An emotional support animal is simply defined as a companion animal that has been deemed by a medical professional to be emotionally beneficial to a person with a disability, and that improves at least one characteristic of the disability.

My (unofficial) emotional support animal (or ESA) comes in the form of a very fat (he has been known to eat his way into the unopened bag of cat food), very fluffy (he’s a long-hair, and there is a lot of hair), very white ragdoll cat. His name?  Mr. Kitty McCutie-Pants. And, up until recently, he’s been a most excellent emotional support cat.  

And I am using the term “cat” loosely here. He likes his belly rubbed. He is fascinated with the toilet.  He also enjoys watching television if the show has a lot of action happening on-screen.

Mr. Kitty (also affectionately known as “Cheeky Monkey” or “Greedy Butt”) usually knows when I’m not feeling well, and will curl up next to me with his head on my shoulder, lick my face and purr like there is no tomorrow as I pet him.

He will usually stay there until he feels my body begin to relax, and then, after he leaves to tend to his own things (feeding and whatnot), will always jump right back up next to me for more mutual love.

This stopped a couple of weeks ago.  I have two working theories about this.

One:  My other cat, MIKi (short for Mission Impossible Kitty), has turned him to the dark side of general laziness and naps.

Two (and my worst fear):  He has knowledge of my plan of two weeks ago to apply for that cat-taker position in the Greek Isles. He’s smart.  He probably read that email I sent over my shoulder as I was writing it.

So this got me thinking: If Mr. Kitty is, in fact, defecting as my support cat, perhaps I should look into other support animals. And as I still suffer from lack of sleep, I read. A lot. And it turns out there are some really strange (cool, but strange) ideas for ESAs out there … such as the support peacock that got itself and its owner barred from boarding that United Airlines flight. There are also support pigs, turkeys, squirrels, penguins, and even baby kangaroos. But I’m looking at llamas.

There is actual precedence for llamas and their alpaca cousins, too.  There is a place in Oregon that makes the rounds at hospitals and rehab facilities in the Pacific Northwest with their llamas and alpacas and showcase the animals’ natural friendly and social nature.

And if I chose a support llama (or alpaca, I don’t discriminate), it’s only a short jump from ESA to service animal. Perhaps there is a way to teach the llama to dial 911 in case of emergency, then launch me onto its back and trot me over to Seton or Metroplex, where Sid the Llama (yes, in my head I’ve named him Sid) could then take my mind off my pain by delighting me with his silly llama antics. He could also change the channels for me on the E.R. television just in case I’ve lost the use of my hands.

Of course, while Sid could put his head on my shoulder and give my face a lick, upon reflection that really doesn’t sound all that pleasant. He certainly can’t cuddle up next to me on my sofa or my bed, or in my lap, while I pet him; I don’t even want to contemplate what giving Sid a belly rub would entail. And it’s bad enough to have a cat fascinated with all things toilet without imagining a llama with the same interest.

Reaching this conclusion is probably a good thing. I’ve grown attached to Mr. Kitty.  And as he is currently vying with the computer keyboard for my attention as I write this, it would appear that he’s happy with the arrangement, too.

It seems that Mr. Kitty McCutie-Pants has job security, after all.  

Stephanie Ratts Grissom is a Herald correspondent.

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