A decorated Army veteran found peace with the help of an attention-seeking, needy cat after her service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Katrina enlisted in the Army in February 2005 and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. Several months later she was deployed to Iraq for a year and subsequently to Afghanistan for 15 months.
During her deployments Katrina worked as a motor transport operator, attached to an engineering unit that was responsible for fixing roads.
“I have many experiences that stick out and are part of my reoccurring day/nightmares,” Katrina says of her time in service.
One memory came during her second deployment, in Qalat, Afghanistan.
“I had landed at FOB [Forward Operating Base] Wolverine and within an hour, we had incoming. One had landed not 20 meters from where I was standing and I did not have any armor on. Definitely stood out in my mind,” she recalls.
The CAB provides special recognition to soldiers who engage with the enemy in a combat zone. And the Purple Heart is awarded to service members who are wounded or killed during enemy action.
After her tour of duty, Katrina transferred to the Army Reserves. She participates in monthly drills and will continue to serve until her separation in December 2021.
A feline friend
In 2012, Katrina decided to adopt a cat in an effort to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. She and her now ex-husband had a cat together, Fatty, whom he intended to keep.
The Army veteran’s ex ultimately returned Fatty to her, but at the time she wanted an animal for her own mental health.
“I got him back,” she says of Fatty, “but I knew I needed the emotional support of another cat. My living arrangements made it easier to adopt a cat, plus I love cats. Not only did I want a cat, but I needed an animal for my own mental well-being.”
Katrina visited the Humane Society of West Michigan, which just months earlier joined our shelter partner program. The organization offers our veterans a 25% adoption fee discount when they adopt program-eligible dogs or cats.
The Purple Heart veteran chose Rumer, then two years old. Little could she know that the fetching black feline would be a very needy cat.
Over time, the decorated soldier learned something else as well: that Pets for Patriots has her six.
“I love how they truly love and support each of us and our pet.”
Needy cat makes the heart grow fonder
Although Katrina and Rumer are now adopted for about six-and-a-half years, the veteran’s love for her needy cat continues to grow. Attending to Rumer helps Katrina address her own mental health.
“…she is the most neediest, lovable, whiny little thing,” she says. “She lets you know when she wants something. It is truly adorable.”
Rumer may be demanding in her own feline way, but Katrina knows that she is worth it. The now senior cat helps her stay grounded emotionally, and has allowed the Army veteran to cope with her emotional challenges.
“She has been there when I needed her the most, and she knows when I am having a bad day and when I just need hugs from her,” Katrina shares. “Even after all these years and, I for the most part, have a handle on my PTSD and depression.”
Whiny, but lovable
Katrina thrives off of Rumer’s whiny, needing nature. Where many pet guardians would find the cat’s behavior annoying, to this Army veteran it is a sign that she is needed.
“She is very whiny, and has the whiniest meow, it’s adorable,” Karina says. “You cannot mistake her meow for any other cat. That is something I love about her.”
The decorated veteran feels supported from Pets for Patriots as well, nearly seven years after adopting the needy cat through our program.
While our official post-adoption follow ups last for one year, we are always here for veterans who have adopted a pet through our national shelter partner network.
“What I would tell other veterans or service members who might be thinking about adopting through Pets for Patriots – ‘Go for it,'” she says. “The continued support after all these years is amazing.”
Purple Heart veteran embraces her future
Since adopting Rumer, Katrina has kept busy. In December 2015, she reenlisted in the Army Reserves in Muskegon, where she participates in required monthly drills and still drives trucks.
In addition, the Purple Heart veteran has embraced opportunities in higher education – and love.
Katrina is poised to graduate law school and take the bar exam shortly thereafter. And recently she married a “wonderful man” with whom she has had a 20-year relationship.
“I currently work for an attorney as a law clerk while I finish up school,” she adds, in addition to her Reserve commitments.
Rumer has been by Katrina’s side through all of the Army veteran’s life changes. And Katrina expects to celebrate with the needy cat when she separates from service in 2021.
Katrina knows that someone else will be by her side as well: Pets for Patriots.
“I loved the idea of being able to adopt through an organization that supports veterans. They celebrate our accomplishments, despite everything that we have gone through,” she says. “Sometimes it’s the little things that can get us through our day.”