Paws and Purrs ...Our Spiritual Healers (Dedicated to Alice Crans)

Willow and Alice Crans; August, 2011
Willow and Alice Crans; August, 2011

With the anniversary of 9/11 upon us in the US, it is a time to also remember and give thanks to the many people who selflessly volunteered to help the families, loved ones and friends of victims. This article is dedicated to one such individual, and others, who continue to contribute their time and resources to provide aid and comfort to those in need.

Animal Assisted Therapy (ATT) is a relatively new form of therapy that enhances the lives of people through the human-animal bond. Therapy animals provide comfort to the ill and depressed, the elderly, and to those who have suffered traumatic experiences either through abuse or disasters. These wonderful animals come in all breeds, shapes and sizes, and have been trained, specifically evaluated and registered with a licensed organization that operates in this capacity.

When I lost my dear mother to cancer, close family friends, Alice Crans and her husband, Wayne, stayed at my home during the week of the services. Topaz, Alice’s ATT certified golden retriever, was also a welcomed guest and member of the family -- a jewel of the heart in every way. She seemed to know, intuitively, when one of us would begin to break down before the tears ever reached our cheeks. Gently laying her muzzle on a lap or a knee or softly nuzzling a hand, Topaz would lift her eyes upward to bond with ours as if to say, “I’m here…it’s okay…I understand and I care.” She was our spiritual guide in a sense, and soothed our spirits with her affectionate, warm presence.

Alice Crans’ interests in animal assisted therapy began when she was an undergraduate psychology major at Douglass Residential College where she studied the concept of music therapy as a form of stress reduction. She began working in Crisis Response in 1996 by training to work in the area of domestic violence. Both Alice and Topaz comprised the first team in the state of New Jersey to work with Hunterdon County’s Crisis Intervention Team.

Ms. Crans is also on the county SANE/SART (Rape Crisis Response) team and is a Red Cross First Aid, CPR and Pet First Aid Instructor. Topaz completed her Canine Good Citizen certification (CGC), received her (Therapy Dog International) TDI certification in 1995, and achieved membership in HOPE Crisis Response. She worked in the fields of Animal Assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Therapy. In 1996, Alice and Topaz joined TheraPet, Inc. of Clark, NJ, an organization dedicated to bringing the benefits of ATT to veterans and nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and other groups or individuals with special needs.

In 2001, three days after the jetliners crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in NY, Alice was called to Pier 94 with her therapy pets, Topaz, and Birman cat, Kiki. Four other therapy teams were also on hand to help comfort thousands of people waiting for news about their missing loved ones, family members and friends. The animals and their handlers brought the love, compassion and solace that helped enable people to work through some of their pain and trauma amidst horrific circumstances.

These dedicated volunteers also relieved the stress of American Red Cross workers, military personnel, fireman, police and other rescue and aid workers that had transformed Pier 94 into a family assistance center. Alice spent four months on the pier with her therapy pets. She recalls a particular day when she arrived, carrying Kiki in a pouch on her chest, a pet carrier in one hand and a cat-litter backpack in the other:

“An enormous assortment of teddy bears arrived from the south, and everyone was walking around holding one. In fact, a few people were giving me a classic double take as Kiki moved in my hands. They had at first thought she was a teddy bear,” said Alice, her eyes misting over with the memory of the heart-rending devastation of 9/11.

“Then, a fully garbed firefighter covered in soot, with a charcoal-smudged face, mask hanging under his chin and battered hat walked past us. (This was unusual, for they did not normally appear until they had been decontaminated, etc.) But he had managed to get his teddy. He was clearly agitated, and appeared very tightly wound. He exclaimed loudly to all that he wanted so much to thank the people who donated them, and wanted to be certain they were thanked. I told him I was sure they would be. Then, Kiki moved and got his attention. He treated her like a miracle - a vision - and seemed almost shocked. I asked if he wanted to pet her. He did and when she leaned into his hand, tears glinted in his eyes. He left without another word, but I think in better hands.”

In better hands, we have no doubt. People in crisis are not only calmed and soothed by her therapy pets, they also gravitate to Alice who has the rare ability to connect with people who feel as though they have known her for years. The therapy animals at Pier 94 comported themselves well. In the weeks that followed, police insisted on having therapy dogs, cats, and their handlers accompany family members taking ferry trips to and from Ground Zero.

Kiki
Kiki

Many years have since passed, during which time Topaz and Kiki contributed thousands of hours of service under the auspices of TheraPet. Alice’s beautiful and talented golden retriever, Willow (pictured with Alice above), followed in Topaz’ beloved paw prints when she passed on at the age of 12. Ms. Crans is now President of TheraPet, and has developed various goal-directed programs for therapists in therapeutic and educational environments.

Anyone who has owned a pet knows, firsthand, how they improve the quality of our lives. They provide us with unconditional love and companionship without the challenges normally associated with human relationships. The soothing act of stroking our pets lowers our heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels, and satisfies one of our most fundamental needs -- the human need to touch.

The therapeutic benefits of animals have been studied and confirmed. Utilization of ATT is understandably growing. There are currently several forms of animal assisted therapy and education; for example, Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT); Animal Assisted Activities (AAA); Animal Assisted Education (AAEd).

TheraPet’s website provides a wellspring of helpful information about the many rewards of becoming involved in animal assisted service to others, and those who have given of themselves, tirelessly, to comfort and aid people in need. It is well worth the visit.


TheraPet: http://therapet-inc.com/



In Memory and Dedication: Alice Crans passed away on April 10, 2015, following a long and courageous battle with cancer. This extraordinary, lovely woman will be missed by many, who take solace and inspiration from the countless gifts she left behind. Her spirit truly lives on.




[The above video was created by harleychic970 of YouTube, and is included solely for educational purposes.]

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Comments 54 comments

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

What an absolutely beautiful story. This is so timely and such a welcome story after the anniversary coverage of such a devastating event.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

When my mother-in-law was in a nursing home under hospice care, I personally experienced the wonder of pet therapy first hand. Even though she could not speak, the dog that literally crawled into bed with her and snuggled with her brought satisfaction to not only her but us in the room with her as well. The people that do this for others (with their pets) are like angels to those in need. Great hub! Beautiful, useful and up ratings!


SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines

As part of our family, they offer many delightful hours of companionship.Happy experience especially with the children. This is the first time I have heard about their role in the 9/11 tragedy.They are truly a part of those unsung heroes / volunteers. Thank you for sharing.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

A lovely, kind and compassionate article, Genna. People in need through loneliness, age or loss should consider getting a dog or even a cat, but they should opt for a mature animal from a sanctuary, rather than a puppy (kittens are actually much easier) which might stress them from caring needs. There are far too many wonderful pets, abandoned for one reason or another, facing confinement and/or euthenasia. You could save a life which might just save - or prolong - yours...Bob


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

Animals are natural healers...if I may say so. Having plants and animals around will almost guarantee a peaceful more relaxing existence even for those who are 'healthy'. People in who have gone through trauma always do better with the kind of animals you call Therapets. These animals are real heroes.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

@Mck Hi Mck! Good to see you, and many thanks for your supportive comment.

@Peggy I am pleased you experienced the wonders of a therapy pet firsthand. They are wonderful, and not all pets are suited for this service work and aid. Nursing homes are beginning to use therapy pets more frequently, which I am happy to see. Thank you for words of support. :-)

@Silent Thank you for stopping by! These therapy animals did wonders at Pier 94. Alice has so many fulfilling stores to tell; it would take 10 articles to relay them all. I am grateful for your kind and thoughtful words.

@Dio Thank you, Dio. And I Agree. It is painful to see so many pets abandoned; we see them by the roadside occasionally, or near dumpsters looking for food, and always call a pet-friendly shelter to pick them up. This poor economy isn’t helping our four-legged friends either, it seems.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

@Cardisa Thank you for stopping by. Actually, TheraPet is the name of the organization. The animals in service are referred to as therapy animals or therapy pets. Not all pets are well-suited for the animal-assisted role; they have to have a certain personality and temperament, and that's just the beginning. You are right in that they are natural healers; these therapy animals -- as well as their handlers -- are heroes. :-)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

We have several critters running around, including a stubborn cat who insist on crawling between us when we sleep. We finally gave up and accepted his nightly presence between our pillows.

My black lab sleeps on my side of the bed on the floor. He has his own rug. I don't know who gets greater comfort from the presence of the other.

Beautiful Hub, Genna


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Animals have an innate sense of understanding and connecting. I have found the presence of my critters, throughout the years, brings a sense of "normalcy", despite circumstances that are anything but. They are a calming influence that teaches without a word, that life goes on, no matter what. Although, I've never been involved with a service dog, my canine companions give me a sense of purpose in caring for them and I believe the feeling is mutual. When life gets chaotic, our "best friends" still operate on a schedule, which suffices to create a reassuring normalcy despite trauma, chaos or illness. Animals, although each has a unique personality, are predictable. They react in their usual manner, which is also reassuring in the face of atypical circumstances. They don't fly off into hysterics or tantrums and in that way, bring sincere concern in their own calming presence. Instinctually, animals are gifted if we observe. I read about a young man who had a companion pet, a Golden Retriever, that began licking the man's ear relentlessly whenever he was laying or sitting next to his best friend. A medical checkup revealed a tumor in his ear that was caught early. The man completely recovered, thanks to the "heads up" his dog provided and the man's close relationship in knowing and understanding his dog.

This is a great piece, Genna. My Scottish Terrier, MacGregor has recently lost a good part of his hearing. It breaks my heart as it has dramatically affected his ability to communicate in the same full way we had together. He has regained some of his hearing and I still hold out hope that he will continue to enjoy all that sound brings him. He will be 8 years old in 2-days, and although not old, I am noticing some changes in him. Going to get him in for another check up. It is heartbreaking when they are gone and each time I swear, "no more", but they give so much, I find life much lonelier without. Thank you for this beautiful read.


Maya 5 years ago

Terrific article Genna. I don’t know what we would do without our two dogs and two cats; they get along with each other quite well, and provide us with more than I can put into words. I’ve hear that not all dogs and cats are good candidates for ATT. Not all pets are very comfortable around complete strangers. By the looks of Kikki and Willow -- -- these are beautiful animals. Alice sounds like an extraordinary lady. Thanks for this beautiful hub! We miss your poetry and short stories too!


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

Like the others . . . beautiful. Dogs are truly man's (and woman's too) best friends. My little mixed-breed SPCA mutt loves me unconditionally. Thanks for sharing.


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

What a Beautiful Heartfelt Hub Gina. Even the Animals seem to understand when there is a time of need to comfort and they give their all unselfishly. This was truly such an inspiring read Gina, thanks so much for bring forth "Paws and Purrs" and this new kind of healing Therapy know as, ATT.


Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California

Genna thank you so much for writing this, I had the same idea but didn't get it started til late Sunday night so I said the heck with it. So many wonderful people and animals gave their all 10 years ago and I am so glad that you shared! Animals truly do have a sense that people do not, I have seen it and we are so fortunate to have them around!


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 5 years ago from Massachusetts

This is such a wonderful hub and pet therapy is such a great service, it brings smiles,hope and happiness to those who need it the most in their moment in time .

Vote up !!!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Hi Will;

I know exactly what you mean. My cat loves cuddles all the time; well…except when she’s one of her pouty moods and jumps on the living room coffee table. If I tell her “no,” she just gives me that look with her “what’s the big problem eyes.” I’ve had two dogs; 1 daschund and one mutt -- both with wonderful personalities. Our pets are part of our family. Thanks for the comments. :-)

Hi Amy;

You’ve described the benefits of pets, beautifully. I too think they have this sixth sense and know things before we do. Please give MacGregor hugs from me; he sounds just wonderful, and trust me, he has a lot more life in him. I suspect you are both lucky to have each other. :-) Thank you for the kind and thoughtful comments.

Hello Maya, old friend;

You are lucky they all get along so well with each other; this is not often the case. Yes, Alice is an extraordinary person – one of the good ones! I so appreciate your supportive and kind words too. Good to see you.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Hi Sally;

Thank you! I used to think that mixed breeds are less highly wound; that is until I met Topaz. She changed my opinion very quickly! Yes, they are our best friends in sooo many ways.

Hi B:

Thank you; it was written from the heart. Even though ATT is relatively new, Alice was telling me about the fact that Florence Nightingale often spoke about animals being ideal therapy pets. It took quite a while, I guess, before it became official. I appreciate your comment!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Hello Kath;

I so agree with you, Kath. Alice, Topaz, Willow and Kiki, and so many other therapy pets and their handlers deserve this recognition. Thank you, and I’m pleased you enjoyed the article. I can’t imagine never owning a pet; and I wonder why some people have never tried it.

Hi Kash;

I’m pleased you liked the article. I’ve seen expressions change in an instant on the faces of the eldery, and those who have lost hope, the moment one of these pets comes into their lives. They really do make a difference. Thanks for your good words. :-)


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Genna,

How wonderful to read your work, especially something as powerful as this. Isn't it beautiful that the "Angel of Mercy, Florence" taught us so many years ago of the importance of fur angels?Thank you for sharing the awesome work of Alice and TheraPet.

Voted UP & UABI-- take good care until next time, mar.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

That's what I called this "beautiful story", really touching us. Thank you very much for share wonderful work with us. Animals are really friendly if we want to take good care of them carefully. Well done, Genna. Vote up!

Prasetio


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

...a very warm welcome back once again my friend - and speaking of friends - my two best friends are Little Miss Tiffy and Mister Gabriel - so I can relate to this story -Tiffy is the diva and was my mum's cat; I believe her to about 16 and Gabriel is an all white cat whom I adopted and loves going for walks with me on a leash because he is deaf ..... well that's my story and I certainly enjoyed yours - thank you for coming back into my life and supporting my writing - and coming from someone as special as you - it really means a lot.

lake erie time ontario canada 1:34pm


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

@Marcoujor

I agree. The work that Alice and others do to help others in crisis is so admirable. Thank you for your kind thoughts and words of support.

@Pras

Thank you! And you are right -- the need to take care of our pets is as important as the care they give so selflessly to us.

@Epi

Hi Colin; good to see you. I love the names, Little Miss Tiffy and Mister Gabriel. Divas are always fun -- my cat is one as well; I suspect it's in those feline genes. Kudos for adopting Gabriel; not all cats take to the leash...he obviously trusts you and is loyal to you as well. Is Tiffy in your profile photo? Take care and thanks for the welcome visit! :-)


Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbsbitsnpieces 5 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

@Genna East...Thank you for sharing this Hub that truly gives tribute to our animal friends and heroes. They deserve our best, as they give us, theirs!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you, Barb. And you are right -- they do deserve our best.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

..back to revisit a classic of yours dear Genna and always so wonderful to have you grace my hubpage too - and I am on a mission here to post this most beauty topic to my Facebook page with a direct link back here

lake erie time ontario canada 2:22pm I sincerely hope all is well with you these days ....


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you Colin; I am sincerely grateful for your supportive and thoughtful comments. It is always good to see you!


KathyH profile image

KathyH 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

What a GREAT hub! :) I believe pets are "angels covered in fur" (at least that's what I call our two kitties. :) And I had to laugh at the "what's the big deal" eyes... finally someone else that gets that "look" besides me! ;)

Voted up and beautiful! :)


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you, Kathy! I like the "angels covered in fur" very much. :-) I guess the "what's the big problem eyes" is shared by all kitties.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Oh Genna - what a marvelous hub this is! I am an advocat for animals, especially dogs. What I wouldn't give to be able to single-handedly provide a loving home for every animal.

Our animals know what unconditional love is. I have learned so much from my Clancey, (shih tzu) and I owe him everything.

This is a beautiful tribute to paws and purrs ( adore that name). They must never be forgotten. As you have said, they are indeed our Spiritual Healers. Thank you and voted UP and across!

vocalcoach~


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

@Vocalcoach

I share in your love for animals. Your Clancey sounds just adorable. Yes, we can learn so much from them...and they are healers for us in so many ways. Thank you for your wonderful comments and vote. :-)


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

Beautiful story. Our dogs add much love to our lives. There's nothing like that unconditional love.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you! Yes they do add so much, it's hard to define. And that unconditional love is such an extraordinary gift. Good to see you. :-)


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Loved your hub! My two dogs always know when I am upset and are right beside me trying to comfort me. Some days I don't know what I'd do without them. I'd never heard of Paws and Purrs before. Thank you for making me aware them.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you, Susan! Our pets seem to have a radar into our moods and feelings. Good to see you.


Deb Welch 3 years ago

This is a beautiful Hub story and useful information about Animal Therapy whether professional or with your own pet(s). I have gained so much from all of my pets over the years. Steve McQueen had said, "Animals are on a higher plane than humans." I agree with that statement. Thanks.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Hi Deb;

I think McQueen was right too. Our pets give us so much. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. :-)


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

This gorgeous story is heartwarming and uplifting. I was drawn in by the beautiful picture at the top. Thanks for sharing the roles of these service animals in such a desperate time of need. They are truly a gift from God.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Hi Peggy...

So sorry to be late, but we've just returned to Boston from vacation. Not a pleasant place to be at the moment.

Yes, these wonderful creatures are truly a gift from the Lord above. :-) Thank you for the thoughtful comments.


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 3 years ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

I am touched by the sensitivity of these animals to human needs, by the dedication of the handlers and by the tenderness of the firefighter. Thank you for this marvelous hub.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Hello Cam. :-)

I am so pleased you liked this hub. Alice is a wonderful person, and her dedication, along with many others, brings the many gifts these beautiful animals have to others. Thank you for such a lovely comment.


misterhollywood profile image

misterhollywood 2 years ago from Hollywood, CA

I loved this hub because it's all so TRUE! I personally think animals are spiritual gifts from our creator. Thank you for writing this wonderful hub!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

I agree! Our pets are our spiritual gifts. By the way, Alice is one the "light people" in my life. :-) Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

OMGosh, Genna, I have tears in my eyes. Such a wonderful and blessed organization ATT is and the people who take their time to share their dogs and cats with those who need love and understanding. The touch of a dog's paw on a knee or hand is so comforting when one needs that special touch that can help heal. The spirituality of this type therapy is so beautiful. Thank you for writing this hub. I personally know the profound healing a dog can provide since I adopted my little Pomeranian who is very loving and alert to my moods. When he jumps up on my bed and burrows into the blankets then pokes his head out to kiss my cheek and snuggle against my neck is so comforting. My stress level has dropped drastically since Marvin entered my life. Thanks again, Genna, for bringing the knowledge of this type healing therapy to us. Voted up and across and surely sharing.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Hello Phyllis. I am so pleased that you have Marvin. I have always thought that dogs are people, too. There is often a little person, there, somewhere inside. They are so intuitive and loving. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. :-)


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 21 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

Coming back a second time, dear Genna...sending you and dear Alice a hug...and sharing too. Beautiful work from a beautiful soul. Love, Maria


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 21 months ago from California

This makes me tear up a bit. I know that we find solace in that bond. Did you know that when dogs and humans look into each other eyes, that oxytocin is released in the brains of both!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 21 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

@Marcoujor

Dear Mara, thank you for that lovely, heartwarming comment. Bless you, sweet friend.

@Audreyhowitt

Hello Audrey. No, I wasn't aware of this. Thank you for sharing this, and for your special comment. :-)


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 21 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Genna.....Wonderful hub, touching video. I love the term "Therapets." It's so true that our fur babies bring comfort and smiles. I catch myself talking to mine as though there's another adult in the room. My guys (dog & cat) have gotten to where they leave me very little space on the bed!! They just sprawl right out!....

Thanks for the smiles, Genna.......UP++++ Peace, Paula


Genna East profile image

Genna East 20 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Hi Paula. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comment. Our pets are our family. The work Alice dedicated herself to brought so much relief to others who were in fear and pain. "Therapets"' is the perfect name.


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 17 months ago from Minnesota

Hi Genna-thanks so much for sharing this heart-warming story about therapy animals. The story of the fireman really got me. I have two black labs mixes and they have filled this family with such joy and comfort. I hit every button except funny, voted up and sharing.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 16 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you for your special comment. Your black lab mixes are beloved members of your family. :-)


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 15 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

I love this hub. What a wonderful tribute to both Alice Crans and therapy dogs! I'm very sorry that your mother died of cancer, but I'm happy that Alice and Topaz visited you. The pets that you describe do very important work.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 15 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you, Alicia. We lost Alice to cancer as well a few months ago. Therapy pets are blessings to us all. :-)


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 15 months ago from sunny Florida

Kudos to Alice and to these precious animals. They do bring comfort and peace and calm to those who are in some kind of need. It is such a wonderful endeavor and one that should continue to be provided.

You said 9/11 happened so many years ago and in fact it did but each time the day comes around it seems like it was only yesterday...let us not forget...

Well done, Genna shared pinned g+ and tweeted Angels are headed your way this evening ps


Genna East profile image

Genna East 15 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you! Your comment warms the heart. Alice was one of the most inspiring people I've ever known. Her work efforts to bring the warmth of these precious animals to those in need is an example of one of the miracles of humanity.

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