Decades after the Vietnam war, an older adopted tabby cat makes sure that the Vietnam veteran who adopted him gets a warm welcome home.
Do the right thing
Edward understands that freedom is not about doing what one wants as much as doing what is right. So in 1970 at the height of the Vietnam War he enlisted in the Navy “because it was the right thing to do at the time.”
It was shortly after the U.S. government instituted the first draft lottery since WWII.
Edward served as an E6 electrician’s mate, including deployment aboard the USS Saratoga. The ship earned one battle star for her service and was decommissioned in 1994 after nearly 40 years.
While he was stateside Edward criss-crossed the country with the Navy. After nuclear training school he was assigned to bases in California and Texas, the latter where he oversaw construction at their reactor plants.
However, the Navy veteran’s most profound memory was how he was treated by his fellow countrymen. The Vietnam War was deeply unpopular and veterans of that era were often treated with scorn.
“As a Vietnam veteran the biggest memory of that time was the way we servicemen were treated,” he recalls. “Once when passing through an airport I dropped something, and a passerby stopped and kicked it as hard as they could out of my way.”
Edward is now retired, and in 2020 relocated from Florida to his current residence in Maryland.
Two fellows who needed a friend
The Navy veteran has always had a fondness for cats. So in 2020 when he lost a beloved tabby cat, Edward turned to Pets for Patriots to help fill the hole in his heart.
“A few months before I lost my friend of 17 years,” he shares, “an orange tabby I called Harley. When he purred it reminded me of my bike. It’s hard to deal with a loss like that, an unconventional friend.”
Companion cats and dogs actually make wonderful friends, and are particularly therapeutic for veterans at all stages of their lives. They accept people just as they are and love them without condition.
Edward began his search for a new pet friend at shelters in his community. It was at one such shelter, Humane Society of Harford County, that he found out about our companion pet adoption program for military veterans.
Since 2011 the shelter has partnered with us to help the more hard-to-place animals in their care find loving homes. And veterans in our program receive a 20 percent discount off adoption fees.
“I checked you out and the shelters you work with, and found Simon,” Edward says, “a fellow who needed a friend too.”
The tubby tabby cat
In early October a then 10 year-old cat was surrendered to the shelter by his family. The slightly overweight tabby cat had a lustrous black coat and a fondness for treats.
No one knows why Fatty’s guardians gave him up, but it would not be an easy task to find the senior cat a home. Older animals are among the hardest pets to place.
However Edward was unconcerned with Fatty’s age. The Vietnam veteran felt an instant connection to the chubby cat.
“Simon and I meshed immediately,” he says.
So just days before Thanksgiving Edward finalized the adoption, brought his new tabby cat home, and named him Simon.
“The first day I knew he trusted me when he rolled over on the carpet and let me rub his belly,” he shares. “To get that level of trust places a degree of gratitude that’s hard to explain. Animals know, can sense when they have made that special connection and when that feeling is mutual.”
War leaves many wounds, some seen and others not. Vietnam veterans suffer the additional burden of not having been appreciated for their service. Most were conscripted into the military or enlisted when they knew that they would be drafted anyway.
To this day, many Vietnam veterans in our program tell us that no one ever thanks them. They never experienced the gratitude that is rightly bestowed upon Iraq and Afghanistan veterans – and that all veterans deserve.
Edward remembers the stunning insult he experienced so many years ago. But now he has a companion who makes him feel welcome and loved – someone who is happy when he comes home.
“My reward is Simon”
The pair have formed a very close bond. Simon communicates through constant touch and chatter.
“He likes a warm lap or climbs up your chest. He’ll talk to you. He will follow you around waiting for his chance,” Edward says. “As you see he just doesn’t sit in your lap – he takes the lap, the stomach and the chest – and that’s before he stretches out! Add a little chin scratch and the purring goes into overdrive.”
Older animals seem to have a unique understanding that they have been saved. Shelter life is stressful for all cats and dogs, but it is particularly harsh on seniors – many of whom have lived in one home their entire lives.
Edward believes that he chose Simon as much as the old tabby cat chose him. And from there everything else fell into place.
“First let me say that the discount and gift card are an incentive but not a deal breaker,” he says. “It’s the pet that decides if you are the one – the rest is icing on the cake.”
Our program is a small way to give veterans from WWII to active duty the greatest ‘thank you’ of all: the love of a pet. And for Edward, that is enough.
“My reward is Simon,” he says. “Couldn’t ask for a better companion.”