Location:Las Vegas, NV, United States

After Las Vegas shooting, rescue cat helps ease survivor's trauma

Jan 27, 2018
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Nichole Stone’s world was turned upside down last October after the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, where she witnessed 58 people shot dead and more than 500 injured by suspected gunman Stephen Paddock.



It’s been a tough journey adjusting back to normal life at her home in Palmdale, Calif. And while the 24-year-old restaurant hostess has leaned on family and friends to ease her trauma, there was one friend who helped the most with the healing process: her cat.



“Connor knows when I’m not OK. He can sense it whether I’m sick or I’m emotional or going through a hard time,” Stone told TODAY. “When I’m having an anxiety attack, I can sit there with him and just let my emotions go and there’s no judgment.”



Nichole Stone’s world was turned upside down last October after the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, where she witnessed 58 people shot dead and more than 500 injured by suspected gunman Stephen Paddock.



It’s been a tough journey adjusting back to normal life at her home in Palmdale, Calif. And while the 24-year-old restaurant hostess has leaned on family and friends to ease her trauma, there was one friend who helped the most with the healing process: her cat.



“Connor knows when I’m not OK. He can sense it whether I’m sick or I’m emotional or going through a hard time,” Stone told TODAY. “When I’m having an anxiety attack, I can sit there with him and just let my emotions go and there’s no judgment.”



Stone, a huge country music fan, went to the concert with six friends. After making the five-hour drive, she had one goal — to be in the front row all weekend and see some of her favorite performers, including Eric Church and Jason Aldean, up close.



She was near the front of the stage when she heard a loud noise. “I thought, ‘Who the hell brought a Black Cat firecracker?’ The music was still playing, though, so I didn’t think anything was too serious. Then behind me I saw people freaking out and I heard my friend Sam say, ‘Everyone get down!’”



Luckily, Stone and her friends were able to escape uninjured.



Stone still has anxiety and bad dreams, but they’ve eased up — and she says it’s largely due to Connor, whom she wants to officially register as an emotional support animal.





Bell said it makes sense that animals like Connor have provided people like Stone with so much support.



“You’re still able to give love even if you are completely spent and have no love to give. And you feel their love back,” Bell said. “To know that this creature needs you and loves you, it helps you keep going every day.”


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