Waltyne may have left the Army, but in her heart she remains a soldier. So when the Army veteran found herself facing an empty nest she decided to fill it with a four-legged battle buddy.
“I will always be a soldier”
These days Waltyne calls Virginia her home. However, during her tour of duty in the Army home was where ever the military needed her to be. She served as an orthopedic specialist, a highly trained professional who assists physicians with a range of orthopedic injuries and conditions.
During her tour Waltyne served in duty stations both stateside and overseas. Closer to home she served out of New Jersey and Texas, respectively, and was stationed in Germany for a couple of years as well. To this day she misses serving in the military.
“Sometimes I wish I would have stayed in,” she shares. “I loved being in the Army. I will always be a soldier.”
Waltyne has particularly fond memories of her time in Texas. Like many veterans she misses the unique camaraderie shared with her fellow soldiers.
“My most memorable time in the military was my tour in Texas. I loved it there,” she says. “I had my medical training there and many life experiences. I met many friends.”
Much has changed for Waltyne since she separated from service. In 2017 she moved from Maryland to Virginia, where she works as a teacher. And the following year brought the Army veteran even bigger changes.
The soldier and her empty nest
While Waltyne was still living in Baltimore she felt the pangs of an empty nest. Her daughter went away to college and she was home alone.
For many veterans, the loneliness they feel in their personal lives only highlights the inability to recreate the intends bonds of their military service. Depression can follow if these feelings are left unaddressed.
However, Waltyne chose another path when she went to Baltimore Humane Society.
“I frequently visited the SPCA, and one day I learned about Pets for Patriots,” the Army soldier says.
Since 2013, Baltimore Humane Society has waived adoption fees for veterans in our program who rescue program-eligible dogs and cats. The staff told Waltyne about our partnership, which she felt was “an awesome program.”
Waltyne was approved into our program in May 2016, but it would be another six months until she met her match: a cat named Hoodie.
Like many animals entering shelters, little was known about Hoodie at the time. But he was a fetching, two year-old tabby cat with tiger-like markings and a big personality that belied his little size. He needed Waltyne as much as the Army soldier needed him.
“Hoodie is a character,” Waltyne says. “He is a very intelligent cat, so much so that he has so many characteristics of a dog.”
“…he really changed my lonely life”
The spirited feline gave Waltyne the companionship she needed. When the pair moved to Virginia the following year it helped the Army soldier to feel less alone in her new surroundings.
More good things followed the big move.
Waltyne married. Hoodie was smitten with her new husband. And the veteran started a new and satisfying career as a teacher.
It seems that adopting the comical cat was the first of other positive changes in the Army soldier’s world.
“Before I was married in 2018, Hoodie and I were all alone in Baltimore and he really changed my lonely life. He greeted me when I came home and stayed by my side until bed time,” Waltyne shares.
“When Hoodie and I moved to Virginia he took to my husband right away. They are two peas in a pod.”
The choice to adopt, not shop
Hoodie has developed some eccentric habits since his adoption. He is a stickler for mealtime and likes to lounge on the family cars.
“He literally lets us know when he is ready to eat at five am and then again at five pm, without fail. We can set our watch by his punctuality,” Waltyne says. “When outside in the yard he prefers to sit on the very top of any of the five vehicles we have. That king of the jungle syndrome kicks in.”
Hoodie has a sense of humor as well. He likes to take hats and frolic inside of them. The family’s new puppy is his latest plaything. And his endless antics are a never ending source of entertainment and joy for the Army veteran who rescued him.
“Hoodie is a blast, one funny cat. I truly love him,” she says, adding, “I wouldn’t trade him for anything.”
Waltyne could have chosen many paths to deal with the loneliness of an empty home. But she chose a positive, life affirming and lifesaving path when she decided to adopt a companion pet.
It is a decision that the Army veteran does not regret and that serves as a model for other people grappling with loneliness.
“Adopting a pet is such a rewarding and fulfilling experience,” she says. “Hoodie filled a void for me and I’m so glad we found each other.”