Shelter animals all have stories, including some that make adapting to new lives just that much more challenging. Yet one Army veteran lived up to her commitment to save the life of a rescued tabby cat and, in doing so, saved her own.
Life as a soldier was a welcome challenge for Tiffany. Her military career started when she was just 17. Despite her youth, she was certain that choosing a life of service would afford her opportunities to accomplish her dreams, including a college education.
Tiffany is someone who always needs to be challenged and thrived in an intense Army environment. She saw herself as her most worthy competitor and embraced every opportunity to improve.
“They’re tearing you down to build you back up into a soldier. I welcomed that,” she says. “I was always trying to beat my best.”
While in the Army, Tiffany was able to fulfill her dream of graduating from college. She received a bachelor of arts in liberal studies from Thomas Edison State College, though she was initially drawn to the sciences and physical therapy.
The young soldier was able to explore her interest in medicine during her six years as a medic, some of which was spent in the Army National Guard. She ultimately became an Army finance specialist, a role which she continued until separating from service in 2013. To this day, Tiffany cherishes her time in medicine as the most meaningful part of her military career.
“I enjoyed being able to help people,” she says.
That satisfaction that came from helping others heal – and the challenge of keeping up with medical innovation – were fulfilling.
Loss brings a rescued tabby cat kind of love
Tiffany now lives in Indiana. In the summer of 2016 – July 4th, to be exact – she suffered the passing of her beloved cat, Tootsie. The Army veteran was devastated. After taking some time to mourn she decided it was time to adopt again, both for herself and for the sake of her other cat Hunter. He was used to having a feline companion.
“I had been in and out of the humane society trying to find a pet,” she says, but had not been drawn to any particular animal. “There’s a feeling you get – there’s something about the pet.”
Tiffany did what many would-be adopters do: she took her search online. She discovered Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans. It was not too long thereafter that she visited our partner reTAILS which – as its name suggests – operates a shelter in a busy retail environment. It was there that a then five year-old grey rescued tabby cat named Missy caught her eyes, and ears.
“Her meow made me want to take her,” Tiffany says.
Initially she was drawn to Missy because of her resemblance to Tootsie, but her sweet meow won her over in the end.
For the love of cats, rubber bands and cardboard boxes
Adopting Missy has brought Tiffany much joy; she is happy to have saved the shelter cat from the uncertain life she was living.
“She’s in a loving environment and she has a home,” Tiffany says, “a permanent home.”
Yet the Army veteran confesses that she was initially unsure if Missy was the right fit.
The rescued tabby cat was scratching and hissing at Hunter. Tiffany worried that perhaps Missy might not have ever lived with other cats, and at one point thought about bringing her back to the shelter. But the Army veteran drew upon her military training and gave her newest charge some much-needed patience.
It turns out that time was all Missy needed to be comfortable around her new family.
“I knew she was warming up because there were times I would be cuddling with my other cat, and she would be in the doorway just watching us,” she recalls. “She’s a sweet and lovable cat, and I can’t imagine not having her.”
Missy proves that adult cats and dogs have plenty of spark. She is playful and happens to share Tootsie’s passion for an odd pastime – playing with rubber bands – but there is one key difference.
“The only thing is that the old cat liked to eat the rubber bands,” Tiffany laughs.
The rescued tabby cat has an affinity for scratching cardboard as well. The upside is that Tiffany does not have to worry about damaged furniture or buying scratching posts – just a home strewn with cardboard.
“That’s my life now,” she says with a smile in her voice. “I have random boxes lying around.”
Tiffany would not have her life any other way, cardboard boxes and all.
Saving two lives with one deed
On a more serious note, Missy has helped Tiffany come to terms with the loss of her previous cat. Although she wishes that her current felines were lap cats, she appreciates them for their unique personalities. And Missy, in particular, came into this Army veteran’s world at just the right time.
“Having this animal has saved my life as well.”
The Army veteran believes that pet adoption is an incredible way to heal, love and be loved. At the same time she understands that it is not always an easy adjustment, but that people must be willing to make a lifetime commitment.
“You’re saving their lives as well as your own,” she says. “There have been a couple times when I’ve had some low moments and [Missy] will rub up against my leg. The next thing I know I’m not thinking about what I was thinking about.”
In many ways Army life prepared Tiffany for pet guardianship. Companion pets thrive on a certain degree of structure and routine, and Tiffany enjoys the responsibility of caring for someone other than herself.
“They bring me a lot of joy,” she says, noting that her “lovable balls of fur” are well-trained and well-behaved.
Loving and taking care of an animal – and receiving unconditional love in return – make all the difference in the lives of person and pet. Tiffany appreciates how we show we care as well, by reaching out and offering support when it is needed.
“I could tell the organization is just as passionate about my love for animals,” she says, noting that we have “checked in” to see how she and Missy were getting along.
“It means a lot to know that there are a lot of people who care.”