sending you tons of love!

  9. Hi Norine, I remember Tommy and Tortuga also gave you so much love and companionship. You’re one of the strongest and most positive women I know, hope you’re ok.

  10. Hugs Norine, I remember Tommy and Tortuga brought you much love and companionship too! You are one of strongest most positive women I know, hope you are ok.

    1. Thanks for the compliments, Yoli. Feeling strong right now is a challenge. I have been battling one physical issue or another for six months now. True, I am getting better, but it’s a painfully slow process.
      How is your mom doing? I’m looking forward to the day when you can come visit again and meet my latest cat, Sweetie Beattie. She’s a dear sweet creature and lives up to her name. She is helpful to me and offers great comfort.
      Let me know when you can escape EP. Actually, I will be having a display there on October 13 from 10 to 4 on the UTEP campus. Keep it touch and perhaps you can drop by. Admission is free and it’s called the Border Archive Bazaar
      Lots of love and thanks for your kind words.

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