It was the desire for companionship – a simple, yet powerful human need – that inspired an Army veteran to walk into a Michigan animal shelter to adopt a cat. Although he didn’t know it at the time, someone was already waiting for him and she needed a companion, too.
It was 1970 when Martin was drafted into the Army, shortly before the United States began reducing its troop numbers in Vietnam. He was just 19 years old.
“I was a cook,” he says, believing that he was luckier than many other soldiers. “It was pretty easy. It was like a day-and-a-half of work and then you got a day-and-a-half off. That was pretty good.”
Martin served at Fort Story in Virginia for nearly two years. Decades later, he recalls meeting some wonderful people.
“I made some pretty good friends there. The best time [was] the people I met.”
The Army had a positive influence on the young soldier’s character – “You learn a little bit of discipline” – and in 1972 Martin received an Honorable discharge. He pursued work in cold forging, and tool and die shops.
“Around the time I got discharged,” he recalls, “they started the all-volunteer Army. They were letting everybody out early.”
Waiting for her hero
For four long months, a five-year-old tortoiseshell cat named Patches had waited patiently at the Michigan Humane Society, wondering if she would ever find a home. It was unclear why no one had adopted her, but that all changed when Martin walked through the door.
At the time the Army veteran was unaware that the Michigan Humane Society is a Pets for Patriots adoption and veterinary partner, offering deeply discounted companion pet adoption fees and reduced-cost veterinary care at their three full-service veterinary clinics. He first learned about our companion pet adoption program for military veterans from his daughter, and the shelter staff spoke to him about it as well.
It did not take much convincing for Martin to apply to Pets for Patriots, especially since he had already fallen for Patches. For the Vietnam era Army veteran, the decision to adopt the adult cat was an easy one.
“Well, she was there from April to August,” he says, “so I figured, well, might as well get her out of there.”
“Bugged” just enough
Martin had been searching for companionship, and Patches has proven to be an ideal and affectionate pal.
“What she likes to do is if I’m sitting on the chair, she’ll get up and climb all over me, get in my face and head butt me,” he says with a smile in his voice, adding, “And then she’ll take off.”
While Martin was a dog owner in the past, he wanted to adopt a cat because they tend to be easier to care for and more independent.
“[Patches] kind of sleeps a lot during the day,” he observes. “She’ll go upstairs and sleep, sometimes she’ll sleep on the bed down here. Overall, she’s a good cat.”
At the same time, Patches is a vocal cat and “cries a lot sometimes.” Cats vocalize for any number of reasons, from simply wanting more attention to alerting their guardians that they are sick. Fortunately in Patches’ case her meowing is totally benign, and has even had a positive effect on Martin. He admits to now being less bothered by the minor annoyances of life.
“She’s made me more tolerant,” he says.
Martin sought – and found – just what he was looking for when he adopted Patches: companionship. The adult cat is a constant and loving presence in his life who alternates between “nudging” the Army veteran and then spiriting away for a nap. But Martin would not have it any other way, and finds his four-legged friend’s antics to be the perfect antidote to his loneliness. Asked if he would recommend other veterans adopt a companion pet, Martin was resolute.
“Yeah, I would,” he says. “They just bug you enough.”