One rescued tabby cat returned the favor of being saved by healing the soul of the disabled Desert Storm veteran who adopted her.
Desert Storm takes its toll
For more than two years, Erik served as a 13M Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) launcher driver with B 1/27 FA in Babenhausen, Germany. In December 1990, he was deployed to the Gulf where he fought in Desert Storm, returning to Germany nearly eight months later.
While one of the more positive, memorable experiences from his time in the service was witnessing the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Desert Storm veteran holds other memories that are far less pleasant.
“I got sick from the chemical exposure during my time in the sand box,” Erik says, “and received a medical discharge from the Army in October 1991.”
For the love of cats and dogs
Since leaving the service, Erik married and settled down in Gulf County, Florida. By his own description and despite having two dogs, Erik is a cat person. He and his wife, Sharon, filled their house with the sound of pattering paws: a 20 year-old terrier mix named Rusty, a female Chihuahua, a seven year-old American Shorthair cat named Punkin, and Bonzai, a Main Coon cat adopted in 2011 from a local shelter.
In addition to caring for the couple’s pets, Erik stays very busy.
“I enjoy building gaming pc’s, and building custom 1911, SIG, Glock, AR platform guns,” he says, and enjoys “competitive pistol shooting at my local gun club.”
For this tough combat veteran, however, one of his favorite activities is helping homeless cats.
“I like to volunteer time at our local shelter socializing their kittens and cats to make them better for adoption,” he says. “While there, I found Brazil and wanted to make her part of our family.”
Making companion pet adoption affordable
Erik had a dilemma that many other veterans face: the desire to adopt while living on a tight budget. As it happens, the area shelter, St. Joseph Bay Humane Society, had partnered with Pets for Patriots. The charity’s companion pet adoption program for veterans and military personnel helps make pet adoption more affordable while saving the animals most overlooked for adoption: adult pets, large breed dogs and special needs animals.
“I found that being on a limited income,” he says, “the program made it affordable to bring Brazil home.”
Four-pawed healing for the soul
The orange tabby seems to know that she was saved – and who saved her. Brazil is a very clingy girl who shadows Erik and likes to sleep near him.
“She just shows me so much love and affection, it is a real blessing to have her here,” Erik says.
Not content to be a silent pet partner, Brazil is one chatty little cat and makes her feelings known.
“Brazil talks to me all the time. If she is near me sleeping and I get up to move, she immediately wants to know where I’m going. She follows me around the house.”
Like other veterans who adopted through Pets for Patriots, Erik realized that in saving an animal’s life he saved himself as well.
“This is a great way to bring home a wonderful pet,” he says, “and the love they give you in return can help heal your soul.”
How has your pet helped you heal?