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Thanks to Angelcat Haven Feline Rescue, Joe and Trickster are getting the help they need.
Joe was sick. The veteran’s health had declined to the point that emergency room doctors wanted to admit him to the hospital, but he was adamant that he couldn’t stay. Even though a hospital bed would be a big improvement over the car he’d slept in for the last two years, Joe couldn’t do it. He couldn’t accept help because his 16-year-old cat, Trickster, was back in the car. Joe knew Trickster was sitting on the center console, waiting, and he wasn’t about to abandon him.
“[He’s] my best friend. My family. My life. He’s not just my cat. He completes me,” says Joe, who didn’t use his real name as he told his story to Lucky Puppy from a hospital bed in Massachusetts. He goes by Joe these days because he hopes to one day be strong enough to support himself and Trickster, and he doesn’t want potential employers to know that he’s been homeless. That is only as small part of who he is, and it’s only a small percentage of his life with Trickster.
The duo came together back in 2000, when Trickster was just a tiny kitten. It was a different time in Joe’s life. He had a home back then, and people he still called family. When a family member’s cat had an accidental litter, Joe adopted one of the kittens, dubbing the mischievous little cat Trickster and promising to take care of him. He had no idea how much Trickster would eventually repay him.
“This cat has been my everything for 16 straight years. He calms me when I’m anxious. He makes me laugh. He helps me sleep and has even woke me up when I’ve been having a nightmare. When everyone else turned their back on me or gave up on me, Trickster has always been there. There’s no doubt he’s changed me for the better — maybe even saved me.”
At Joe’s bedside is Victoria Lynne Callahan, the president of Angelcat Haven Feline Rescue and the reason why Joe agreed to get the medical help he needed. Callahan works in the hospital’s admin department and is a dedicated cat rescuer in her spare time. When ER staff heard why Joe was refusing to get the medical care he needed, they asked for her help. It took a some convincing, but she got Joe to agree to let her foster Trickster while he concentrated on his health.
“He and I instantly pretty much bonded and clicked. He trusted me and knew that he was going to get his kitty back,” says Callahan, who has become an advocate for Joe, helping him apply for benefits and even starting a Go Fund Me campaign for the ailing vet. She says it’s not uncommon for people without support systems to rush medical treatment in order to get back to their animals, and Joe’s case was made even worse because he would have been rushing back to sleep in a car.
“This is never how I expected life to be,” Joe explains. Before he moved into his car, Joe was proud of the home he shared with his cat, and he fondly remembers the times they spent there. He can still recall how Trickster would run and slide across the hardwood floors before jumping up onto his feet, and chasing after his crazy kitty as they climbed the stairs.
“If he didn’t see me chasing him, he would literally run back down, come at me, then run back upstairs. He loved to play chase, and it was hilarious,” Joe recalls.
He remembers the little things about their old life, like how he once fell asleep on the couch after a hard day at work and woke to find Trickster hanging upside down and staring him in the face.
“[He] drooled right on my forehead, then bolted across the living room!” Joe recalls, laughing.
When he lost his home, Joe started looking for a new place to live, but he found that finding cat-friendly accommodation wasn’t easy.
“He had heard that there was housing available for him, but not for him and his cat,” says Callahan. As a rescuer, she knows just how many cats are abandoned every day because people can’t find pet-friendly apartments. In Joe’s case, abandoning or surrendering Trickster to a shelter just wasn’t an option.
“Some have said to me that I could be living in a home if I didn’t have Trickster,” says Joe. “Well, I may not have a life if it wasn’t for him.”
It’s obvious that Trickster means more to Joe than anything in the world. Even when times got tough, Joe always made sure Trickster was up-to-date on his vaccines and eating well. A recent vet appointment revealed Trickster does have hyperthyroidism, but thanks to Angelcat Haven, Trickster is getting the medical care he needs while Joe does the same.
“I miss my home, my previous life, working — but I have Trickster and I am okay as long as I have him,” says Joe.
Trickster has kept Joe going as he struggled with homelessness, and now, he’s helping Joe get back on his feet. Callahan and the volunteers at Angelcat Haven got involved in the case to help the cat, but they’ve ended up helping the human, too. Thanks to Callahan and her crew, Joe’s paperwork is getting sorted out, he’s getting financial help. He was recently moved to the intensive care unit, but hopes that with all the help from Angelcat Haven, he might one day be moving into an apartment.
“I am glad I met them at this time in my life,” he says, adding that he hopes other veterans are able to access the help they need to keep their pets while staying housed.
“I am looking forward to the future more today than I was just a few weeks ago. Even if my story helps one another homeless veteran and their pet get the help they need, then I have certainly found a purpose.”
Heather is a wife, new mom, and former TV journalist in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. You can follow Heather on Twitter and Google+.
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