Life as a military nurse can be emotionally and physically challenging, but one Navy veteran found a way to balance the gravity of her job. She adopted a rescue dog who, like his military mom, brings a special kind of joy to those in need.
The call to serve as a military nurse
It was 2012 when Kaitlin enlisted in the United States Navy as a military nurse.
The young veteran has served her entire tour of duty on a cancer care unit at the Navy Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia. She plans to continue the same career in the civilian world when she transitions off active duty.
Working with people battling cancer might sound like a difficult or emotionally draining responsibility, but Kaitlin sees it a bit differently.
“Meeting patients that I take care of every day as they fight through cancer care and treatment – they are the most inspiring people I’ve ever met!” she says.
Unlike a similar career in the civilian world, however, is the fact that many military personnel are far from home and the support of their loved ones.
“It’s sometimes more difficult being in the military during this situation because of being separated from family and friends,” she explains, “but the motivation and strength I see every day is just overwhelming.”
Choosing to save a rescue dog
Kaitlin has always been a dog lover. Life just did not feel right without a wagging tail waiting for her at the end of each day; she felt inspired to rescue a dog of her own.
The military oncology nurse found Cooper – a then six year-old Retriever mix previously named Storm – at the Virginia Beach SPCA. The shelter and its veterinary clinic partner with Pets for Patriots to offer qualified veterans discounted adoption fees and pet medical care.
Together with other benefits available through Pets for Patriots, pet parenthood becomes more affordable for military personnel. Adopting through our nationally operating charity was an easy choice for Kaitlin.
“It’s a great program that works to save and support animals in need. I absolutely recommend it!”
Kaitlin and Cooper have now been together for three-and-a-half years, and he still makes her smile every day. Despite the challenging nature of her work as a military nurse, he has helped her stay positive and motivated – and always greeting her with outsized enthusiasm.
Spreading the joy
At first, Kaitlin was drawn to Cooper’s loving personality, and has since trained him as a therapy dog. She loves to witness the happiness he brings to people who are in need of his unique brand of cheer.
“To see the joy he brings patients when he visits is beautiful,” she says. “He is affectionate and supportive to anyone he meets.”
Kaitlin will soon be transitioning from active duty to the civilian sector. She will continue her occupation as an oncology nurse and move to Pennsylvania to be closer to her parents, otherwise known as “Cooper’s grandparents.”
“He is super excited to be around them and [be] spoiled full-time.”
Despite the change in venue, Kaitlin will continue to bring Cooper’s brand of four-legged therapy to people in need. It seems only fitting that a Navy veteran who dedicates her life to helping others adopted a rescue dog who now does the same.