Hagan has fond memories of the close ties and camaraderie of his military service. So when life felt just a little too lonely he sought the companionship of a rescue cat who seems to have never known the embrace of a loving home.
Born to serve
Serving his country has been a lifelong dream for Hagan. You could say it is in his DNA.
“I come from a big military family, so it’s always been on my mind to enlist,” he explains. “I chose the Marine Corps because I wanted to be part of the best.”
The young Marine served as a radio operator, responsible for the setup, operation, and repair of communication equipment and systems.
When working in field, these professionals are tasked with maintaining communications with distant stations and maintaining accurate message logs. Their jobs are critical in conflict and war zones when accurate communications have life and death consequences.
Hagan realized the sobering responsibility of his role when he was sent to the Middle East during wartime.
“I was a radio operator and deployed to Afghanistan in 2018,” he shares, “an experience that will forever stay with me.”
Equally enduring was a company gathering that took place when Hagan and his unit returned from deployment. It underscores the intense camaraderie that is unique to military culture – and that many veterans find difficult to replicate when they transition to civilian life.
“My favorite memory I have is our warriors night when we got back from Afghanistan, to celebrate together as a company,” he shares. “[It] is a very cherished memory.”
After serving in the Marines Hagan wasted no time rebuilding his life as a civilian.
The wartime veteran rekindled familiar experiences, like reconnecting with old friends from his hometown and indulging his love of drawing. And he explored new horizons as well. He started a new job where he is acquiring new skills.
For a time all seemed right in Hagan’s world. Then the loneliness set in, despite the companionship of his cat Maximus.
“When my living situation turned into just Maximus and I, it felt a little too lonely – especially for him, when I work,” Hagan shares. “I decided it would be in our best interests to add a new family member.”
Hagan has always loved cats. So it was no surprise that the Afghanistan war veteran would visit a local animal shelter to find a new feline family member for himself and Maximus.
Pets for veterans
Hagan and a friend visited Young-Williams Animal Shelter, which waives adoption fees for veterans in our program who adopt eligible dogs and cats. The Knoxville, Tennessee shelter has partnered with Pets for Patriots since 2012.
It was at Young-Williams that Hagan first learned about our companion pet adoption program for military veterans.
“My friend found a flyer at the shelter we went to and I decided to go through with it,” he says of adopting through our partnership. “The help that was offered was very valuable, especially for the welfare of my new cat.”
That new rescue cat would be Mama, since renamed Ruby. It was early July 2023 when the then three year-old, ebony-furred feline caught Hagan’s eye. She barely tipped the scales at seven pounds and little is known about her prior life.
“…a little sass”
It is not unusual for newly adopted rescue cats to hide in their new environments until they feel confident to explore their surroundings. Ruby was no different.
Thankfully, it took just a few weeks for the shy feline to become more adventuresome. She even started to lounge atop the kitchen cabinets with her new cat brother, Maximus.
However, each cat has its own personality. Hagan appreciates Ruby’s somewhat spicy nature and how she competes with Maximus for her savior’s attention.
“Ruby brings a little sass into the house,” he says. “Every time I come home I have both cats meowing at me, trying to get pets first. I always drop whatever I have to greet them after a long day.”
Once Ruby came out of hiding it became increasingly clear that she was unaccustomed to home life. But Hagan has vowed that she will never know deprivation of any kind again.
“Ruby has never seemed to actually experience living in a house where she has everything she needs,” he explains. “It is nice to see her adjust to a more relaxed state, and warming up to being held and cuddled.”
So perhaps it was not two lonely souls – Hagan and Maximus – but three who were saved when Ruby joined their roost. Everyone seems the better for having the coy rescue cat as part of their pack.
Hagan is experiencing firsthand the emotionally restorative power of companion pets. He believes that other veterans considering pet adoption should apply to our program and make use of the benefits we offer.
“One hundred percent,” he says, “the support Pets for Patriots offers is very valuable, especially to veterans in need of a fluffy companion.”