by Susie Merz

In the world of animal advocates, the creatures that we call pets are now often referred to as companion animals. And what dear companions they are. Whether it’s a dog who welcomes us home each time with a full-body wag, or a cat that is quietly devoted to being the steady presence in our lives, these animals are with us through good and bad, sickness and health. They can even be with us in our dying.

photo by Susie Merz / click to enlarge

At one of the lowest points during cancer treatment, I remember lying on my bed, feeling sick and nauseous and afraid in a way that encompassed my whole being. My cat came and laid down on my legs, and purred. Her solid weight and warmth and the resonance of her purring felt like a balm for my fear. I lay there and breathed with her purrs, feeling some of my distress ebbing away as I took in her peaceful presence.

It is so reassuring to be able to lean on our companion animals for support. They might be the unspoken heroes through difficult times in life. Truly, they ask for little and in return give us so much.


Susie Merz first came to Callanish as a retreat participant in 2015 and has since joined the staff team as a clinical counsellor. She has worked as a therapist for over 14 years, both in nonprofit agencies and in her own counselling practice.