Indefatigable Young Alaskan Woman Overcomes a Lack of Money, Jailing by the Police, and a Series of Avalanches in Order to Save Ninja's Life
|Ninja Is Reunited with Kristina Clark and Donney Carlson|
"It was worth it for Ninja."
-- Kristina Clark
There arguably is not any worse feeling in this world than to have a dying cat on one's hands and yet being unable to save its life due to a lack of money. Begging, although definitely worth a try, is usually futile because ninety-nine per cent of all practicing veterinarians are such rotten, despicable bastards that they categorically refuse to treat any cat unless they are paid up front.
The deplorable situation is even more pronounced in regard to homeless cats in that it is almost unheard of for veterinarians to treat them under any circumstances. (See Cat Defender post of July 16, 2010 entitled "Tossed Out the Window of a Car Like an Empty Beer Can, Injured Chattanooga Kitten Is Left to Die after at Least Two Veterinarians Refused to Treat It.")
The sanctity of animal life means absolutely nothing to these cold-hearted shekel chasers and, even worse, they are totally beyond all shame in that they could care less about the irreparable damage that such a morally repugnant attitude to doing to both their and their profession's reputation. Consequently, caring owners and others who rescue cats normally was presented with a fait accompli of being forced to take their ailing cats back home with them and then to helplessly watch them die.
That pretty much sums up the très horrible, no-win situation that twenty-two-year-old Kristina Clark of Copper Center, one-hundred-eighty-six kilometers north of Valdez, found herself in on January 25th when her beloved five-year-old, gray and white cat, Ninja, came down with a life-threatening urinary tract infection. She and her twenty-year-old boyfriend, Donney Carlson, did what they could for him but it was not nearly enough.
"We tried the home remedy thing," Carlson told the Valdez Star on January 29th. (See "Jailed Avalanche Trekkers Had Sick Cat.") "He'd try to pee and he'd cry."
They then tried desperately to procure veterinary help for the fast-fading tom without so much as an iota of success. The local veterinarian in Copper Center was out of town and practitioners in both Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Anchorage, predictably, refused to even so much as look at him unless they were paid upwards of $800 in advance.
It is not known if the pair tried contacting Amy Lehman at the Big Lake Susitna Veterinary Hospital in Big Lake who did such a wonderful job treating Mayor Stubbs of Talkeetna after he was mauled to within an inch of his life by an unleashed dog last August 31st. If they did approach her and she refused to come to Ninja's aid, that only goes to show that Stubbs is alive today solely because his owner, Lauri Stec, not only had the prerequisite amount of godly green in order to procure treatment for him but was willing to part with it as well. (See Cat Defender post of October 28, 2013 entitled "Slow to Recuperate from Life-Threatening Injuries Sustained in a Savage Mauling by an Unleashed Dog, Stubbs Announces His Intention to Step Down as Mayor of Talkeetna.")
Just when it appeared that all was lost and that Ninja's fate was sealed, a faint ray of hope in the form of Kelly Hawkins of the Valdez Veterinary Clinic magically broke through the dark clouds that had come to envelope Clark's life. The kindhearted veterinarian readily agreed to extend credit to her and to treat Ninja without a down payment provided that she somehow could get him to his surgery.
Malheureusement, the area recently had been rocked by a series of avalanches and the road to Valdez therefore was closed. With all of her hopes dashed it once again looked as if Clark was permanently out of luck and Ninja's deliverance, although so very close at hand, remained yet so impossibly far way.
At this juncture most mere mortals would have been too dejected to have done anything other than to have thrown in the towel. There is something to be said for being young, energetic, idealistic, brave, and never surrendering to either despair or defeat and Clark quite obviously is blessed with all of those virtues in spades.
She and Carlson accordingly made the fateful decision to pull out all the stops and embark upon a last-ditch mad dash down the Richardson Highway to Valdez. "We had to do something and that was the only option," she later told the Valdez Star.
To say that her mother, with whom she and Carlson were staying, found that proposal to be incredible would be a gross understatement. "I'm sure she didn't expect that we would actually do that," Clark later admitted to the Alaska Dispatch of Anchorage on January 29th. (See "Woman Says She Tried to Cross Avalanche-Clogged Road to Valdez to Save Her Cat.")
Clark was not about to be dissuaded, however. "I really had nothing else on my mind except for my cat," she added to the Alaska Dispatch.
Before they departed Copper Center they telephoned the Valdez Police who, in addition to informing them that the highway was still closed, added one very important caveat. "They said if you want to go climbing, we can't stop you," Clark related to the Alaska Dispatch.
They accordingly set out on the one-hundred-sixteen mile trek in Clark's old jalopy and made it all the way to milepost 42.2 before they encountered the first avalanche. That left the intrepid duo with the only alternative of hoofing it the last forty-two miles to Valdez.
They then abandoned Clark's rig, wrapped Ninja in a blanket, and stuffed him into a backpack before setting out on foot. That was at 1:30 p.m. and over the course of the next two hours they were able to successfully scale two avalanches and to cover a distance of five miles.
The going was not only arduous but dangerous also because the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT) was using dynamite in order to break up avalanches blocking the highway. "We had no idea we were walking into a minefield, pretty much," Clark told the Alaska Dispatch.
|An Avalanche Blocks the Richardson Highway|
As it had happened to them so many times already, their good luck soon evaporated and they quickly found themselves in dutch with the authorities. Initially, they were stopped by the operator of a DOT plow truck and told to turn back.
They wisely ignored that directive only to be stopped a few minutes later by the operator of another DOT vehicle who informed them that he was ratting them out to his supervisor. The head man arrived on the scene shortly thereafter and was wasted no time in ordering the pair to get into his vehicle.
It also was at this juncture that no-good, rotten Tony Beck of the Alaska State Police decided to poke his big nose into the fray. Specifically, he radioed the DOT supervisor and told him to advise Clark and Carlson that they had the choice of either being driven back to their vehicle or taken by helicopter to Valdez.
Beck also cryptically warned them that if they continued on to Valdez they "were going to have to speak with the trooper when (they) got there." Quite understandably, they took Beck's words at face value and, erroneously believing that their travails were over, boarded the DOT helicopter and five minutes later arrived at Pioneer Field in Valdez.
Imagine then their shock when upon arrival they were met by Beck and officers of the Valdez Police who promptly handcuffed them and carted them off to jail. As for poor Ninja, who was still very much knocking on death's door, he was stolen from Clark and fobbed off onto the Valdez Animal Shelter.
This time around it truly looked like not only that Ninja was finished but that Clark's and Carlson's gooses also were cooked. "We didn't know we were going to get arrested," Carlson told the Valdez Star. "They didn't care about Ninja at all."
With both the state and local gendarmes as well as the DOT aligned against them, no one could have blamed Clark if she finally had surrendered to the seemingly inevitable. To her credit, however, she does not know the meaning of the word quit.
She accordingly put the one telephone call that jailbirds usually are allotted to good use by contacting Hawkins and he, equally amazingly, agreed to go to the Valdez Animal Shelter and retrieve Ninja. So, despite the million to one odds against him, Ninja finally made it to Hawkins' surgery where he was fitted with a catheter and his urinary tract flushed clear of the magnesium flakes, contained in dry food, that had been preventing him from urinating.
His deliverance could not have come at a more opportune moment because it is doubtful that he would have been able to have held on until the Richardson Highway was officially reopened to the public. "That cat wouldn't have made it much longer," Hawkins confirmed to the Valdez Star.
As far as it is known, Ninja has made a complete recovery and is doing well. He was forced, however, to remain at Hawkins' surgery until January 29th as a precautionary measure before being released into Clark's custody.
"The urethra can replug," Hawkins warned the Valdez Star. "Then we have to do the whole thing again."
As for Clark and Carlson, they were sprung from the clink on January 26th by an unidentified local judge on an unsecured bond. "It was worth it for Ninja," Clark, defiant and unrepentant, declared afterwards to the Valdez Star.
They have been idiotically charged, however, with disorderly conduct and the obstruction of a highway, both misdemeanors, and are therefore obliged to appear in court in late March for a hearing. If the presiding judge has so much as a lick of intelligence, either he or she promptly will dismisses the charges.
"People don't get prosecuted for acts of human kindness," attorney Mark A. Serrott successfully argued back in 2007 in getting charged dropped against his client, Janice L. Rolfe of Grandview Heights, Ohio, for feeding a homeless cat. (See Cat Defender post of February 26, 2007 entitled "Charged with Feeding a Feral Cat Named Fluffy, Retired Ohio English Teacher Beats Rap.")
Au contraire, if anyone is deserving of time behind bars it is precisely Beck who, instead of doing the compassionate thing and thereby assisting Clark and Carlson in delivering Ninja to Hawkins' surgery, elected to go on an ego trip by throwing his considerable weight around and arresting them. Even more damning, his totally outrageous behavior nearly cost Ninja his life.
|Veterinarian Kelly Hawkins Treating a Cat Named Cinderella Back in 2011|
His buddies within the Valdez Police as well as the DOT and the Valdez Animal Shelter are equally deserving of substantial time in the can. As free agents, they therefore are in no way obliged to play along with Beck while he acts out his authoritarian shenanigans.
The Valdez Animal Shelter is included in that censure because it added insult to injury by illegally throwing Clark's backpack, which contained her wallet and passport, in the trash. The backpack eventually was found but not until after she, Carlson, and Cal Comstock of the Baler Facility had been forced to sift through a couple of tons of rotting and smelly garbage.
Even more disturbing, that is sans doute exactly where Ninja would have wound up if he had not been rescued from the gallows by Hawkins. It has not been publicly disclosed if staff at the shelter stole any money from Clark's wallet.
This entire episode from start to finish showcases not only the utter contempt that the authorities in Valdez harbor in their bosoms for feline life, but also their appalling disregard for their owners and their personal property. Every bit as inexcusable, instead of having the grace and bon sens to admit that they made a series of absolutely terrible and unpardonable decisions, all of them have dug in their heels and buried their ugly mugs in a snowbank.
"We stand by the troopers and our crews for doing the right thing," Jeremy Woodrow of DOT proudly declared to the Alaska Dispatch. "It's not only dangerous for them, it's also dangerous for our crews."
Megan Peters of the Alaska State Police served up another dish from the same recipe. "(The pair) were told essentially you cannot go here, you need to go back, it's an impassable area," she bellowed to the Alaska Dispatch. "They refused to listen."
In his defense, Beck not only has wholeheartedly endorsed those sentiments but additionally availed himself of the golden opportunity presented to him in order to lay it on a bit thick. "I have all the empathy in the world for people's pets," he declared to the Valdez Star on February 12th. (See "Trooper in Cat-Rescue Arrest Speaks Out.") "The info we got from DOT said we've got to get these two off the road."
The mere fact that he is listed as a wildlife officer with the State Police calls into question not only the veracity of anything that he ever has to say about cats but also his willingness to deal with them fairly and humanely. After all, wildlife officials are on record as hating members of the species every bit as much as ornithologists and slimy, scum-of-the-earth PETA.
Valdez City Clerk Sheri Pierce even has gone so far as to deny that Clark and Carlson were given permission to go avalanche climbing by her police department. "Dispatch said absolutely no," she averred to the Alaska Dispatch.
She furthermore denies than anyone affiliated with the Valdez Police knew anything about Ninja. "At no time did they mention an animal or a sick or injured animal," she added with gusto.
Her last point is irrelevant because the Alaska State Police, the Valdez Police, and the Valdez Animal Shelter have convincingly demonstrated by their lack of concern for Ninja's well-being even once he was in their custody that they never would have gone to Copper Center and rescued him even if they had been explicitly apprised of his impending demise. Moreover, even if Clark had made such a request all of them would have laughed in her face. In fact, he is only alive and well today in spite of their best efforts to the contrary.
More generally speaking, this episode demonstrates writ large that the only thing that the authorities in this country care about anymore is having their edicts, no mater how self-serving, foolish, illegal, and patently immoral, blindly adhered to by a totally subservient hoi polloi. The United States has become so fascist and totalitarian that to even so much as look cross-eyed at an officer of the law often is sufficient in order to merit either a severe beating or a torso full of hot lead.
Secondly, it also shows how various police forces tell members of the public contradictory stories only to later rally behind one official version in order to save their own hides and careers. Consequently, it is extremely unwise to take anything that a police officer says at face value.
The only known public support that Clark and Carlson have received for their heroics has come from Hawkins. "I was floored (by their efforts to save Ninja)," he confided to the Valdez Star in the January 29th article cited supra. "I have to commend them for doing something to get their cat help."
He, too, deserves all the praise in the world for being a magnanimous towering giant in a profession dominated by grasping midgets. "We will always help these animals if it's an emergency like this," he pledged to the Alaska Dispatch.
|Ninja and Kristina Clark|
Ironically, Ninja has a dog to thank, at least in part, for giving him back his life. That is because Hawkins was able to treat him due to the existence of the Honey Bear Fund which was established by kindhearted Cliff Eames and Ruth McHenry in memory of their beloved Golden Retriever of the same name.
"We have a lot of people who donate little bits (primarily $5-20) here and there," Hawkins disclosed to the Valdez Star on January 29th. "Anything helps. Within reason, we'll do what we can."
In this particular instance, Ninja's treatment is calculated to have cost Clark between $800 and $1,000. Being already in dire financial straits, she has been reduced to trying to collect old debts owed her in an effort to pay back Hawkins for saving Ninja's life.
If there ever were two individuals who are deserving of the public's financial support it is Clark and Hawkins. Donations to either her or the Honey Bear Fund accordingly can be sent to the Valdez Veterinary Clinic at 321 Egan Avenue, Valdez, Alaska 99686.
The Alaska State Police, the Valdez Police, DOT, and the Valdez Animal Shelter also are equally deserving of their just desserts. Although it is neither money nor praise that they are entitled to, hopefully they nevertheless will receive what is coming to them in due course.
Displays of heroism on the part of cat owners and friends of the species are by no means anything out of the ordinary. For example, back in 2008 Ruth Butterworth of the Bridgeman Downs section of Brisbane was twice bitten and suffered at broken wrist when she fought off a python that had attacked her cat. (See Cat Defender post of March 14, 2008 entitled "Brisbane Woman Is Bitten Twice by a Voracious Python but Still Somehow Manages to Save the Life of Her Cat, Tuffy.)
Earlier on November 15, 2007, Jennifer Foster of Thousand Oaks, California, saved the life of a cat that she did not even know named Cosmo from the clutches of a coyote. (See Cat Defender post of December 4, 2007 entitled "Grieving Widow Risks Her Life in Order to Save Cosmo from the Jaws of a Hungry Coyote in Thousand Oaks.")
On September 25, 2008, Seattle resident Matthew Garcia was forced to do battle with a raccoon that had attacked his cat. (See Cat Defender post of September 25, 2008 entitled "Seattle Resident Beats Off a Voracious Raccoon with a Broom in Order to Save the Life of His Cat, Jewel.")
In 2009, Rachel Honeycutt was nearly killed after she was struck by a hit-and-run motorist while attempting to rescue kittens on a highway in Georgia. (See Cat Defender post of August 10, 2009 entitled "Georgia Woman Is Struck and Nearly Killed by a Motorist while Attempting to Rescue Kittens Dumped in the Middle of a Busy Highway.")
In addition to Rolfe, John Beck was fired from his job at Cornell University for feeding a group of starving cats. (See Cat Defender post of June 14, 2006 entitled "Kindhearted Dairyman, Sacked for Feeding Feral Cats, Files $20 Million Lawsuit Against Cornell University.")
Demonstrating a like-minded compassion for a group of homeless cats also nearly got an elderly retired tutor evicted from her apartment complex in Temple Terrace, Florida, back in 2010.(See Cat Defender post of August 2, 2010 entitled "Old, Poor, and Sickly, Jeanne Ambler Is Facing Eviction for Feeding a Trio of Hungry Cats.")
Others, such as Hannelore Schmedes of Mahlum of Bockenem in Niedersachsen and Maromu Demizu of Izumi City in Japan, have been arrested for stealing food in order to feed their cats. (See Cat Defender post of February 12, 2011 entitled "Disabled Former Casino Worker Is Sent to Jail for Shoplifting Food in Order to Feed Her Twelve Cats" and London's Telegraph, December 12, 2013, "Cat Burglar: Japanese Man Steals £112,000 to Feed His One-Hundred-Twenty Cats.")
Before Clark came along, Brooklyn contractor Chris Muth could, with good reason, lay claim to the title of being the person who had gone the farthest out of his way in order to save the life of a cat and in doing so had accumulated the scars the bruises in order to prove it. (See Cat Defender post of August 4, 2008 entitled "Brooklyn Man Gets Locked Up in a Nuthouse and then Loses Digs, Job, and Honey All for Attempting to Save His Friend's Cat, Rumi.")
As stupendous as all of those herculean feats were in their own right, they nonetheless pale in comparison with the multiple obstacles that Clark was forced to overcome in order to procure life-saving veterinary care for Ninja. She truly in every sense of the word had a dickens of a time of it.
In the end, however, she triumphed over adversity in much the same fashion as David Copperfield, Pip, Mark Tapley, Martin Chuzzlewit, and a host of other unforgettable characters brought to life by Charles Dickens. She was able to prevail not only because she is brave and willing to struggle but, more importantly, she remained true to her ideals and was willing to challenge authority.
In doing so she not only succeeded in saving Ninja's life but became a real-life hero and an inspiration to all cat-lovers. In a world where not much matters other than money, guns, and lies, even the most ardent idealists more often than not labor in vain only to see their hopes and dreams flounder upon the rocky shores of reality. The fact that Clark was able to buck that depressing trend is not only quite an impressive achievement in its own right but something to rejoice in and to celebrate.
Photos: Valdez Star (Ninja with Clark and Carlson and Hawkins), Jason Sakalaskas of the Alaska DOT (avalanche), and Clark (with Ninja).