Tigger prompts power naps from those being questioned

Thursday, July 16, 2009

This is a column about Tigger.

Tigger doesn’t look all that impressive — like most house cats, he’s kinda furry, knows exactly which visitor is allergic and truly doesn’t care all that much about anything other than his world.

But this unimposing little pet has managed to do something high-priced lobbyists, determined politicians and, yes, even pushy reporters, have never been able to do.

Tigger has shut up a whole lot of bureaucrats.

The communications folks for the provincial ministry of housing won’t talk about Tigger.

Neither will their counterparts at B.C. Housing.

Locally, the executive director of one of the larger social agencies in Kamloops doesn’t want to talk about Tigger.

But Roy Sim does.

Roy loves Tigger. They’ve been buddies, roomies for years now.

When Roy sits down at night to watch some TV, Tigger’s right there with him, quietly mewing.

Tigger went with Roy when he and all the other people living at the former Whistler Inn were evicted after B.C. Housing bought it and handed it over to the AIDS Society of Kamloops to run as project to provide housing for the hard-to-house.

Roy says he thinks it’s a great project and he’s all for it.

Sure, he fought the eviction but did so because, as he puts it, “that’s been my home for years.”

Tigger went with Roy when he found temporary lodging and the two of them have remained together, waiting for the construction at the downtown building to be complete so they can go home.

Except Tigger’s not welcome.

Roy is, but there’s now a no-pets-allowed policy at the facility.

And, like most pet owners, this is simply wrong to Roy.

As he puts it, he’s a senior and having his cat gives him a reason to get up some mornings.

It gives him someone to look after, to feed, to care for, to talk to when there’s no one else around to listen.

Roy knows the research.

He knows countless studies done over decades have shown having a pet is good for seniors — and, at 68 and living off a couple of pensions, Roy reluctantly agrees that yes, he’s officially a senior.

He knows owning a pet can help lower blood pressure and depression.

That can lead to better health and fewer doctors’ appointments.

Pets can foster friendships.

There’s nothing that will bond people quicker than sharing stories about their animals.

Roy knows countless organizations that work with seniors, with people who have disabilities and addictions all use pets in therapy.

So, Roy can’t figure out why he can’t go home with his pet.

So far, the only answer he’s been able to get is that it’s because pets aren’t allowed anymore.

I can’t get any answers. Requests for explanation to the government are now being ignored. Requests to the AIDS Society have recently just led to complaints about my writing on this issue.

Roy has even suggested a compromise that sure seems like a good idea. Since he’s just going back home, let him keep his pet.

For those moving into the building, who will be working to overcome substance-abuse and mental-health issues, acknowledge the role pets can provide in therapy.

Let them earn the right to have a pet for themselves, Roy says.

Sure makes sense to me.

Movie nights in the common room and barbecues out in the parking lot will all help with building community and helping people interact with society again — but there’s nothing like having a cat curl up beside you to remind you that you’re not alone.

And that’s not too much for a senior to ask for, is it?