Allysia is a Navy corpsman who works long days healing others. So it was no surprise when she adopted an abandoned cat with a chronic medical condition who helps her decompress at the end of each day.
Change of heart
Service to country was not Allysia’s first career choice.
Prior to enlisting in the Navy the Amarillo, Texas native earned a college degree in public relations and journalism. She worked in broadcasting, newsprint, and radio, but always felt that the field lacked a sense of community.
In 2015 the young journalist decided to speak with a military recruiter. She was in search of a career where she could experience the camaraderie she both craved and needed.
The Navy was the only military branch Allysia was interested in, despite her grandparents having served in the Air Force.
“I decided to join the Navy because I’ve always loved the water and I knew my chances of getting stationed somewhere near the water were pretty high,” she recalls. “I also love the traditionalism in the Navy.”
The new recruit hoped to use her background in journalism to become a mass communications specialist. But a lack of openings in that career specialty led Allysia down a different path.
“The same love I once had for journalism I also have for people and for helping people,” she explains, “so I joined the hospital corps.”
Corpsmen provide a range of urgent, preventative, and routine medical care to service personnel, and are the primary medical caregivers to sailors while at sea.
After training, Allysia reported to her first duty station at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. It was an assignment she remembers fondly.
“Being stationed at the Naval Academy is one of the most unique duties you can get. It’s different than every other duty station because of the mission you’re serving,” she says.
The academy prepares students to become officers in the Navy and Marine Corps: morally, mentally and physically.
For her part, Allysia tended to the midshipmen’s medical needs and emergencies during their training evolutions. She even had an opportunity to work with the medical team on the sideline of the storied annual Army-Navy football game.
But it was Allysia’s assignment to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland that made the corpsman realize she has found her true calling.
“I work in dermatology now,” she says. “It sounds kind of dull, but it’s very rewarding.”
During her time at the joint military medical center Allysia has tended to wounds of war, scars, and skin grafts. However, the medical specialist is most fulfilled when she treats service members with skin cancer and those who need to heal “their battle scars.”
“I feel gratified every day from the work I do,” Allysia says with pride. “I believe in our mission and I love what I do. I love healing people.”
Adoption is the only option
Allysia’s work is as soulful as it is stressful. She works long, physically and emotionally demanding shifts. In 2018, she started to think about coming home to a companion pet at the end of the day.
The corpsman carefully considered the decision to add a furry friend. She and her husband Ryan both work long hours. He recently separated from service in the Army and the couple have an active two year-old daughter as well.
“Ryan suggested getting a cat. They don’t require all the maintenance a dog does, but you still get that companionship and love,” Allysia recalls. “His only condition was that we had to adopt.”
Allysia heard about Pets for Patriots from a coworker and did some research on the program. She and Ryan were moved by our mission to help the most overlooked shelter animals find loving homes while providing a range of support that makes pet adoption more affordable for military veterans.
And so it was decided: the family would add four paws to its pack.
Patience is a virtue
The search for the perfect match took many months and shelter visits. Adding a pet to the household is a serious commitment and the couple wanted to make sure they found the right match.
Allysia and her family eventually visited SPCA of Anne Arundel County near their home at Fort Meade. The shelter joined our free adoption partner program in 2016 and waives fees for veterans who adopt eligible dogs and cats.
Once there it did not take Allysia and Ryan long to find the right pet. As soon as the couple met a black and white tuxedo cat named Kitty Chesney they knew she was the pet worthy of their long search.
“She was so sweet, even in the shelter in a stressful environment,” Allysia recalls, noting the cat’s cuddly and affectionate personality.
Even Kitty Chesney’s name was perfect. It reminds Allysia of singer Kenny Chesney and other country music she enjoys.
“She’s five years old, so we weren’t going to change her name this late in the game,” Allysia says.
The healer finds healing
During the adoption process Allysia learned that caring for Kitty Chesney would require a bit of extra work.
The then five year-old cat had been abandoned at the shelter with kidney stones, which were subsequently removed by the staff veterinarian. But Allysia is a medical specialist with a passion for healing others; she was undeterred.
“We have some health maintenance with her,” she says, “but it’s not hard.”
With medication, special food, and a strict diet – and no table scraps – the family was told to expect many happy years with Kitty Chesney.
Allysia’s new companion likes to play the role of caretaker as well as patient, and has had a very positive effect on the corpsman’s life. The two spend a lot of time together bonding and cuddling.
“Kitty Chesney helps me relax and calm down at the end of a really long day,” Allysia says. “She is really like my therapy.”
Girls just want to have fun
The Navy corpsman loves the calming influence her new feline companion brings to her life. And she appreciates Kitty Chesney’s playful side, as well.
“She has random spazz moments where she frantically runs all over the house, attacks her toys, runs up and down the stairs, and bounces off the furniture and counters,” Allysia says with a laugh. “She is a much-loved member of our family.”
Kitty Chesney shows her appreciation to the people who gave her a second chance at life. Despite having been abandoned, she is among the lucky shelter pets who found a wonderful home. And with that comes some understanding on her part.
“We work long days and Kitty Chesney is very forgiving,” Allysia says. “As soon as we open the front door we hear ‘jingle, jingle, jingle’ and she greets us at the door like a dog would. She starts to purr and you can tell she’s excited we’re home. That just makes our day.”
Just as Allysia learned about Pets for Patriots from a coworker, she now recommends our program to other veterans. She is so thankful for the positive impact Kitty Chesney has had on her life and the added joy she brings to her young family.
“We save them,” she says, “but they really save us.”