Tom is the resident caretaker, joy-giver and counsellor at Salem VA Medical Centerwhereeveryone there knows him for his soft purr and cosy presence.At this center, veterans have access to long-term and hospicecare. Naturally, their days are blotted with the darkness of death every once in a while.This is where this catcomes in. He comes from a shelter and has had his share of hardship- that's why he loves so much to curl up on the bed next to his many housemates.
Army veteran James Gearhart of Bassett, Virginia,lived in the rehabilitation unit while he had throat cancer and he toldTODAY:
You can’t beat a good, purring, loving kitty cat.
It's almost as if Tom has a sixth sense of who needs an extra bit of love and attention. He can easily stroll through the halls, visiting everyone; or spend an hour with one patient alone, Shelby Benois, a spokesperson of the hospital, told The Dodo.
He is an important figure and personality in the hospital and he brings life and smiles wherever he goes. Pets naturally know how to connect with humans - they can sense our emotions and always give us more attention when we're down.The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairspublished the story of one particular patient. His wife said that Tom had a special connection with her husband.The catjumped onto his bed and put his tiny paw into the man's open hand in his dying moments. His wife said:
It was a beautiful passing, and that cat is the one who made it happen.
Tom spends his daysmakingthe patients feel at homeand he takesaway the stressful and impersonal hospital atmosphere.One veteran's daughter, Sharon Kai Herndon, from Virginia, even wrote a book about Tom. Her father wasin the hospital and she had left his room for a bit, when the catcame to "call" her.He meowed at her until she went back to her father's room, where he died minutes later.She believes that Tom was calling her because he knew what was going to happen and he wanted her to be there for her dad.