Stanley Exits This Vale of Tears Once and for All Time and in Doing So Leaves Behind Many a Damp Eye as Well as a Passel of Fond Memories
"Stanley provided hospital workers, ambulance staff and patients with a talking point, amusement and cuddle therapy whenever it was needed."
-- Peter Hallett of South Western Ambulance Service
The physicians, nurses, and assorted attendants who slave away saving lives in the Accident and Emergency Department (A&E) of the Royal United Hospital are going to have to find a new provider of their cuddle therapy. The same is equally true for their many patients as well as the department's drivers and paramedics at South Western Ambulance Service (SWAS) which serves more than five million residents in Bristol, the counties of Somerset, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, and Wiltshire as well as the Scilly Islands.
All of that upheaval and accompanying profound sadness is attributable to the untimely passing on January 18th of the department's longtime feline companion, Stanley. None of the particulars have been publicly disclosed but if past history is anything to go by he was not permitted the luxury of living out his all-too-brief existence to the very end and then dying a natural death, but rather was prematurely killed off by his owners who reside close by to the fifty-two-acre, five-hundred-sixty-five-bed facility located in the Weston section of Bath in Somerset.
"He has had renal and respiratory problems for years now and we feared that even last winter he wouldn't be with us for much longer," his unidentified owner told the Bath Chronicle on January 20th. (See "Tributes Pour In for Friendly Feline Stanley Cat Who Made Bath's Royal United Hospital a Brighter Place.") "He battled through them however and I like to think this was because he wanted to share one last summer with everyone."
Very little has been disclosed to the outside world concerning the handsome brown and white tom. For instance, it is not even known either how old he was at the time of his death or how long that he had been hanging out at the A&E. For its part, the Chronicle has left the latter matter obscure by reporting only that he had been visiting the hospital for "many years."
During his tenure there, however, he endeared himself to staffers and patients alike by sneaking into ambulances, sleeping on stretchers and visitors' chairs, and by comforting injured patients. He was so successful in that endeavor however that a Facebook page was established in his honor that soon attracted at least nine-hundred-twenty-six devoted followers.
|Stanley Loved to Sack Out of the Hoods of SWAS's Cruisers|
He is gone now but that has not stemmed the outpouring of heartfelt tributes and remembrances. "We miss him so much already but are grateful to know he had such a wonderful and exciting life meeting lots of lovely people at the hospital and beyond," is how his owner chose to eulogize him to the Bath Chronicle. "Hopefully he made others as happy as he made us."
The members of the hierarchy at the South Western Ambulance and Allied Health Branch (SWAAHB) of Unison, which represents the ambulance drivers and paramedics, also paused during their busy schedule in order to remember him. "Many of us benefited from the pet therapy that (Stanley) selflessly provided," a spokesperson for the trade union told the Bath Chronicle. "Cheerio old chap."
It was perhaps SWAS worker Peter Hallett, however, who did the best job of summing up Stanley's invaluable contributions to RUH. "Stanley provided hospital workers, ambulance staff and patients with a talking point, amusement and cuddle therapy whenever it was needed," he affirmed to the Bath Chronicle. "Many times after a bad or upsetting job I had walked out of A&E for a cuddle with Stanley, his presence in itself having a therapeutic effect on staff. I for one will miss him greatly and the RUH will always be a little sadder around A&E without him there."
Shortly after his death, Steve Pearce started a fundraising campaign at www.justgiving.com in order to raise £400 for a memorial plaque in his honor to be erected near the A&E. "Stanley was loved by so many, he brightened up our darkest hours just by being there. Usually found just outside A&E, but whenever he could get away with it, could also be found sleeping inside, on visitors' chairs and warm corners!" Pearce wrote. "His owner had no choice, but to share him with us, it's almost like Stanley felt it was his job to look after us. He will always be remembered."
That campaign proved to be so successful that by February 18th a total of £676 had been donated by eighty-one caring and generous individuals. The surplus funds in turn will be used in order to purchase a work of art to be donated to the A&E in Stanley's memory.
His life and times also serve as yet still another poignant reminder that cats provide numerous health benefits not only to their owners but also to perfect strangers working and residing in hospitals and old folks' homes as well. As a consequence, more and more of these institutions are coming to the conclusion that there are good reasons for allowing cats to either temporarily visit or to take up permanent residence on their campuses.
|Stanley Was a Huge Favorite of the Ambulance Drivers and Paramedics|
For example, along about this time a year ago Queens Hospital in Romford in the London borough of Havering suspended its rules in order to allow a sixty-six-year-old terminally ill woman to be visited one last time by her beloved Patch. (See Cat Defender post of May 10, 2016 entitled "A London Hospital Waives Its Draconian Anti-Cat Rules and Grants the Final Wish of a Cancer Victim by Allowing Her to See Her Beloved Patch One Last Time.")
The Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, even has its own resident feline, Oscar, who not only knows when the Grim Reaper is on the prowl but voluntarily takes it upon himself to dispense cuddly therapy to those unfortunate souls who wind up on his hit list. (See Cat Defender posts of July 30, 2007 and May 27, 2010 entitled, respectively, "A Visit from Oscar Means That the Grim Reaper Cannot Be Far Behind for the Terminally Ill at a Rhode Island Nursing Home" and "When Lovers, Friends, Health, and All Hope Have Vanished, Oscar Is There for Those Who Have No One and Nothing Left.")
Plus, cats have proven themselves to be adept at detecting cancer as well as anticipating diabetic and emphysema attacks. (See Cat Defender posts of April 11, 2009, March 27, 2010, April 20, 2012, May 18, 2009, April 21, 2012, and April 18, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Tiger Saves His Owner's Life by Alerting Him to a Cancerous Growth on His Left Lung," " Taken In Off the Street by a Compassionate Woman, Sumo Returns the Favor by Alerting Her to a Cancerous Growth on Her Bosom," "Grateful for Being Provided with a Loving Home, Fidge in Turn Saves Her Mistress's Life by Alerting Her to a Malignant Growth on Her Breast," "Elijah Teaches Himself How to Detect Low Blood Sugar Levels in His Guardians and Others," "Adopted from a Shelter Only Hours Previously, Pudding Saves Her Rescuer's Life by Awakening Her from a Diabetic Seizure," and "Blackie Stays Up Nights Monitoring His Guardian's Breathing for Emphysema Attacks.")
That is in fact so much the case that some individuals afflicted by disease consider the presence of their companions to be indispensable to their recovery. (See Cat Defender post of April 24, 2013 entitled "A Cancer Victim in Billericay Issues an Urgent Appeal for the Prompt Return of Her Beloved Cat, Bear.")
In spite of the myriad of services that cats dispense so freely to both their owners and society at large it is impossible to get around the disheartening reality that they seldom are appreciated for being, as Leonardo da Vinci once termed them, "nature's masterpiece." Far from it, more often than not they are routinely vilified as devils incarnate, systematically exterminated by the likes of the barbaric Australians, and horribly abused in so many ways by individuals, groups, and institutions.
|Stanley's Indomitable Spirit Has Been Silenced|
Even in Stanley's case it does not appear in hindsight that the staff at either RUH or SWAS ever fully appreciated him. On the contrary, they routinely rudely interrupted his repose in order to cruelly and unconscionably give him the bum rush whenever he dared to venture inside either the A&E or their ambulances. If any of them had really cared about his happiness and well-being they instead would have immediately dropped everything the very moment that he showed up, rolled out the red carpet, and lavished kind words and treats upon him. They callously threw away their golden opportunity, however, and now that his time has come and gone their rude and uncaring behavior toward him is forever on their consciences, that is, if they have any.
Speaking more broadly, it is high time that man did an abrupt about-face and turned over a new leaf and for once in his miserable existence endeavored to be something other than the selfish and exploitative monster that he always has been throughout history. To paraphrase a famous speech delivered almost sixty years ago by John F. Kennedy, he should stop repeatedly asking what cats and other animals can do for him and instead start asking himself what he can do for them.
In respect to cats, that first of all entails respecting their inalienable right to not only live but to die natural deaths as well. Secondly, they should be free from all forms of violence and abuse. Thirdly, they should be endowed with an unqualified right to security, shelter, food, water, and veterinary care.
In conclusion, even once it is in situ, the plaque is destined to be a rather shabby substitute for the real-life Stanley. About the only thing positive that can be said about it is that it will provide cat-lovers visiting Weston with an excuse, other than a medical emergency, to visit RUH and to pay their respects.
In death Stanley thus has joined the ranks of the city's other illustrious resident, the Wife of Bath, whom if Geoff Chaucer is to be believed not only ran through men like a knife cutting hot butter but also insisted that they dutifully "paid their debt" to her each night. That in turn segues into the present-day dilemma of when, if ever, is man going to wake up and pay his debt to cats like Stanley?
When all is said and done, plaques, statues, and crocodile tears do not count in this world. All that matters is how that the living are treated.
Photos: ITV of London.