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House by house, ‘dog lady’ brings creatures comfort

By LEE HILL KAVANAUGH
The Kansas City Star

Read more: House by house, ‘dog lady’ brings creatures comfort - KansasCity.com

The 1986 Dodge Ram pickup coughs and sputters. It threatens to slide back down the slushy hill, until Kate Quigley finds its sweet spot, shifting it into four-wheel drive.


“All right,” she says as the tires grab. “Let’s go save some dogs.”

Quigley — known widely as “the dog lady” and “Miss Kate” — works six days a week, driving into high-poverty neighborhoods to look for animal abuse and neglect. Knocking on doors, talking to owners, leaving supplies.

By borrowing pets to have them spayed and neutered, she stops the misery of neglect from repeating itself litter after litter.

Inside the truck, a copy of the Serenity Prayer hangs a little cockeyed on the glove compartment, stuck there to remind her: Most of the animals she meets will continue living in squalid conditions. Outdoor dogs, they will never know the softness of a living room rug.

Quigley brings armloads of straw to cover muck and chew toys for dogs to gnaw away their boredom.

“You have to make allowances for what you can and cannot do. At the end of the day, if we can change the life of even one dog, it matters.”

Quigley has worked for both Spay & Neuter Kansas City and No More Homeless Pets KC as the outreach person canvassing neighborhoods. She works with city animal control officers.

Last year she brought in 1,000 pets — 438 cats and 562 dogs — to be spayed and neutered, said Gail Longstaff, president of No More Homeless Pets KC. Quigley gave away 95 doghouses and 14,700 pounds of dog food. She talked to people in 3,030 households.

Some are owners who care but can’t afford a vet, but Quigley also has found ignorance. Some owners, she says, try to save money by using motor oil to kill fleas, or gunpowder against heartworms.

“That will kill a pet,” she says. “But people didn’t know.”

After years of working for other groups, Quigley started her own nonprofit, Chain of Hope, a few weeks ago.

Chain of Hope’s mission, she says, is to break the chain of ignorance for pet owners who neglect their outside dogs, to break the chain of unwanted litters, to literally break chains and padlocks off dogs, encouraging owners instead to use cable tie-outs that won’t embed themselves in a dog’s neck.

“I don’t get it when people tell me that a dog is for protection, but the dog is tied up on a chain at their back gate. How will a chained dog protect them?” she asks.
•••
Quigley is not by herself in this venture. Hardworking volunteers have already switched affiliations from other groups to join her.

“A lot of us will follow her like a puppy. … Kate is my shero,” says Michele Polivka. She and her husband are donating office space in their River Market building.

Quigley is a recently divorced mom to three children, two of whom still live with her, and she owns two dogs herself. She was 16 the first time she rescued a dog.

Now in her mid-40s, she’s slender with brown hair that curls up in a shaggy bob. Before every day’s pet drive, she swipes her lips with a dab of red gloss “because I hate chapped lips,” she says.

Three years ago, she started earning a small paycheck for her efforts. On her first day, she says, one of her daughters told her, Don’t get shot, Mom.
Quigley laughs. She’s never had a close encounter with man or beast. She is respectful to both. “I really know how to read dogs,” she says.

When Quigley sees a dog without food or water, or on a chain wrapped so tightly that the dog can’t move, she knocks on the owner’s door.

“Word gets out what I’m doing and people are glad to see me. I try to help them with bags of free pet food. When I help one pet owner, 10 more will hear about me.”

•••

On this morning, gray skies threaten to spit a few inches of snow, and Quigley is worried that an arctic blast will make animals living outside even more miserable. She has loaded two bales of straw in her truck but wishes she had more.

“Hay works best in cold. Blankets don’t,” she says.

Quigley and her assistant for the day, 27-year-old volunteer Ashlee Folsom, have packed the truck with food bowls, bags of Alpo, Ol’ Roy and Purina, dozens of cans of dog food, a sack of Milk Bones and Greenies, some squeaky toys, four or five lightweight cable tie-outs, a pair of bolt cutters, 25 gallons of water and three doghouses ready to be assembled.

Before daylight slips away, everything will be gone.

“Yes, we love dogs and cats, but … it’s the owners that need education on how to take care of a pet,” Folsom says. “… You’d be surprised to know how many people think that dogs don’t need water in the winter.”

Quigley has packs of friends — canine and human — that she nurtures on these driving trips.

She waves to two stout pit bulls, T-Bone and Snoop, inside an auto yard. Chained, they stand atop a box, barking short retorts, tails wagging like they’re in a windstorm.

“If we have time, I’ll throw them a pig ear later,” she says. These dogs are cared for.

Their owner, Tyrone Tabron, knows Miss Kate well. Reached later by phone, he says he remembers their first encounter.

“She came by here one Sunday, saying I didn’t have any food or water for them and that their doghouse was just all torn up and she had the dog pound with her,” Tabron says.

“I was frustrated. I care for these dogs. I feed them and water them, they’re licensed, but Kate, well … she was straightforward, and told me what I needed to do. And you know what, she was right.”

He pauses and gives a little cough.

“She was firm and she was right.”

Quigley promised she’d bring him a better doghouse, he says, “and she did.”
“Let me tell you, she comes here into Jackson County, in this high-crime area, two or three people have been killed right outside my shop, and Miss Kate cares for these dogs and comes here. … We need people like her.”

•••

Driving through neighborhoods, Quigley scans for a spot of fur curled like a rug, or a blur of movement near a bush. She turns off 39th Street into an alley. She sees a thick chain disappearing under a woodpile.

Quigley calls and whistles until finally a dog peeks out. It looks like a white pit bull, but it’s difficult to tell because its fur is covered in brackish gray mud. With a growl and a few feeble barks, it hoists itself out about a foot, the length that the chain will allow it to move.

Still, it looks stocky. No ribs poke against its skin.

Yet the dog has no food or water. Quigley senses that this dog would bite, so she tosses a treat and climbs into her truck. She needs to knock on the door, talk with the owner.

Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Sometimes owners have medical issues that make it difficult for them to care for their pets. Sometimes Quigley finds them drunk or high.

“This case is definitely neglect, especially in this weather,” she says. No one comes to the door. She calls animal control about the dog. “This one needs to be taken.”

She revs the truck to leave, but then brakes. Across the street, a husky crouches against a house, cowering against the cold.

“I don’t believe it,” she says under her breath.

The dog has a chain on its neck so tightly wrapped around a tree stump that the dog can’t move.

Wet mud and ice cover its paws. A doghouse is close by, but the chain prevents the husky from getting inside, although it keeps arching its back to try.

It doesn’t bark. Doesn’t growl, just gives a tiny groan. Its blue-and-white eyes stare without blinking.

Quigley walks carefully toward the dog, talking softly. Each step she takes sinks deep into muck and feces. Folsom follows, bringing a bowl, food and water. Quigley takes a photo on her cell phone.

This one she’ll report to animal control. Stat.

“There’s no excuse for this,” she says. She knows the owner, whom she has helped before with bags of dog food. But animal control took the owner’s previous dog for neglect and abuse. The owner refused to pay to get the dog out of the shelter, and it was euthanized.

“She must have just gotten a new one,” Quigley says. “I can’t believe it. She can’t take care of one so she gets another one.”

She whispers into the cold air: “I hate people.”

She unwraps the dog’s chain. Puts food in a bowl, pours water. Pats the dog’s broad head.

Its tail wags, a little.

•••

Hours later, as daylight drifts away, Quigley heads back to her office.

The truck’s bed is empty. But Bacca and Chaos and Man-Man and Fluffy and Blackie and T-Bone and Snoop and Sammy and Scrappy and a host of other dogs received bones, food and fresh water. Two dogs are now warm in a shelter because of animal control.

It was a good day, Quigley says.

She looks into a mirror to dab on more gloss and sees that her cheeks and nose are streaked with dog poop. She laughs as she wipes her face and then notices it:

One of the dogs, sometime during the day, pressed one muddy paw on her chest, right over her heart.

A perfect paw print of thanks.
HOW TO HELP
Chain of Hope Kansas City
258 West 3rd Street, First Floor
Kansas City, MO 64105
816-221-8080


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