(~2 minute read.)

Jasmine Garbino was interviewed on her perspectives on courage approximately 18 months ago.  She now shares her personal experience of, and her  learning about, the impact of
pet-therapy.  Her cat Sparky, was her teacher.

In her own words …


One morning three years ago, just as I was getting out of bed, I felt a tiny lump under the sole of my right foot. It hurt as I stood up.  “I don’t think it’s anything to worry about,” dad said.

A couple of months later this lump was bigger and I could no longer walk without limping. Eventually, I undertook all the medical procedures needed to confirm that I had a lipoma. “What is a lipoma?,” I thought at first, as I had never heard this term. I did not know how to react as I was unaware of how severe the situation was.

I learnt that a lipoma is a small, benign tumour; as such, fortunately, I had nothing to worry about. Lipomas are quite common and they do not always need to be treated, but due to its position under my foot the doctor suggested to remove it surgically.  For the first time I had to undergo an operation.  I was anxious as I feel uncomfortable every time I enter a hospital, but I was also quite ready for the operation. I knew that the moment had to come eventually and I thought it could have been an opportunity for me to overcome my hospital-related fears.

The operation lasted 20 minutes, but I was unable to walk for two months. I was stuck all day on my couch at home with nothing to do while my wound was healing and hurting.  Although my parents were compassionate, they worked all day and I felt alone with my hurting wound. I felt lonely. I cried a lot. I was missing my university lessons; I could not go out with my friends and I struggled to find something that could make me happy in the moment. During this period, I started to realise how important it is to have company, especially when you do not feel at your best. In the end I was not alone.  I had my cat, Sparky.

“In the end I was not alone.  I had my cat, Sparky.”

As soon as I mention my cat when I tell this story, most people look at me with uncertainty and perplexity. The reality is that Sparky was always at home keeping me company.  Although he was not talking to me, he lay on my lap all day as if he knew I was not feeling well and that made me feel pleased. It made me feel as if I always had someone by my side, reminding me that my negative feelings and emotions due to the operation were just temporary, and that they would not last forever.

IMG_2345Until this time, I had underrated the affection an animal can give you. As a psychology student, I observed my mood carefully when my cat was nearby and when he was not. As soon as Sparky walked out of the room, I could not wait for him to come back and keep me company. I felt much more relaxed when Sparky was close to me, as if his presence lowered my tension and the physical pain I felt from the wound. After that, I did a little research on pet-therapy, which I had surely underestimated before my operation.

My experience allowed me to realise how a pet can influence your mood; whether you had an operation or just had a bad day. Different from behaviour- or drug-based therapies, taking care of an animal can greatly improve your state of mind. You feel accomplished and worthy; the animal in return provides you all the love needed to thank you and to make you feel that you are not alone.

“My experience allowed me to realise how a pet can influence your mood.”

Jasmine, thank you for sharing your experience and reflections with us.  We know that when we reflect on our experience, we turn our experience into learning and wisdom.

By the way, for our readers, I have a pet name for Sparky, this being “Sparkly Larkly” as he is a very sparkly cat … and I like a rhyming name for pets that I love!



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