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MARTENSDALE, Iowa — From companions to protectors, our pets enrich our lives every day. During the first week of May, National Pet Week celebrates that special bond.

Two years ago, Loyce James rescued a stray cat.

“She’s such a pretty grey with the white. Her coat is just so soft,” James said.

She and Gracie became a perfect match.

“I take care of her, she takes care of me and it works out best. She doesn’t want me to go anywhere and I don’t want her to go anywhere,”James explained.

James is in hospice care and doesn’t leave her home much anymore. Even when Gracie isn’t at her side, the watchful cat keeps her in sight. Her little paws come in handy when her owner stops breathing or her oxygen falls out in the middle of the night.

“She just started soft pawing me. Just soft paw, both cheeks, just slapping me real easy,” James said.

Hospice aide Monica White checks in on James every day during the week. She says Gracie is more than just a companion. The little grey cat is part watchdog.

“If Loyce isn’t out up of bed when Gracie thinks she should be up, she goes in and wakes her up and meows at her until she gets up,” said White with HCI Care Services.

“Everybody should have a cat like her,” James said.

HCI Care Services has a program called Pet Peace of Mind. Volunteers provide pet care for hospice patients and their families.