By Samantha Drake
The Animal Medical Clinic of Gulf Gate in Sarasota, Florida, has a special staff member dedicated to putting canine patients at ease. That may not be unusual for a veterinary clinic that treats injured or sick pets every day. What’s unusual is that this staff member is a cat.
Raisin, a 2-year-old Sphynx, has become a dog’s best friend and the clinic’s mascot. But first, Raisin needed help herself.
Raisin was surrendered to Helping Hands Pet Rescue in Micanopy, Florida, because of a severe eye ulcer she had since birth. Helping Hands ensured Raisin got the medical treatment she desperately needed, with the help of AVS-Affiliated Veterinary Specialists Animal Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, and a veterinary student who fostered the cat during treatment.
Finding a purebred Sphynx at a rescue is relatively rare, notes Ruth Heffernan, a vet tech at the Animal Medical Clinic, who had heard about Raisin and wanted to meet her. Heffernan promptly adopted Raisin and began bringing her new pet to work. She started noticing that Raisin liked to cozy up to the dogs who seemed in need of comfort. “She’s extremely caring. Raisin picks up on when an animal is nervous,” Heffernan explains. “She gets in there and cuddles.”
The staff is mindful that not every dog wants Raisin around, but those who are receptive get a new friend during a stressful time, Heffernan says. “We said, ‘OK, let her do her thing.’”
The outgoing, affectionate Sphynx distracts canine patients with kisses and nuzzles as they have blood drawn or hangs out in the room where dogs recover from surgery to snuggle and offer reassurance, she notes. One of Raisin’s favorite friends is a blind Pit Bull named Fenway. Heffernan recalls watching Raising approach Fenway for the first time. “She sensed that he needed her,” she says.
Raisin comes into the clinic with Heffernan every day and has her own business card that says, “Nurse Raisin.” She’s become well known in the community, and staff from other local clinics have stopped by just to meet the Sphynx, Heffernan says. Pet owners have even switched to the clinic because of Raisin, she says. “Raisin loves all the attention.”
Raisin visits elementary schools and has gained her own following on her Facebook page and Instagram account. Mail and gifts for Raisin come from around the country, and Heffernan reports that a fan from Australia even altered his U.S. travel itinerary just so he could meet the cat.
At home, Raisin spends her time relaxing after a long day at the clinic and interacting with Heffernan’s Greyhound and Manx cat. She also enjoys the pampering that hairless, sensitive-skinned Sphynx cats require, including twice-weekly bubble baths and long naps on a heating pad, Heffernan says. Raisin’s eye is completely healed, although the cat does need daily eye drops, she adds.
But when it’s time to go to work in the morning, Raisin goes right into her cat carrier. “It’s like her second family here,” Heffernan says. “She’s at the clinic every single day.”