Saturday, April 23, 2011

Going to the Dogs

If you take the train to work every day, few of the people stand out from the crowd. Sure, some are tall, others short, some dress in suits, others more casually. Beyond the normal assortment of superficial traits, however, few are terribly distinctive, save for a particular detail such as the bag they carry or the shoes they wear. But every now and again one catches your eye. Like the lady with the dogs.

On any given morning you can see Kathy walking down the platform, usually with 2 pooches trailing along. To look at her you wouldn't know she has two parallel passions. One track involves helping people get their financial house in order, a profession she practices very successfully at her own firm. In fact, you might even have seen her on television in that role as a regular contributor on various business channels. Her other track focuses on a different type of needy individual: homeless and abandoned animals on whom others have given up.

An animal lover forever... "I must have been a dog in a prior life," she laughs... she didn't set out to be fairy godmother to abused and abandoned creatures. True, her first two pups were rescue dogs acquired when she lived in Colorado more than twenty years ago, and who made the move with her to New York. Then one day she was out walking them when a homeless man came by, a dog trotting along by his side. The dog sidled over to Kathy, while the man kept walking. She called after him, but he threw up his hands and kept going: "Someone did it to me, now I'm doing it to you!" he yelled. However, he did stop and come back to hand her a box of dog biscuits... "his food..." before departing and leaving her with the animal.

She took him home and cleaned him up. "He was so dirty and matted I had to wear gloves," she recalls. But once he was scrubbed, he crawled up onto her bed and made big eyes at her, and, "well, I just had to keep him." She named him Seamus, and added him to her family as number three.

Then six months later a friend had a dog that had been taken by the authorities because it had bitten someone. At the time, the policy was for dogs with that history to be retrieved within 10 days or destroyed. The friend didn't want him anymore, so Kathy went to pick him up. As she was leaving the shelter with her new charge, she looked up to see another small pup trotting down the avenue. The pup crossed over to her, leaped into her arms and starting licking her nose. She looked around for an owner, but there wasn't one. In for a penny, in for a pound, she thought. And so she added numbers four and five to her family, all in her studio apartment.

And so it went. She would give one away, then would find out about another who needed a new home, and add it the mix. People heard about her generosity, and she started to get emails, sometimes up to 20 a day. And she continued to find them accidentally on her own as well. Once on a vacation in Puerto Rico she came across a pup on a hike in the rain forest. She was busy looking for the owner when a local told her that people abandon their unwanted pets along the trail. Again, she couldn't bear to part with him, and brought him back to the mainland.

It's not like she had a formal plan, just a big heart and an even bigger soft spot. What kinds of dogs does she gravitate to? "I take the hard-to-place dogs, the 12-year old pit bill, the one with lymphoma." She tries to keep it in perspective: "They're not my children, and I know they will eventually die, but while they are here I try and give them the best home I can on this earth." Of course, none of this comes cheap in either time or money: she estimates she has spent hundreds of hours and many, many thousands of dollars to feed and care for them. But what she gets back can't be measured that way.

Now in Westchester for 8 years, she has accumulated animal charges big and small: dogs and cats, but also a horse and bunnies, some 15 all told. "Many of our clients are people with a passion. They understand this is mine, and it helps to tell them about who I am and what I believe," she says. Besides, when you get right down to it, perhaps both her 2-legged clients and her 4-legged charges aren't really that different: "Make them top dog, give them boundaries and give them love. It works for dogs, and it works for people."


Marc Wollin of Bedford hasn't had a pet since he was a kid. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, the Scarsdale Inquirer and online at

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