Monday, 02 July 2012 08:41
Since childhood, Kat has nurtured four legged companions. “I was the kid that would pick the cat up with dislocated hips, and my parents would have to take it to the vet and get its hips fixed. I always wanted to pick up the stray, and I always loved the underdog,” she said. For her 40th birthday she visited Seacrest Wolf Preserve, near her previous home in Florida. For Kat, that birthday trip was a life changing experience. “I just fell in love with what they did there and started going back as a volunteer,” she said. After spending many hours at the preserve volunteering, Kat got the opportunity to adopt her first rescue wolf dog, Lakota. “I took him from the wolf preserve to socialize him, and ended up falling in love with him and keeping him,” she said. Her home in Florida didn’t have enough yard space to do rescue the way she wanted to, so when she and her husband moved back to Alabama so she could be near her father, they found the perfect place just next to Big Coon, in Slipoff Hollow near Stevenson.
“I wanted to have a place where I could rescue animals in multitudes, and that’s how we ended up here,” she said.
In the three years she has lived here in North Alabama, Kat has rescued around 150 animals. She does her own dog rescue, and she also fosters dogs for Safe Haven No-Kill Animal Shelter. Kat says she likes to save the dogs that don’t have another chance to live. “My favorite cases are the ones that I know if they went to a shelter they would be euthanized because they have mange or heart worms. I also like to pull the ones from the shelter that have run out of time and will be euthanized.” She prefers these cases, she says, because she knows those animals really need somebody.
Three of her northern breed rescues came to her as heroes. They were part of a group of six wolf dogs belonging to an elderly man. One day drug robbers broke into the man’s home. They tried to take his life by stabbing him, but the man’s loyal companions rushed to his rescue just as the knife neared his throat. Three of the dogs were shot and killed; a fourth was shot but survived. The three that lived made their way to Kat’s loving yard. When they arrived they all had heart worms, were very under socialized and one was nearly blind. Now, Kat says they are affectionate and amazing creatures.
Bella, Kat’s potentially 100 percent black-phase British Columbian wolf, was just 19.5 pounds when she was rescued. She had been abandoned by her former owner. Left chained defenselessly to her dog house, she could have suffered the ultimate price of human carelessness. Her owner was prosecuted and sentenced to six years in prison for animal cruelty specifically for her case. The vet, thinking she was too far gone to be saved, wanted to put her to sleep. Luckily an empathetic vet tech begged them not to put her down. “She knew she wanted to live. She saw the light in her eyes that she did not want to die. That’s probably how she made it as long as she did, she had the will to live,” Kat said. When she received Bella’s picture she tried to find the wolf a home, but soon she stopped trying. She said, “When I pulled her picture up it would just twist my heart. Finally one day I was like, ‘I have to get her. She belongs with me.’”
When Bella arrived at Kat’s home she weighed 42 pounds and was still very frail. Kat said when she played with Lakota she would just flail over because she was such a wisp of a dog. But Bella is strong now and soon she will be a movie star. Bella was chosen out of a group of wolves to star in a film that will be entered into the Sundance Film Festival. Kat said, “It’s a horror movie, but she’s not a bad character, she will be portrayed as a good character.” The film will also carry a message at the end noting Bella’s past and encouraging support of rescued animals like her.
Caring for rescue animals takes a lot of hard work and dedication, especially when many of those animals are part wolf. She admits she doesn’t do it all on her own, kind hearted people help her in many different ways. Shortly after White Fang came to live with her he was shot by an illegal hunter. Kat said he went from door to door looking for her. She said, “He came running in and I saw him dripping blood. He knew to look for me, it was like he was saying ‘Help me mama!’” She loaded him in her van and rushed him to the vet. Shortly after, a lady paid White Fang’s vet bill, which was over $800. “When stuff like that happens it encourages me to keep doing this. People like that enable me to make a difference; it’s not me by myself. It takes everybody doing their part to save these animals and get them into good homes,” Kat said.
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