A bonded pair of unwanted, senior cats are lucky to be alive, thanks to a pair of Navy veterans who adopted them after finding their empty nest a bit too empty. The experience turned out to be a catalyst in their lives, motivating them to help people who often live on the fringes of society.
An OIF/OEF Navy veteran comes home
Kathy and her husband, Jim, are both retired from the Navy. Collectively they served nearly thirty years, including overseas tours in Bermuda, Iceland, Wales and Pakistan, the latter of which holds one of Kathy’s most memorable experiences.
“My short time in Pakistan was a great moment in my career,” she explains. “Seeing the United States government work with a challenging country and being exposed to the highest levels of government was exciting, not to mention a phenomenal learning experience.”
Another memorable experience was her time aboard the USS HARRY S TRUMAN during a deployment to the Gulf.
“Knowing I was part of something bigger than myself – that was a very humbling and awesome experience,” she says.
Kathy’s first twenty years of service were devoted to maritime intelligence within the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System, searching for submarines. She shifted into the Information Dominance Corps as an Information Professional, which allowed her the opportunity to go to sea.
“I was blessed to have been assigned to two incredible Carrier Strike Group Staffs,” she says proudly, “and lucky enough to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and then Operation Enduring Freedom.”
A gift from the heart
Kathy had cats during most of her military career. Having them around reminded her of her years growing up, when her family adopted cats and dogs from their local shelter. But between deployments and one cat suffering from separation anxiety, Kathy felt she had no choice but to relinquish her two beloved cats to her son.
Once the Navy veteran and her husband retired from service, it was clear something was missing from their lives; the house felt so empty. Jim had the cure: he gave his wife a gift certificate to the local animal shelter.
“What a wonderful gift,” she says. “Truly from the heart!”
Like many adopters, the Navy couple intended to adopt kittens, until the staff at the Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center told them about Pets for Patriots. To be eligible for the many benefits of the charitable program – including discounted veterinary care and contributions from their Veterans’ Pet Food Bank Program – Kathy and Jim would need to adopt an older pet, or one with special needs. They loved what Pets for Patriots represented, and loved knowing they could give a good home to older, unwanted animals that might never be adopted.
Kathy applied immediately.
Two senior cats are twice as nice
During their visit to the shelter, a volunteer showed the couple two nine year-old cats, Sonja and Bear. They were known as a bonded pair, having grown up together as brother and sister. The two cats had to be adopted together, but most people wouldn’t adopt either of them because of their age.
Although the two cats grew up together, they have very different personalities: Sonja, very soft and very loving and Bear, scared and unwilling to be held. Regardless of his standoffishness, Kathy knew that Bear and Sonja were the ones.
“What I love most about Bear is his love toward his sister, Sonja,” Kathy says. “He’s very protective over her, as well as over me.”
Now home with the Navy couple, Bear is always at the ready to whip out his alpha maleness whenever a perceived threat appears. Still, he shows total trust when he stretches his body out long beside Kathy or lays on his back in the sun.
Older might be better
Pets for Patriots changed Kathy’s perceptions about adopting an older animal. These days, she and Jim are happy to spread the word about the non-profit organization.
“My husband and I tell all our veteran friends about Pets for Patriots,” Kathy says. “Pets for Patriots opened our eyes to the possibility of love for what some would term ‘unwanted’ animals. We were proud to open our home to older animals.”
The Navy couple’s humanity doesn’t stop there, however, and she credits the nationwide charity for that, as well.
“This program,” she says, “single-handedly allowed us to open our eyes and hearts to ‘unwanted’ people as well, and our donations and time are expanding to reach both.”
How has your pet helped you open your heart to others?