Zoe’s Happily-Furever-Afters: Kristy May and the Menagerie

By: Shasanna Browne


Kristy May

Kristy May is a dog person. And a cat person. An animal person, really; this is immediately apparent as I approach her front door.

She greets me warmly, deftly managing the small herd of animals who amble over to investigate, some with cautious curiosity and others with exuberant delight. There are a lot of cats and dogs here, in this clean and well-lit space. There are framed photos of beloved pets and little clay paw-print molds adorning the walls. This is a home that resonates with love and open-heartedness, and—as I’m about to learn—countless memories of beloved pets loved and lost. This is a home where animals who have nowhere else to go find a place to belong.

Many of us want to help animals in need. We do what we can, when we can. Kristy has found a way to weave that desire to help into the very fabric of her life. She walks dogs for a living. She fosters. She rescues. She has opened her life to a multitude of animals and offered them something the world never has before: forever homes.

I spend a few moments meeting the animals and getting my face washed by Molly, who was Kristy’s first dog and holds a special place in her heart. Molly isn’t a Zoe’s rescue dog, but for Kristy she represents that first magical connection between human and canine companions. We head outside to the sprawling front lawn to take pictures of Kristy with her Zoe’s rescue animals first. There are five in total—two cats and three dogs. It’s comical trying to get all five animals to look at the camera for a split second so I can take a half-decent group shot.

There’s Vinnie, an American Staffordshire Terrier; his coat is riddled with scars and he watches me with a careful gaze. He is gentle when I approach and lets me stroke his head. Kristy explains that she went out in a snowstorm to pick him up after he was found dumped on a farm in February 2014. Kristy managed to coax Vinnie over to her by tossing him the leftover spaghetti and meatballs that were in her car; she was able to slip a lead over his head with relative ease despite his nervousness. Vinnie and Kristy’s lives became inextricably linked from that moment on.

Vinnie was initially placed under the care of Parkland Animal Control, but wouldn’t allow anyone to touch him. On the third day following his rescue, Kristy brought cheeseburgers for Vinnie and was the only person able to get near him.

Vinnie subsequently stayed at a kennel for a couple of months, but did poorly there due to his aggression and anxiety issues. After a veterinary visit, it was determined that Vinnie had torn both cranial cruciate ligaments (CCL for short; these are knee ligaments that are essential for stability), which would require surgery. Vinnie underwent the operations (both knees were repaired simultaneously) and was placed in a foster home; unfortunately, this arrangement did not work out due to Vinnie’s separation anxiety. Kristy took Vinnie in as a foster and that temporary arrangement solidified their friendship; he is now a permanent member of her family and his anxious behaviors have decreased significantly under her care.

Dozer, a Shepherd mix, was brought in to Zoe’s Animal Rescue with two of his littermates. He was adopted out, but returned to Zoe’s due to a biting incident. Dozer also presented with fearfulness and anxiety, which sometimes manifested as aggression. He was placed in the kennel where Kristy was working at the time. When one of her foster dogs found a home, she decided to take Dozer home with her and he has been residing there happily ever since.

Izzy, also a Shepherd mix, was found with a deformed leg. He was an extremely rambunctious, playful puppy, who soon became overwhelming for his foster parent’s two small Shih Tzus. Kristy took him home as a foster and soon found herself too attached to give him up. She made his place in her life a permanent one.

At this point in the interview, I pause to laugh and marvel at the theme rapidly emerging through these stories. Kristy seems to have a knack for connecting with dogs who have spent their lives being unwanted, who are “too much trouble”, who may have been doomed to bouncing from foster home to recanted adoption forever without her.

We talk about Butter and LC, two cats that were littermates, and who she affectionately refers to as her “tuxedo twins”. She describes them as “the best cats in the world”, explaining that when she fosters kittens LC and Butter will often assume roles as their caretakers. She leaps up from her chair to proudly show me a photo of their litter. Butter and LC’s mother was a feral cat; they were rescued from an industrial area. Kristy was quick to claim the two runts, who required constant help in the form of bottle-feedings and manual expression of their bowels and bladders. Two years later, those kittens have grown into large, beautiful cats with distinct personalities and an obvious bond with their owner. Laughing and tossing a mock-baleful glance, Kristy explains that LC is the reason she always has to check her dryer. Apparently, the cat has a propensity for sneaking into it while clothes are being loaded.

These rescue stories have culminated in the creation of a dynamic household, where Kristy has to navigate the politics of animals with diverse and sometimes conflicting personalities. Even so, Kristy loves being surrounded by the companionship of animals and has spent her life befriending them.

Kristy describes herself as “the girl who would take out animal books on Library Day”, and confesses that as a child she would often go to her friends’ houses and spend the entire time playing with their pets. When I ask her to recount her favourite Zoe’s memory, she smiles as she thinks about how Vinnie chose her as his person from the first moment that they met.

Kristy’s piece of advice to prospective adopters is one I can wholeheartedly endorse:

“Ask yourself if you can make the commitment and remember that it’s not always the easiest thing at first…but if you push through it and work hard, it’s worth it. Be sure. The animals have been through enough and when they go to their forever home, it should stay a forever home.”