Perry remembers exactly what he did as a kid whenever he saw an animal: Run.

“Cats and dogs, they’ve just paralyzed my life since I was a kid. I would take flight. I grew up in Brooklyn in the ’70s, and there were a lot of stray dogs. People would see me and say, ‘Perry’s running from those dogs again.’ I’d be on top of people and cars to get away,” he says.

He has no idea why, but he’s always been terrified of animals. But now with the Connecticut Humane Society’s help, Perry is feeding treats to cats in his life and even got his granddaughter a puppy.

Everyone in Perry’s life had grown used to his animal phobia. They’d keep their pets away from him when he visited. But he was never okay with it; he was even embarrassed. He’d have nightmares about cats, and no matter how small a dog was, he was afraid.

A new relationship spurred him to see a therapist, who suggested visiting an animal shelter. Not knowing what to expect, he stopped at CHS Newington. This was certainly outside CHS’ normal scope of services, but help is possible sometimes even if it’s just one instance. (CHS doesn’t offer formal therapy supports, though it does accommodate visitors under the supervision of staff.)

So once a week, Perry would come to CHS. The first time he saw a dog, he hurried away down the hall. But gradually as he met more, he stayed nearby.

“They found the nicest dogs to come see me. And one connected with me. She had a leg operation and came under my legs and sat there, and that was first time I pet a dog. It was unbelievable. Then they gave me baby cat. I fed it with a bottle,” Perry said. “Everyone there was so patient. It really helped me a lot.”

Then he told friends and family they could let their animals near him when he visited. Everyone was shocked. Perry’s life has completely changed.

“Animals can be so in tune with you. I’m around cats right now,” he said in a recent phone call. “I give them treats and started out that way with them. And now I can pet them anytime.”

Anyone struggling with a fear of animals or something animal-related is encouraged to contact a licensed therapist for guidance.