13-year-old therapy cat Ozzy dies

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Ozzy the Cat hasn’t roamed from room to room of the Hefner VA Medical Center for quite some time, but that doesn’t mean his heart wasn’t there.
His owner, Claudia Evans of Winston-Salem, said the 13-year-old pet therapy cat had a soul for service right up until his death Wednesday morning.
“Ozzy enjoyed being around people so much,” Evans said. “He had a bigger heart than I did, I know that.”
The pair spent years visiting patients at the VA Medical Center. And Evans said Ozzy never failed to add a smile to their faces, whether it was by jumping in their laps for a backrub or by “talking” to them.
“They really enjoyed getting visits from him,” she said.
But when the British shorthair cat suffered two strokes about three years ago, he was forced into retirement, which meant no more trips to Salisbury.
“We’ve gotten letters from people asking us to come back,” Evans said. “They really miss him.”
And Ozzy wasn’t just famous in Salisbury, he’s made it onto national television in Animal Planet’s show “Animal Miracles,” which spotlights his transition from a show cat to pet therapy.
“He didn’t enjoy being a show cat, he wanted to be around people,” Evans said.
After volunteering at an assisted living center in Winston-Salem, Evans decided to start bringing Ozzy along.
“Then we started getting calls from patients’ families who wanted us to go to Walter Reed Medical Center,” Evans said.
It was former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole who suggested Evans and Ozzy head to the VA Medical Center in Salisbury.
“We enjoyed going there and the people were very, very nice to us,” Evans said.
Although Ozzy’s health continued to decline, Evans said his death was still shocking.
“It’s been like losing my very best friend,” she said. “This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with.”
Evans has tried to train her 3-year-old cat Little Bit to follow in Ozzy’s footsteps, but he hasn’t taken to it just yet.
Maybe that’s because Ozzy was one of a kind.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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