Rescued ginger cat a playful companion to elderly Air Force veteran

Rescued ginger cat a playful companion to elderly Air Force veteran

Rusty was an aptly-named adult ginger cat in an upstate New York animal shelter. But he hit the adoption jackpot when an elderly Air Force veteran gave him a loving home.

Say it ain’t snow

In 1962 Ray enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in Japan for two-and-a-half years of his four year tour of duty. He is unable to share details of his service.

“My job was classified,” he says, “so I cannot speak of my occupation during my enlistment.”

However, Ray does talk about the brutal winters he endured while stationed at Wakkanai Air Station. It was located at the northern end of Japan’s most northerly island, Hokkaido, just 20 miles from the Russian border.

“We had a lot of snow there,” Ray recalls, “so much that I lived on the second floor of the dorm and could open my window and walk outside. Fellows on first floor had to dig a tunnel to get out. Only way to get around was by using track cats.”

As the end of his commitment approached Ray wanted to re-enlist, but the military could not guarantee that he would not be stationed again in Japan.

Rescued ginger cat a playful companion to elderly Air Force veteran

“I had seen enough of that country to satisfy me for a long time,” he shares.

So after completing his tour of duty in 1966, Ray separated from service and started his life as a civilian.

For the love of cats

Upstate New York has always been home for Ray. He was born and raised in Newark, about seven miles from his current home in Lyons. The community has been his home since 1943, except for his time in the Air Force.

Still, much has changed. Ray’s family has dwindled with the passage of time. He has one remaining brother who is several years his junior. And due to foot and back problems the elderly Air Force veteran tends to stay close to home.

Fortunately Ray’s favorite activities do not involve travel or much moving about.

“I enjoy reading the most,” he shares. “I read every day. And I like to watch TV a lot.”

Since 2003 Ray has been fully retired; the quiet life suits him. And since 2019 he has had a sweet ginger cat by his side.

In fact, cats have been part of Ray’s life for more than 40 years – and he remembers each and every one.

“I have had cats since 1980. First cat, Peanut, a little tiger, lived for 20 years and two months. My second cat, Cody, an orange and white cat only lived for only five years, came down with feline leukemia just before they had vaccinations for that. My third cat was a grey and white male, Scooter. He lived for 17 years,” he says, adding, “I love cats and would not be without one!”

Ginger cat to the rescue

In June 2019 a then three year-old orange and white tabby cat named Teller entered Humane Society of Wayne County. The shelter offers half-priced adoptions to veterans in our program who adopt eligible dogs and cats.

Rescued ginger cat a playful companion to elderly Air Force veteran

Teller would spend nearly six weeks in the shelter’s care until Ray came along. The fetching feline was just what Ray needed after Scooter passed away.

As it happens Ray was approved into our program just days earlier. He discovered Pets for Patriots and learned how our program works on the internet, like many veterans we serve.

“I found Pets for Patriots online,” he recalls. “They offered a discount for adopting an older cat, plus coupons for food, treats, and toys.”

The elderly Air Force veteran refers to the various incentives to adopt a pet from the hundreds of partner shelters we work with nationwide.

In addition to special offers from each shelter, Pets for Patriots provides a range of benefits to ease the costs of companion pet adoption.

“Veterans should really consider adopting from Pets for Patriots,” Ray says. “It is a great organization that helps veterans to get a pet.”

So in late July 2019 Ray and newly named Rusty left Humane Society of Wayne County – and never looked back.

“Love him a lot”

For 41 years Ray has had feline friends to keep him company. They are equally entertaining and enigmatic, and they are always family.

Rescued ginger cat a playful companion to elderly Air Force veteran

“I love to watch them playing, sleeping or just sitting there staring at me,” he shares.

“Sometimes I wonder what they are thinking when they look at you for a long time. Great companions and I am definitely a cat lover!”

Now a rescued ginger cat is part of Ray’s long tradition of cat guardianship.

The frisky feline loves playing with his toys and sleeps “in strange positions.” Then, of course, there are the endless efforts to catch his own tail. And while Rusty loves to be groomed, he does not like to be cuddled.

“[He] squirms like a worm on a hook when I try to pick him up.”

This explains why Ray has never been able to get many pictures of them together. However, the orange-coated cat has many other redeeming qualities.

“I chose Rusty as my next friend because of his unique mustache and goatee, plus his color,” Ray explains. “Unfortunately, Rusty does not like to be picked up, but loves to be petted, which he gets a lot of. [He] also loves to be brushed. I do that twice a day because he has medium length hair and sheds a lot.”

No one knows why or how Rusty ended up in a shelter. Almost half of the more than six million companion animals entering shelters each year are cats. More than one quarter of those cats will die and nearly half will be adopted. Rusty the ginger cat was among the lucky ones.

“Great pet, never bites or scratches, if he doesn’t like something he scampers away! He follows me all over the house,” Ray says. “Love him a lot.”


  1. James Kadten

    Animals heal one’s soul and provide a special love

  2. Christine E

    Rusty is adorable! I love the pic of you brushing him. He looks like he is dancing and loves it! Thank you for your Service, and wishing you and Rusty many happy years together.

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