Navy nurse and shelter cat save each other

Karie and Pudge

Lonely and alone, a career Navy nurse found comfort with an adult shelter cat in need of a home, a friend and a second chance.

“I was lonely and wanted a friend,” says Karie, “someone who loved me unconditionally and was happy to see me regardless of my day at work.”

Call of duty prompts Karie to join the Navy

Karie is an active duty Navy operating room nurse stationed in San Diego. She grew up as the child of a Navy Senior Chief and was married for ten years to an active duty enlisted Navy serviceman.

“The Navy community is a small family that steps in to help a person out whenever they need it,” says Karie. “It’s for that reason and post-9/11 that I joined; I am able to serve my country and community one patient at a time.”

Before settling in San Diego, Karie was stationed in Washington and Virginia. Her most memorable experiences, however, came during a 10-month tour to Afghanistan. There she served as an embedded mentor, caring for many people, including Afghani citizens and their children. Karie and Pudge

“I worked alongside the Afghan National Army to make their hospital, Camp Shaheen, more efficient and effective,” recalls Karie. “I learned many lessons along the way about different cultures and beliefs, but learned a lot about my own strengths and weaknesses too. It was ten months of my life I will never forget.”

An empty nest even Navy life could not fill

The Navy nurse was divorced three years by the time she moved to San Diego “with no friends and no coworkers.” Karie hoped that the strong sense of community she experienced as a Navy child, military spouse and now service member would help her persevere.

“The discipline and camaraderie always carries me through whatever day or event I am having in my life,” she says.

But the Navy didn’t prepare Karie for the challenge of an empty nest and all the loneliness it brought to bear.

Alone and lonely, Karie decided that a cat would be conducive to her lifestyle, and an older cat an even better choice.

“I wanted to adopt an older animal,” Karie recalls, “so that I could provide them a comfortable life with me in their golden years.”

During her search for a pet friend at the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services, Karie learned about Pets for Patriots and the nationally operating charity’s companion pet adoption program.

“I thought it was a way to help save a pet and also be saved,” says Karie about her decision to adopt through the County shelter’s partnership with Pets for Patriots. “Struggling to find happiness in my loneliness, it was a win-win situation for both the cat I adopted and me.”

That cat turns out to be Pudge, a then seven year-old feline who was found as a stray. But this wasn’t the cat’s first trip through the County shelter: she had been adopted through them as a three month-old kitten, and now seven years later was found wandering the streets alone. It was believed that her owner may have moved and abandoned her.

Saved by the cat

The adult shelter cat is just what Karie needed to ward off her loneliness. Since adopting Pudge, the Navy nurse is finding that her new “roomie” is a very vocal feline. More important, however, Karie feels needed again.

“I love how talkative she is, and how she has her own mannerisms and personality as a cat,” exclaims Karie. “She is very needy and follows me like a dog. When I come home, she just meows and talks until I finally give her the attention she wants.”

Like many shelter pets – particularly dogs – Pudge is something of a “Velcro cat”: she shadows Karie and has a strong need to be always near her.

“Pudge is a large cat and loves to be around me all the time in some way, lying next to me or on the ottoman while I am sitting on the chair,” says Karie, quickly adding, “She has been a great addition to my family.”

The Navy nurse doesn’t mind her new cat’s clingy ways. In fact, Pudge gives Karie a reason to come home and reclaim her life. Karie and Pudge

“Instead of just staying at work to avoid my empty apartment,” she explains, “I know Pudge is waiting for me when I get home and happy to see me. She saved me as much as I saved her from shelter life.”

As it happens, Karie got more than just a new best friend. When she adopted through Pets for Patriots, she became part of a new family of veterans who save – and are saved – by shelter cats and dogs who in many cases face the prospect of death if not adopted. Listen to Karie share her story, in her own words, here.

“It is a wonderful program, beneficial to both the member and the adoptee pet,” says Karie. “I could not be more satisfied with the correspondence between Pets for Patriots and myself and their level of caring and compassion for both Pudge and me.”

Have you ever been rescued by a pet?


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