KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — He's a sweet cat that's the top dog on the Blount County campus of Pellissippi State.
Jimmy Carter McGill was a stray that found his way into Betsy Boyd's life and heart. Boyd, who was working as a counselor at the college, started bringing the 14-pound Maine Coon to school, much to the delight of both Jimmy and the students and staff!
It was Blount County Campus Dean Holly Burkett who recognized his potential as a H.A.B.I.T. animal.
"I said, 'I've never seen such a friendly cat! You may want to check into (animal-assisted) therapy,'" Burkett recalled Thursday.
H.A.B.I.T. volunteers bring their animals to nursing homes, schools, hospitals, and other places were people need the comfort an animal can provide.
Boyd got the training and enrolled Jimmy in the program.
Jimmy still visits the Blount County Campus for one hour once a week, even though Boyd retired from her full-time job with the college last year.
"Interacting with an animal helps to reduce stress and releases happy hormones," Boyd explained. "Wherever we go, Jimmy brightens people's days and brings a smile to their faces."
Now, Boyd has written about the cat's sweet rags to riches story and it's featured in the new "Chicken Soup of the Soul" book called "Life Lessons from a Cat."
Betsy brought Jimmy back to campus today to celebrate her cat's story being shared with the world.
"It's a very rare kitty to have the confidence and composure to go visit people in a variety of settings," H.A.B.I.T. Program Coordinator Ruth Sapp said at a celebration of Jimmy Carter McGill held at Pellissippi State's Blount County Campus on Thursday. "I am just so proud of you guys."
Jimmy, by the way, was named after former President Jimmy Carter and fictional character Jimmy McGill in the television series "Better Call Saul."
Boyd compares Jimmy's volunteer work to the humanitarian efforts of one of his namesakes - and told President Carter that in a letter.
"I got a little note back from him in his handwriting," Boyd said. "He said he was honored to have such a special friend as a namesake. It was very sweet."
So what's next? Boyd says she can envision an entire series of children's books about Jimmy Carter McGill.
"I just definitely need an artist!"