Harry Stuart’s second chance at life brought him the love and happiness of many.
Harry is a 15 year old obese toothless cat.
At one point, it may have seemed like life was over for Harry. After 14 years, his owner passed away and he was handed over to JJ’s Helping Paws shelter in Cañon City.
There are plenty of animals in the same situation as Harry, but something about Harry made the shelter workers want more for him.
Holly Holden, a Summit County resident and the person who gave Harry his second chance at life with a loving owner, shelping a worker at JJ’s Helping Paws shelter recognized something different about Harry that told him he deserved more.
So last summer, JJ’s Helping Paws posted ads, asked if anyone would consider getting a senior cat, and even contacted Summit County Animal Shelter to see if he was more likely to be adopted into. Summit County.
Holden recalled the shelter worker saying something like, “It’s a long shot, but this cat is special.”
The Summit County shelter took in Harry just in time for Holden to find him.
Coincidentally, around this time last summer, Holden was looking to adopt another pet. She has adopted three shelter dogs in the past, all of which have become therapy animals.
Not expecting much, Holden said she went to Summit County shelter wanting to explore her options and meet the cats. So she took it knitting with her, let herself down, and figured she’d get to know a cat or two without committing to bringing one home.
As she sat there, a cat shyly put its paw gently on her arm and left her there. This cat was Harry.
“He has this calm around him that lends itself to himself,” Holden said.
Before she knew it, she was signing the paperwork to bring him home. With her positive track record of owning therapy animals, Holden already knew — especially with Harry’s special character — that she wanted him certified as a therapy animal.
By last november, Holden began taking her own online classes through Summit Therapy Animals to prepare for her training. They received his certificate in February 2022.
Holden said that because Harry is so old, there is no “official” training he can learn from. However, she laughed, Harry got perfect marks and she was the one who lost some points.
Each week, Holden pulls into the back parking lot of Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon, pulls a red stroller out of his car, tucks Harry gently into it, and enters through the church’s basement entrance.
On Wednesdays and Fridays, the church holds two hours where people can come to shower, do laundry, eat a hot meal, and socialize with others. They also host Harry.
During those two hours, Holden chats with visitors while Harry sits in the stroller, occasionally going around the room to sit on people’s laps or to use the portable litter box Holden travels with.
Jeff Warren, who has been with the county for 15 years, said he had been coming to the church program for a few weeks and loved Harry. Holden said Warren will hold Harry on his lap and the two will sit quietly while Warren relaxes in an armchair.
“He’s so charming,” Holden said. “People are drawn to him.”
Holden also brings Harry to the Summit County South Branch Library in Breckenridge to interact with the children. One of his favorite Harry stories concerns a time in the Branch’s summer reading program.
The first time Holden and Harry visited the library together, Holden said that a child who was autistic had attended on an out-of-town visit and had trouble settling in.
Holden said the child also showed a fear of cats. So she made a plan with the child’s parent on how to move forward. The child was sitting on the sofa next to Holden, with Harry in the middle.
“I said if it was a problem, I would just move it to the other side,” Holden said. So the child’s assistant started reading to the child while Holden and Harry sat next to how they had been discussing.
“I looked down, about a third of the length of that session,” Holden said. “And this cat, it slowly approached and put its paw on his leg.” Holden was amazed at Harry’s empathy and, apparently, understanding of the child’s needs.
According to Holden, the child immediately calmed down. At the end of the session, the child reportedly liked Harry and asked Holden to take him home. “It was so heartfelt and heartwarming,” Holden said.
Although Harry is no longer in the golden age of his youth, Holden couldn’t be more proud of the joy Harry brought to the community.
“I think he’s an ambassador for pet adoption, and also for a senior pet,” Holden said. “Generally, they are not adopted. Unfortunately, everyone wants a kitten or a puppy.
But for the rest of his second life, Harry the elderly therapy cat will continue to spread joy from the comfort of his red stroller, sure to bring a smile to anyone who passes by.