Second chances for Purple Heart veteran and shelter cat

A Purple Heart veteran survives two Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks and pays it forward by saving an adult shelter cat named Rumer.

Katrina was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, where she trained as an Army Motor Transport Operator (88M). Twice deployed – once to Iraq for a year and again to Afghanistan for 15 months – the Army veteran miraculously survived not one, but two IED attacks. Four-and-a-half years later, Katrina left the military with a Purple Heart.

Survival and second chances

Life after the military was challenging. Katrina enrolled in college and is receiving her Bachelor of Arts (BA) in criminal justice, but as a recent divorcee with two beautiful daughters – Carmela and Marylou – she has had to adjust to a changed family as well. Luckily the Purple Heart veteran isn’t just a fighter; she’s a survivor. 

A big part of Katrina’s resilience is her ability to connect with others, which comes to mind when she reflects on her most memorable experiences of her military career:

“The various people that I was able to work with during my time in the service,” she recalls fondly. “This includes people from other branches and countries, to the civilians as well as the locals. To be able to meet so many people from all over is a great experience and a great memory to last a lifetime.”

Tough and spirited, Katrina knew deep inside that she needed friendship, something different than her two children – or any person – could provide. Katrina and Rumer 1

“I love animals,” she says, “they are great companions.”

When her husband intended to keep their cat, Fatty, the Purple Heart veteran decided to adopt a cat of her own. Katrina found out about Pets for Patriots and its companion pet adoption program for veterans through the Humane Society of West Michigan, which partners with the charity and offers a 25% adoption fee discount to its members. Standale Veterinary Hospital in nearby Grand Rapids offers an ongoing 10% discount to Katrina, as well as other veterans who adopt an eligible pet through the nationwide charity program.

As an adult, Rumor met the charity’s criteria of an at-risk shelter cat. Her all-black coat made it even more difficult to adopt her out, due to a phenomenon known as Black Dog/Black Cat Syndrome.

Upon learning about the program Katrina remembers saying to herself, “I though that this organization is a great opportunity to recognize veterans.”

A Purple Heart veteran with a big heart to match

In September, 2012, Katrina officially welcomed Rumer into her family. The adult cat is “so lovable” and fits right in to her new surroundings.

“Rumer adjusted very quickly and she’s a wonderful addition to my family,” says Katrina. “I love her to death.”

In addition to an adoption fee discount, Katrina received a $150 from the Pets for Patriots Veterans’ Pet Food Bank program to help with the initial costs of food and other basics for Rumer.

“It helped me immensely with my pet needs,” she says. “Thank you so much for the support and all the help you guys have given me in being able to pick out Rumer as my new little addition to my family. She will be loved for many, many years; thank you so much.”

Double the cat, double the love

As it happens, Katrina’s ex-husband never did take their cat. The Army veteran is now “mommy” to both Rumer and Fatty, and the cats seem to get along well. Fatty and Rumor (Katrina)

While she continues to adore Fatty, Katrina admits that Rumer is an exceptional companion.

“I couldn’t have a better pet,” she says.

The former shelter cat can be quite demanding of the Army veteran’s attention.

“She loves her new life and she makes it to where I can’t forget that she is around. She has to have her “mommy” time, which is usually while I am trying to do some homework. I’ll go to sleep with her laying on me and sometimes wake up the same way.”

Katrina suggests to other veterans that they consider adopting a pet through Pets for Patriots. 

“You guys are a great organization,” she says, “I highly recommend.”

These days Katrina is preparing to graduate and start the next exciting chapter in her life, with Rumer by her side  - or laying on her head. Both are survivors, both embracing their second chance at a great life.

How does your pet help you face new challenges in life?

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