4animals: Stories to Inspire – Issue 2

IN ISSUE #2

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People 4animals Animals 4people Eye 4wildlife
What does kitten season look like? Meet Katrin Hecker who shares a day in her life at AnimalKind, Inc. in Hudson, NY. See how dogs, not drugs are used to heal PTSD in veterans through the the power of the pooch. Meet four new and interesting wild species this month, with thanks to Arkive.org!

Welcome to our second issue of 4animals, our new monthly newsletter. Explore this guilt free zone where you’re free to indulge in the majesty of the animal kingdom before another month of animal advocacy… Enjoy! [tab name="People 4animals"]

Kindness of the Cat Lady, Katrin Hecker 

By Kim Clune KITTEN SEASON Katrin Hecker

On a Tuesday morning, stepping foot from the quiet of Warren street in Hudson, NY, through a sweet, pink door, I enter a 3 bedroom townhouse that effectively shelters more than 130 free-roaming cats like a well oiled machine. Today, I am greeted by organized chaos.

Four sick, feral kittens arrive by appointment. Four more arrive unannounced. Mother cats scream when other cats get too close, protective hormones coursing through their veins.  The phone rings and rings but for a pause during playback of a message saying “No more cats are being accepted at this time.” Message after message speaks of captured kittens needing more care, more food, and more housing. All the while, volunteers are medicating, feeding and bathing kittens only to medicate, feed and bathe them once more.

Welcome to “Kitten Season,” wherein female cats can go into heat every three weeks and one cat can give birth at least twice from spring through fall.

KATRIN HECKER AND ANIMALKIND, INC.

Front and center at the townhouse, managing one need at a time with swift efficiency, stands Katrin Hecker, the tall, beautiful, can-do Cat Lady. Like mother for child, Katrin, spends her days caring for cats in need, kissing their illnesses well, tucking them in for naps, finding them homes and keeping a watchful eye over those on the streets of Columbia County and beyond.

AnimalKind, Inc.As Director of the non-profit organization, AnimalKind, Inc., Katrin promotes non-lethal prevention of unwanted kittens through trap, neuter/spay, release (TNR) into a managed colony. She and her volunteers offer felines living in such colonies kind, daily care. To control overpopulation, Katrin says that, in addition to managing feral colonies, “We have to address the crisis from two ends. We provide low or no cost spaying and neutering assistance to low income pet owners.”  And, of course, the many cats in her care are available for adoption, free to approved applicants, complete with spay/neuter, distemper, rabies vaccinations and 1 month of pet health insurance.

Katrin stands firmly behind her words when she says, “It is very important to embrace the cats because they are part of our society.” See for yourself, as Katrin and her staff pour their energy into to the kittens in their care.

AN UNLIKELY START

Katrin’s life wasn’t always consumed by cats. From behind the Iron Curtain in Karl Marx City, a teenage Katrin and her family filed applications to leave East Germany. For three long years, she and her family were taunted with the threat of never leaving, their daily movements shadowed by Soviet officials. Suddenly, Katrin was granted a mere 24 hours to clear out. With no time for good-byes, she packed up and left for Hamburg, where she began her journey as healer by becoming a Pediatric nurse.

Speaking German and Russian, Katrin came to the United States to add English to her repertoire. This would enable her to join a medical team in Africa. While immersing herself in the culture of New York City, life took a turn. She met and fell in love with Avis Davis, a punk rock musician. Together, they discovered a church in Hudson, NY, perfect for conversion into a studio, and made it their home.

BEAUTIFUL NEW BEGINNINGS

LuckyUpon their arrival, Katrin couldn’t help but notice a significant feral cat problem in Hudson. Every corner had anywhere from 20 up to 60 cats. The first she wooed was a one-eyed, three-legged cat named Lucky. Trading her fashion design – another of Katrin’s many skills – for vet bills, she then founded AnimalKind, Inc. That was over ten years ago. She now uses all the skills she’s got to promote cats. By hosting Project Catwalk annually, a fashion fundraiser, and other lively events, Katrin brings healing skills to the animal world, heart, body and soul.

Cats are now Katrin’s life and, by default, Avis’ too. There have been 24 other animals in the house at last count, many selected from the thousands that come through the townhouse. How does Katrin do it? She confides, “All the animals that I bring home are black. That way, my husband can’t tell when a new one comes home.”

The AnimalKind adoption center is located at 721 Warren Street, Hudson, NY 12534. For more information, visit AnimaKind.info.[/tab] [tab name="Animals 4people"]

Dogs Help Heal PTSD

By Peggy Frezon

When the wounds of war have taken a toll so great that normal life becomes a struggle, there is nothing like a furry companion to help ease some of the pain. But it’s more than just TLC. Amazing new programs now recognize the power of the pooch to help veterans with PTSD.

SENSE OF SECURITY

Service dogs are trained to perform many tasks, such as turning on and off lights, opening doors, and retrieving dropped objects. Combat veterans with physical disabilities may have some of these needs, but those with PTSD have other special concerns. Gloria Gilbert Stoga, founder of Puppies Behind Bars, has come up with five new commands, specifically for veterans with PTSD or traumatic brain injury. Some of these include:

  • Got My Back – The dog is trained to sit behind the veteran if someone comes up behind him. Veterans with PTSD often feel insecure or threatened by who they can’t see behind them, but they trust the dog. If the dog behind them remains calm, it helps the veteran to feel calm too.
  • Clear – Veterans with PTSD may feel anxious about entering a room. The dog is trained to go in the room, turn on the lights, circle the room, and come back to signal that the room is clear.

Paws for Purple Hearts DOGS, NOT DRUGS

In another case, the training is the therapy. Rick Yount, founder of the Paws for Purple Hearts program, understands the therapeutic effect dogs have in treating human emotional problems.  His innovative approach is to teach veterans with PTSD how to train service dogs. The dog’s instant positive reinforcement—a wag or kiss—helps the veterans feel good about themselves—something that victims of PTSD often struggle with. The dogs are able to do what drugs and traditional therapy can’t accomplish as quickly.

U.S. Army veteran David Jameison says, “Why do I need hard core drugs when I can have a hard core dog?”

Watch the inspiring Paws for Purple Hearts video to learn more about how service dogs are paired with veterans.

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Eye 4Wildlife

by Kim Clune Meet the species! Invite these critters onto your screen for a little “get to know ya” session. Don’t worry, they won’t bite. Not here… Just click each photo to learn interesting facts about these species, watch videos of them in motion, determine why they’re threatened, and how you can help them at ARKive.org.

ARKive photo - Malayan sun bear showing long tongue ARKive species - Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)
Have you ever seen a Malayan Sun Bear? This bear is smallest of the world’s eight living bear species, yet has the longest tongue of any of them! Endemic to Madagascar, the aye-aye, is one of the most unusual primates on the planet, so much so that it was originally classified as a rodent.
ARKive species - African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) ARKive species - Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)
The African buffalo is Africa’s only wild cattle species, and one of the ‘Big Five’ mammals that were once popular with trophy hunters. While aardvark literally means ‘earthpig’ in Afrikaans , it is not actually a pig at all.

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