Nichole Stone waited weeks to stand in the front row at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas last October to hear Jason Aldean. But as the now-infamous concert got underway and gunshots rang out around her, all she wanted to do was go home and wrap her arms around Connor, her rescue cat.
“I was terrified,” says Nichole. “I knew I had to make it out of there, so I could see him again.”
Nichole managed to escape without any visible injuries, but returned home badly shaken. As soon as she saw Connor, she scooped him up and held him close. When Nichole let him go, he stayed by her side.
Connor knew Nichole, who adopted him from the Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles, had wounds you couldn’t see. Now it was his turn to rescue her.
Nichole saw something special from the moment she met Conner at the adoption center. Back then, he was a little 3-month-old kitten with a broken tail who came to the adoption center from one of six city shelters. Nichole had grown up with a cat with tail a lot like Connor's, and she took it as a sign that they were meant to be together.
"That's the cat I'm going home with," Nichole told her boyfriend, who came with her that day.
She and her boyfriend broke up soon after Connor's adoption, and because he was Nichole's first love, she took it pretty hard. But while Nichole's relationship with her boyfriend was on the rocks, the one she had with Connor was turning into something rock solid.
This was the first time Nichole saw Connor's innate ability to assess her mood, and be there to comfort and support her. "Connor is a like human," says Nichole. "He listens like a person and knows how to take directions."
For a long time after the concert, whenever Nichole would go to sleep, she’d have nightmares of the night she watched people collapse around, some losing their lives. She’d wake up scared, but then she’d feel the comfort of Connor resting beside her. If the dreams were particularly bad, Connor would wake her up, so they would stop.
Little by little, Nichole started to put the concert behind her. Sudden noises stopped startling her so much, and she began sleeping through the night. But as life got back to a new normal, there was one thing she would never forget, and that's the power of her cat's love, and how he was the one who helped her heal the most.
"He's my best friend, and he's also my therapy," says Nichole. "He is beyond special."