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She shares her cats with hospital's long-term patients

December 27, 2001

She shares her cats with hospital's long-term patients



Editor's note: This is the ninth in a series of stories running on the 12 days before Christmas to recognize individuals and groups who make the holidays and every day better for others.

By DAN KULIN
dank@herald-mail.com


Jane Baer swears it's not her.

Her cats are what make her such a popular visitor at the Western Maryland Hospital Center.

But while Tucker and Virginia are well-liked, Baer is really the favorite.

After all, the two cats may join her on visits to the hospital, but they aren't the ones who help take patients out for Christmas-time shopping and other trips.

"We all love her," said hospital patient Jenny Davis.

"She takes us away on outings and to go shopping. ... I'm no cat lover, but I like hers," she said.

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About three years ago, Baer began taking Virginia, a black and brown cat, and Tucker, who is gray with a white belly, to the hospital, which has about 95 long-term patients. Riley, Baer's black cat, doesn't go to the hospital.

"He has an attitude," she said.

Baer, 43, of Hagerstown, said she wanted to take her cats to the hospital because "I always felt that if I was in this situation I would miss my animals most."

Baer said the cats have clicked with some patients, and the experience has been rewarding for her, too.

"I've really made close friends. It's just the people in here," she said.

Baer said that one night she visited a man who had just had a stroke, and had his hands on front of his face. One of the cats crawled between his hands and he opened up his hands and smiled.

"It's the cats, not me," said Baer, a freelance artist who also works at Homeplace, a gift shop in Beaver Creek.

But others give Baer the credit for lifting spirits.

"She's so loving and caring. She's always doing something for someone," said Phyllis Smith, 79, who has been at the hospital for about four years.

"She takes me out shopping. ... She really keeps me going," she said.

"She's inspired them that they don't have to sit in here and look out the windows. She's really been an inspiration to a lot of volunteers and residents," said Sharron Silvers, volunteer coordinator at the hospital.

"You know when you get old some people don't care. They say you've lived your life, but not her," Smith said. "She's an angel all the time."

Tomorrow: Kaitlin Trump, Spencer Shank and Cheryl Shank give for Christmas

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