Ask Lisa Whitlock how long she’s been living with multiple sclerosis and she sighs.
“Are you sitting down?” she says. “It was September 1989.” (She was 25 years old) “I had it for a long time. I probably had it before then, but it never surfaced.”
As a result of her disease, Whitlock has a caretaker and uses a motorized scooter to get around. There are a lot of things she can’t do for her 9-year-old daughter, Brooke, she said, but having the family’s Siamese cat, Zoey, around helps.
Zoey sits with Brooke while she watches TV or plays on the computer. Brooke feeds her and plays with her, tossing her toys and stuffed mice.
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“She loves her stuffed mice,” Whitlock said. “This is a weird cat. She climbs the wall. You think I’m joking. She climbs up the walls.”
Whitlock and her daughter got Zoey six months ago from Paws Humane after Brooke saw the cat and “fell in love.”
“My daughter saw Zoey and wanted her,” she said. “But she’s a Hospice cat, too. They provide all of her food, cat litter and take her to the vet. So we really don’t have to pay.”
Zoey’s food and vet bills are paid for by Columbus Hospice’s Pet Peace of Mind program. The program allows hospice patients who can’t afford routine pet care to keep pets in their homes. Hospice volunteers drop off pet food to the homes and take pets to the vet and groomers regularly.
“We have patients that the only family they have is their pet,” said Terri Roberts, director of volunteer services.
To cover the costs of pet care, the hospice is hosting Purse Party for Pets on February 19 at Green Island Country Club. The event will include a champagne brunch and live and silent auction, featuring high-end purses. Local men will present the purses on stage during the live auction.
“Sometimes, they will dance or they’ll just stand out there, terrified, with the purse,” Roberts said.
Tickets can be purchased until Feb. 10. The $40 cost of the ticket covers expenses for the brunch, Roberts said, and all proceeds from the auction go back into the pet program.
For Whitlock, the pet program has provided her with a cat that makes her laugh but also makes her pay attention.
“She makes me look at things harder,” Whitlock said. “But she spends a lot of time with my daughter and that helps. There’s a lot I can’t do.”