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Nancy Cathey

Photo courtesy of Nancy Cathey This van was donated to Cathey's K-9 Rescue.

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Photo courtesy of Nancy Cathey Several pitbull puppies huddle together after being taken in by Cathey's K-9 Rescue.

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Californian columnist Lois Henry

In the world of animal rescue, success can be a double-edged sword.

Take the case of Cathey's K-9 Rescue.

Its puppy surrender program has been a great success.

More than 500 pups have found good homes since April and more than 90 adult dogs have been spayed or neutered in that same time period.

But all that success costs money and Cathey's finances haven't kept up.

That's mostly because the program was set up to pay for spaying the mama dogs only.

"But so many people come in needing vouchers for their male dogs too," Nancy Cathey, owner of Cathey's said.

The program is supposed to work like this:

A person makes an appointment to drop off an unwanted litter (at the Rosedale Petco) and gets a voucher to cover the cost of spaying the mother dog. Cathey's charges $175 per puppy that it adopts out. That money covers the care and medical costs of the puppy (including having it fixed) plus $5 extra, which goes into the voucher pot for the mama dogs.

Adding males wasn't included in the program but Cathey has covered those dogs as well.

"You know the people asking for the vouchers really need it and you know fixing the males means fewer puppies in the future, so it's hard to say no."

The program is working, she said. People are honoring their commitment to get their adult dogs fixed.

Cathey is hoping the result will be fewer unwanted pups born next spring, at least that's the goal.

But for now the rescue's bills are in the stratosphere and it needs donations.

"I hate to ask for money," Cathey said.

The rescue does have fundraisers, mostly bake sales and car washes. And occasionally a restaurant will give it a percentage of sales for a certain time period.

But Cathey is pretty busy running the rescue and caring for a toddler and newborn. So, fundraising takes a back seat.

Cathey, a boilermaker (welder who works in refineries) by trade, took the last nine months off to work at the rescue's adoption days in the Rosedale Petco and have her baby. She's going back to work in January to recoup some of the money she and her husband have laid out for all these animals.

Things haven't been completely grim, however.

Cathey was floored a few weeks ago when a woman she met during the summer came through on a promise to get the rescue a much needed van.

"It was hot and we were unloading dogs at Petco," Cathey recalled. "And a woman came up and said the dogs looked hot. I admit I wasn't very nice. I was crabby and told her something like 'These dogs are 100 percent cared for!'"

Rather than take offense, the woman vowed to get Cathey a van.

"'Yeah right,' I thought. 'Who is this person?'"

She turned out to be a person who was good on her word.

A few weeks ago, courtesy of that woman and her husband, plus donated work by Kool Auto Air & Repair and Archangel Designs, Cathey picked up a fully reconditioned used van covered with the rescue's logo.

"I could have cried," Cathey said.

Besides transporting animals to and from Bakersfield from her Lake Isabella rescue, Cathy has also used the van to take 15 pit bulls to Los Angeles to take advantage of a free spay/neuter event that was put on by SNP Los Angeles.

Cathey and her husband have been at this for more than seven years both here and in Los Angeles.

It was really Cathey's mom who got her started in animal rescue, she said.

After she died, Cathey found herself deflated, depressed and wanting out of the whole dog rescue thing.

Then one day she was in an Albertsons in Long Beach and heard a "click, click, click and jingle of dog tags."

"I looked up and there was this boxer coming right toward. In the frozen food aisle!" she said. "I thought, 'Really?'"

The dog had been lost by a family from San Jose who'd been passing through the area months earlier. Cathey called them and the grateful family drove down the next day.

"I'm a religious person. From that point on, I gave up and said 'OK, I'm not going to deny it anymore. This is my calling.'"

That may be true, but it still takes money to fund that calling. And now she's calling on us for a little help.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry, not The Bakersfield Californian. Her column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at http://www.bakersfield.com, call her at 395-7373 or e-mail lhenry@bakersfield.com