After the loss of his beloved family felines Nick found surprising companionship with a stealthy cat who had been rescued from cruelty.
Rumble and shake
In 1995 Nick enlisted in the Air Force and trained as a 2A451 guidance and control technician. These highly skilled professionals are tasked with the testing, inspection, maintenance, and calibration of aircraft avionics and related systems.
Nick served with the 74th fighter squadron based out of Pope Air Force Base (AFB) in North Carolina, where he worked primarily on A10 aircraft. During his tour of duty Nick saw the world, including to hot spots and conflict zones.
“[I] served in Operation Southern Watch in Kuwait in 1997 [and] 1998,” he says, and “in Operation Allied Force in Italy in 1999.”
In addition to those deployments, Nick has served in Ireland, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Kuwait, and Canada as well. His assignment to Kuwait was particularly memorable because he experienced an earthquake for the very first time.
“Being from the Midwest I’d never been in one before,” he explains.
To this day that experience remains a very potent memory for the Air Force veteran.
“I was sleeping in an expandable trailer they had setup at al-Jaber [AFB], and thought a couple of the guys were screwing around and shaking it,” he recalls. “I poked my head outside and noticed a couple of other guys were doing the same thing. A few minutes later someone came through and said it was an earthquake and wanted to check on everyone to make sure no one got hurt.”
In 2000 Nick separated from service with an honorable discharge. It would be another decade before a stealthy cat found his way into the Air Force veteran’s heart.
Veterans only need apply
Nick calls Kentwood, Michigan home, where he works in data analytics for a local hospital. He lives alone, but stays busy with golf, yoga, walking, and spending time with friends and family.
For many years the Air Force veteran shared his home with cats, both of whom passed due to old age or ill health.
Nick grieved for nearly two years, after which he decided he was ready to adopt again.
Finally in 2020 Nick hit the internet to start his pet search in earnest and discovered Pets for Patriots. Our exclusive commitment to military veterans appealed to him.
“[I] found out about the organization online,” he says.
“It’s a great organization that is just for veterans, with only being a veteran as its sole stipulation for being able to use it.”
In early October Nick applied to our program and was approved promptly. He remembers the ease of navigating from application to adoption, and urges other veterans who want a pet to learn how our program works.
“It is an extremely easy program to use and would recommend to other veterans looking to adopt a pet,” he says. “Helping animals get adopted instead of buying them is also an immense help to local communities.”
“…he just appeared out of nowhere”
Sir Englewright was a then two year-old cat who had been rescued from a hoarder.
While some may think of hoarders as people with good intentions gone awry, the fact is that hoarded animals are subject to unspeakable cruelty. They live in deplorable conditions, are typically infested with parasites and disease, and often must be put to death humanely due to their poor health.
Sir Englewright was among those lucky enough to be rescued by a Grand Rapids animal shelter. The adult tabby cat was given medical treatment, rehabilitated, and made available for adoption.
However, finding the hoarding survivor a home would not be easy. Sir Englewright needed a very specific type of household due to the lasting impacts of the cruelty he experienced.
Nick’s lifestyle was a perfect fit for this finicky feline. The Air Force veteran adopted the wayward cat in late October 2020 and soon renamed him Houdini following the cat’s abrupt disappearance.
“He got his name because he hid so well when I first brought him home, I couldn’t find him for about 12 hours and thought he got out,” Nick shares. “Then he just appeared out of nowhere.”
The furtive feline
Nick soon learned that Houdini was an unusually stealthy cat. He loves to hide and, unlike his previous cats, seeks neither attention nor affection to any great degree.
It became apparent that the previous cruelty inflicted on Houdini made him a poor fit for most potential adopters.
“Houdini was rescued from a hoarding situation and has unique personality from it,” Nick explains. “The humane society only would adopt him to someone that was single, [or] married with no kids or other pets, so he was a harder adoption for them.”
But the Air Force veteran offered everything that Houdini would need to thrive. A solo pet home without children. Someone who accepted that Houdini was never going to be a cuddly cat. And an adopter who loves him, quirks and all.
In the three years since Nick rescued Houdini he has learned a lot about his four-legged charge. The Air Force veteran admits that it took time to adjust to a cat who was so unlike the ones he had previously in his life.
“He just likes to hang out and do his thing most of the time,” Nick explains.
“He’s not a cat that wants to sit on your lap, but he likes to play with his mice toys or a string, or jump in any boxes that are left out for a quick nap. He also likes to sleep under a spare bed during the day or hang out in his cat tree.”
Nick has no regrets about adopting a cat who endured a life of cruelty and who most people would not want. He is gratified that he was – and remains – the perfect fit for this aloof and stealthy cat.
“Knowing that I can help him have a better life,” he says, “is a great reward.”