When Robin Sipe’s beloved, elderly cat died, she was feeling so sad and lonely, she broke down crying during a visit to her pulmonologist, Earl D. King. King had treated her for more than 15 years for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, including saving her life in intensive care. At the end of the visit, he printed her a summary, including a prescription for her grief and the best possible cure for pet loss. It read, “Get a cat.”

“Robin was down in the dumps, crying about the loss of her cat, and I felt that a new cat was the best remedy for her,” King told the Washington Post. He pointed to the many studies about how pets can help with grief, mental health and loneliness.

So Sipe left his office. She stopped at a farm stand for some produce on her way home, and was surprised when she saw a tiny, black-and-white kitten who was missing a paw. Her doctor’s words, “Get a cat” kept echoing in her mind.

“I asked if I could take the kitty home and told them I could guarantee that she’d be safe and happy inside,” Sipe said. “They had four other kittens they’d need to find homes for, so they said okay. This sweet little kitten was mine. I bought three ears of corn and a cantaloupe that came to $2.99, and they agreed that an extra penny should cover the cost of taking the kitty.”

So she got home and started getting to know her new pet.

“I decided to name her Earlene after Dr. Earl King,” Sipe said. “He helps with more than just my breathing. He’s always taken the time to look after my entire well-being. In this instance, he also treated my heart. Everything changed for the better when I found Earlene.”

Dr. King said patients don’t always follow his instructions, but he’s glad Sipe did.

“I’m really happy that Robin found a new cat — particularly one with a disability,” he said.

Sipe added, “As far as I’m concerned, she was the pick of the litter.”