Jonathan can easily pinpoint the most difficult moment of his life: watching his 12 year-old cat Ziggy pass away in his arms. Despite his loss, the Army veteran was unwilling to let grief consume him. He made a decision to honor Ziggy’s life by opening his heart to a senior shelter cat – a tortoiseshell beauty named Tessa.
Jonathan joined the Army Reserves in February of 2005 in order to become an x-ray technologist. After undergoing Basic Training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, he completed his Advanced Individual Training (AIT) while serving at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and Fort Stewart, Georgia.
“I finished my last leg of service here in Tampa Bay before I was honorably discharged in late 2007,” he says, “due to a leg injury that started back in AIT.”
The Army veteran has a more positive memory of his time in service than the career-ending injury he sustained.
“My favorite memorable experience from my time in service was receiving the General Abrams in Basic Training,” he recalls. “To achieve this award, I had to be selected by my platoon to represent them in a board with three other soldiers from the company who represented their platoons. Because I was selected for the award, I received an Army Achievement Medal and read a speech during the graduation. I kept it a secret from my family in order to surprise them when they arrived for the ceremony.”
Jonathan is still a licensed x-ray technologist and currently works for a healthcare company that handles the business side of hospitals’ revenue cycles. When not at work, he has little trouble filling his time with three seemingly diverse activities.
“My favorite things to do are make meals in my slow cooker, watch hockey and read comics,” he says.
To have loved and lost
Jonathan wanted to pay tribute to Ziggy following his beloved companion’s death. He thought that enhancing the lives of less fortunate cats would be a fitting way to honor Ziggy’s life.
Despite taking this selfless act of giving, Jonathan began to wonder if there was something else he could do to celebrate Ziggy and the life they shared together. It was in that moment that the Army veteran decided to adopt another companion pet.
“What better way to honor Ziggy’s life than to provide a home for another cat?”
As a result of raising Ziggy, Jonathan knew that an older cat would require less training than a kitten – and would give an animal who had few prospects for adoption a second chance at life. Sadly, older dogs and cats are among the least desired by most adopters, even as they make wonderful companions.
“I knew she was the one”
For all these reasons, Jonathan was transfixed on the profile of a particular eight year-old cat he saw on the Humane Society of Tampa Bay’s website.
“It stated she was brought to the shelter after her previous owners could no longer care for her,” he recalls. “She is an older cat, which may not be desirable for some adopters.”
Although they had never met, the connection Jonathan felt with Tessa, simply upon reading her story and seeing her picture, was immediate. Like Jonathan, Tessa was no stranger to loss. She was alone in an unfamiliar place and separated from the only family she likely had ever known.
“From the first time I saw Tessa’s profile online, I felt a connection. Before I adopted her, I went to the shelter to visit some of the cats there. Tessa was the first one I saw, and although I met others, I knew she was the one,” Jonathan remembers.
The Army veteran soon learned that the Humane Society of Tampa Bay is a participating adoption and veterinary partner of Pets for Patriots, a nationally operating charity that provides various financial incentives for military veterans to adopt the most overlooked companion pets – including adults like Tessa. In addition to the benefits that Pets for Patriots provides, the shelter waives pet adoption fees for the charity’s member veterans and extends an ongoing 10% discount at its full-service Animal Health Center.
“I chose Pets for Patriots after seeing a link posted on the Humane Society of Tampa’s website,” Jonathan says, “and reading about the organization’s mission.”
The Army veteran’s initial good deed of donating many of Ziggy’s belongings led to an even greater act of saving the life of an older cat whose adoption prospects were bleak.
“I was hooked on that positive feeling,” he says, “so I took it a step further and adopted Tessa.”
Sharing the love
Tessa is her own cat with her own unique personality, but in many meaningful ways she is following in the paw prints of her predecessor.
“When I brought her home…she picked a toy from the group that I placed out for her. It was the last toy I had bought for Ziggy,” Jonathan says, adding, “She loves it! That first night, she hopped up on the bed and laid next to me the entire night, just like Ziggy would. It was meant to be.”
Jonathan is quick to point out that while Tessa has filled a place in his heart that felt empty after Ziggy’s death, the memory of his beloved friend is very much alive.
“I miss Ziggy every day,” Jonathan admits. “He was with me since he was a kitten and until he passed in my arms. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.”
By adopting Tessa, Jonathan has undoubtedly changed the older cat’s life for the better, but he is quick to share that she has had just as powerful an impact on his life as well.
“Tessa helps me continue to share that love,” he says. “Because of her, I wake up in the morning with a positive attitude. She needs me and I need her. I know Ziggy wouldn’t want me to be alone.”
How do you honor the memory of beloved pets who have died?