Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota

Service animal helps keep family housed, happy

Added on Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Written by Julie Borgen, Twin Cities Media Relations Director for The Salvation Army Northern Division

Travis with one of her sonsWhen 34-year-old Stacey Travis and her two sons (pictured left with 8-year-old Jayvius) moved into a Salvation Army supportive housing complex in Coon Rapids last summer, she couldn’t believe her luck.

“I was ecstatic to move here, after living in a lot of bad places,” she said. “I have been in places with bedbugs, roaches and mice. This place is just a blessing.”

Travis said she struggles with emotional issues, including panic attacks. They started after a series of setbacks in her life, including the death of her beloved grandmother who raised her from when she was a teenager.

“I am unemployed right now, because of my mental health,” Travis explained. “But I want to go back to school and finish college.”

Salvation Army caseworker and clientsOne of the things that helps calm her nerves? Petting a cat. Since her housing complex doesn’t allow cats, that seemed impossible. But that’s where Salvation Army caseworker Matt Kirk (pictured right with Travis and Jayvius) came in.

“I suggested we find out if she could qualify for a service animal,” Kirk said. “Stacey’s therapist agreed it would help her and wrote her a letter of support.”

Kiki the catKirk even drove Travis to The Animal Humane Society and helped her pick out Kiki (pictured), an 11-year-old cat who was surrendered when her previous owner had a baby.

“I just love her,” Travis said. “We had an instant connection. She makes me feel so calm.”

Kiki wasted no time jumping in to her new family.

Service kitty Kiki“She wakes me up in the morning, tries to take my glasses off my face or lick my head,” Travis laughed. “She follows me everywhere and sits in my lap.”

Kirk says having a support animal is about much more than having a pet to love, it helps create stability, too.

“You want to make a house a home, and since our number one goal is to help clients find and maintain housing, it just makes sense,” he explained.

And if you ask Travis, Kiki is already doing her job.

“It’s been awesome, it’s made me a lot more happy, I feel like she’s another one of my kids,” she said.

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