Cats and dogs help many owners through tough times in life
By Michelle Linn-Gust firstname.lastname@example.org October 9, 2012 11:08PM
Steve McCleary holds his dog Sophia who helped guide him through the death of his mother from cancer in 2004.
If you go
What: Black Cat Ball Fundraiser for the Naperville Area Humane Society
Where: 6 p.m., Oct. 19
When: Arrowhead Golf Club, Wheaton
For more information: www.napervillehumanesociety.org
Updated: November 11, 2012 6:08AM
Trudy, Sophia and Navi have several things in common although they have been never met.
All three animals were adopted from the Naperville Area Human Society. Their stories don’t end there, though. All three helped their guardians cope with human losses.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 opened the eyes of many people about the importance of family pets when people refused to evacuate their homes because the shelters wouldn’t take their pets. Animals are known for enhancing the quality of life for humans, although the focus typically is on physical health because people walk their dogs more, thus getting more exercise, or lower their blood pressure through petting a cat or dog.
The guardians of Trudy, Sophia and Navi all know that their pets contribute something more meaningful than that though.
Downers Grove resident Kari Krajniak, 22, watched her father die from esophageal cancer in 2011.
“Dad was the life of the house,” said Krajniak, and his death left them devastated.
The family of five children, with only Krajniak and her older brother Bobby, 28, residing at home with their mother when their father died, had only had fish for pets before their trip to the Naperville Area Human Society in November 2011.
They drove to Naperville because the website indicated they had kittens but had no photos and they figured the shelter was overflowing with them if that was the case. It was there that they found Navi, named for a character in a video game, and fell in love with the kitten that purred endlessly when they picked her up.
“Navi brought so much life into the house,” said Krajniak. “Bobby and I think she has a little bit of dad in her because he loved us so much.”
The Krajniak family relish in the cat that is now over a year old and checks on family members or simply likes to nap in their laps.
For Steve McCleary, 40, and his wife Liz, 47, they drove from their Park Ridge home to Naperville in 2001 because they were looking for a specific dog, a black Pomeranian. The couple, who now live in Elgin, had no idea how much Sophia would impact their lives when Steve’s mother, a non-smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003 and died in 2004.
They later added a second Pomerania, this one white, named Lily.
“We don’t have kids,” Steve said. “I couldn’t have gotten through it without the dogs. They are my little angels the way they give themselves to you.”
Sophia would check on her human guardians, making sure they were fine, before curling up for a nap. For Steve, he also appreciated that on the days when his mother was especially sick, the dogs wanted to play with him, giving him a hopeful distraction.
“Everyone experiences loss at some point,” Naperville Area Humane Society Executive Director Angie Wood said. “We often find that pets help us through that with their unconditional support. The human-animal bond is amazing.”
Trudy the dog has eased the pain of infertility for Kristen Siegel, 27, and her husband. The couple, who live in Naperville, went to the Humane Society after their previous dog Patterson died from eating medication from Siegel’s purse.
“Our dog was our child and when he died our world stopped,” she said. “I knew we needed a dog to get us through it.”
They chose Trudy on Valentine’s Day 2012 after Patterson had died the week before. Siegel fell in love with Trudy at first sight, adding, “If you can have that with a dog.”
Siegel believes that Trudy appreciates them because she is a rescue dog yet Siegel said that the reality is that Trudy saved them.
“She’s the best companion we could have,” she said.
And because Trudy was such a hit with them and everyone they knew, they added a second dog, Watson in July.