Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 21, 2013

Kathy Gibbons: Being a friend — to friends and animals

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Sometimes you encounter people who can leave you speechless – in a good way.

Karen is the latest. I met her recently and as we got to talking, learned that she is a guardian angel for a brood of animals who need one.

A couple she’s known since she was a little girl (Karen’s 38), are going through difficult times. The husband, nearly 70, has had one health problem after another, along with Alzheimer’s. They live on a farm and he used to keep and show horses. Now he can’t lift a bag of feed.

His wife still works full-time. It’s all she can do to take care of him, let alone anything else.

“She has a lot on her plate,” said Karen, which isn't her real name. We decided not to use it to be sure and protect the privacy of the couple.

Anyway, Karen’s been coming daily to feed the horses at the end of the day after the wife has fed them in the morning. She’s also been helping sell the horses, and they’re down to just a couple including an old one that Karen tears up over.

“The old guy, I don’t know what we’re going to do with him,” she said. “I have known him since he was young.

“No one wants him. He requires a lot of grain because his teeth are worn out. He tries to chew hay, but there’s no nutritional value, so he gets a complete pelleted seed twice a day to keep weight on him.”

And then there are the barn cats. Many accumulated over the years when people cast them off, unwanted, in the country. And those cats had kittens.

“She goes through three bags of cat food a week,” Karen said. “She feeds them in the morning, but can’t carry the cat food bags. So I’m feeding them — every night.”

Karen’s on a crusade to get the cats spayed and neutered, also working to find homes for kittens when they’re born.

Her vet is helping. He came out and spayed and neutered three females and two males last weekend. She was hoping to do more this weekend.

“The vet said he’d cut a deal for quantity and I could pay him later,” she said, “mostly because he wants it to stop, too. We’re fixing them as we can catch them.”

Karen would like to find homes for the barn cats, but most of them won’t come unless they know you. They know Karen, so with her they purr and roll over on their backs. Not so others.

“There are probably seven or eight of the cats that would probably, if I caught them, someone could take them,” she said. “There’s one especially, who won’t let anyone else pet him. I’ve contemplated bringing him home, but I have so much to do already.”

Did I mention she's a mom and has a full-time job?

But still, she keeps going over to help the couple every day, as she has since December.

“I’m just trying to get the barn cleared out,” she said.