Sam is an Air Force veteran and lifelong animal lover living in Washington, D.C. When both of his elderly cats passed away, friends encouraged him to adopt again.
Thanks to Pets for Patriots Sam was able to adopt not one, but two rescue cats, and rebuild the loving family and home he so dearly missed.
Brightening peoples’ lives
Sam is a proud veteran who served in the Air Force for four years during the Vietnam War. His favorite memory from service happened when he was the training non-commissioned officer (NCO) for the honors and ceremonies team and met Captain Rickenbacker. The World War I Medal of Honor recipient was known as the ‘ace of aces.’
Though he was never deployed to Vietnam, Sam recalls it being difficult to see what other veterans around him went through.
“I felt like while being in the service my job was helping, and it felt like I was doing something that was needed,” Sam says.
The compassionate veteran is now retired after a career at several top florists, where he was a floral designer for many high-end clients. He is proud of the happiness he brought to people over the years, during both his military and design careers.
“From foreign governments to the US government to Hollywood to Mom and Dad, I have brightened the lives of many people with my creative designs.”
Refilling an empty home
The Air Force veteran has had dogs and cats throughout his life, relating to them as both children and best friends. That made it especially painful to lose his two elderly cats within three years of each other.
Sam felt powerless to help Stella and Snowy as their little bodies shut down right before his eyes.
“Both of their deaths were very traumatic for me,” Sam explains. “Two in a row, just like that. I don’t know if I can put it into words, other than it ripped my heart out.”
After watching his two beloved cats pass away, Sam’s mind went to a dark place. He was devastated by the sudden losses in his life and wary about adopting another companion pet.
“I was not going to adopt another kitty for a while, but everybody was like, ‘you got to get another one right away,’” he shares. “They said Stella and Snowy would appreciate it, and that it was okay to get another kitty.”
Something old, something new
Sam knew he could only afford to adopt one cat, yet he wanted to raise a kitten one last time. He soon learned that Pets for Patriots could help with the adoption of an older cat, making it possible financially to adopt a kitten as well.
Humane Rescue Alliance offers veterans in our program 50% off pet adoption fees through its two main campuses.
These savings, along with benefits we offer to veterans who adopt through our partnerships, made Sam’s dreams of adopting two rescue cats a reality.
Sam was able to go home with two rescue cats – one older, one a kitten – to refill his empty nest.
Chancie was an adult tortoiseshell and Saturn a three month-old gray Tabby. After their adoption, Sam renamed them Zelda and Gatsby, respectively.
From mean streets to easy street
Sam wasted no time creating a safe and loving home for his two rescue cats. He is especially sensitive to how Zelda, his older feline, is adjusting after the difficult life she had prior to adoption.
“As I understand it, [Zelda] escaped from a family and was on the street, got pregnant, and had a litter of kittens. I’m sensitive to the fact that she was on the street. I’m sure she was scared and maybe attacked,” he says. “Giving her a place to feel comfortable and happy makes me feel happy.”
The veteran’s kitten Gatsby is – well, a different story.
“I wanted to experience a kitten again before I croak,” Sam says with his trademark humor. “But after I got [Gatsby], I thought, ‘He’s gonna be the death of me.’”
Despite Sam’s nature to be a loving and even doting pet parent, Gatsby will have none of it.
“He was a terror, an absolute terror, and I said if I ever get through this I’ll never have another cat,” he says. “He’s independent, very independent, and doesn’t like to be held.”
Still, Sam says all three of them are adjusting to the others’ idiosyncrasies. Since he brought Zelda and Gatsby home at the same time, the two rescue cats have not been jealous of one another. In fact, they are very close even though they are so very different.
“They’re bosom buddies,” Sam says. “They sleep together, they grow together, they’re just inseparable. It all just makes me very happy. I just love seeing them settle in and be happy and safe. They really complete my life.”
Finding sunshine out of darkness
Sam himself admits he sometimes has more compassion for others than he knows what to do with. During his military service he dealt with his empathy by knowing he served a country he loved.
Today, the Air Force veteran channels his compassion towards Zelda and Gatsby.
“These two guys have brought my mental outlook up since I got them,” he shares. “My heart just reaches out and is touched by other people’s problems and pain, but I have two little lives that I’m responsible for that aren’t in pain anymore, and that makes me happy.”
In fact, ‘happy’ is a word that Sam uses often to describe his life these days. And he has two rescue cats to thank for it.
Still, every once in a while, Sam still gets down about life and worries about the ever-changing state of the world.
When that happens, the veteran brings his furry family to his small backyard garden to breathe in some nature. As a former florist, he has carved out a lush space for himself under the shade of an oak tree, a space he now shares with Zelda and Gatsby.
Bittersweet vines and purple wisteria curl along the edges of his fence. Sam loves watching his cats romp around in the garden, where they chomp on leaves and chatter with birds and squirrels.
“Love makes the world go ‘round, whether for a cat or another human being. We all need a little love in our lives,” he shares. “After Snowy passed, my little one-bedroom apartment felt like it had 30 rooms. It was so lonely. But now it’s not so lonely anymore. It really helps. They’re my little sunshine in my life.”