When Kimberly Kotar isn’t running marathons, she’s running from cage to cage at the Montreal SPCA where she has been volunteering for the past 7 years. She is a self-proclaimed “jack of all trades” for the organization having done it all from adoption counseling and fostering to cleaning kennels, assisting vets and administering medication. All of that, in addition to her day job in Respiratory Research at the McGill University Health Center.
It’s an active schedule for someone who almost 4 years ago, was told she would be living in a wheelchair. One day, while using the photocopier at work, Kotar was suddenly struck
with paralysis in both legs. She was just shy of her 37th birthday and had been training for the Ottawa marathon. She was eventually diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis – a disease which affects the spinal cord and in most cases, causes long term disabilities. It was an uphill battle. Today, Kotar faces a daily challenge to remain healthy and active. And it’s working. She ran the Boston Marathon last May. She will also be spearheading the Canadian chapter of the non-profit Transverse Myeltis Association.
Beating the odds is a fundamental theme not just for Kotar, but for the abandoned animals she loves so dearly. Many of them already at an immediate disadvantage whether it be because of old age or health reasons or breed discrimination. Last October, in the wake of several puppy mill seizures in Quebec, Kotar stepped up her game and her passion kicked into overdrive. Now UAN, DART and pet CPR certified (United Animal Nation and Disaster Animal Response Team deploy members to assist animals after natural and man-made disasters), she is easily one of the most well-respected and qualified volunteers on the roster.
Here now, a Q and A with SPCA volunteer Kimberley Kotar:
What do you do at the SPCA?
I started out as an adoption counsellor and then got involved in puppy mill seizures. I have done everything from adoption counsellor to fostering to being a runner for the vets when we get the puppy milll dogs. I feed, I clean cages, I socialize dogs, I give meds. I also volunteer at a pure breed cat shelter called Chatopia (Animal Adoption Montreal) and I help Rosie’s (Rosie Animal Adoption) with their fundraising.
I have been affected by a couple of dogs, but mainly one that I really wanted to adopt. Her name is Lola (pictured at right) and right now her whereabouts are unknown. That is upsetting to me. (note: Lola was allegedly stolen by the person who fostered her. The case is before the courts at this time.)
Do you keep tabs on dogs that are adopted?
I try to keep tabs on the dogs that get adopted (and the cats). I like it when I have a friend that adopts one because then I get visitation rights! But very often at the cat shelter where I also volunteer we get updates and that makes me really happy.
What do you love most/least about volunteering?
What I love the most is seeing the difference in the animals after a couple of weeks in our care. I see them start to trust and to heal from their experiences. Unfortunately, some never do. After my diagnosis, I thought there was the possibility that I would never walk again. I worked very hard at the gym and in physio to be able to walk. Animal rescue means a lot more to me since my diagnosis, because I am lucky enough just to be able to do it. There was a time when I could do nothing. I am lucky enough to be able to give back for the all the blessings I have received. The thing that I like the least about volunteering is that I see a horrific side to mankind that I cannot believe exists. But I know it does because I have witnessed it with my own eyes.
Why should people adopt?
People should adopt first and foremost only if they are ready. A pet is all about that unconditional love and they really add to the quality of our lives…at least I think they do. People should chose the SPCA because they would be giving an animal a second chance at a forever home.
Do you have your own pets?
I have 4 cats of my own. I would love a dog but I spend too much time rescuing other dogs and would not be home enough for one of my own. When I retire, I will get a dog.
Finish this sentence: In a perfect world….
In a perfect world, the SPCA would not need my expertise in animal rescue and recovery because every animal would be cared for properly and humanely.
One last word?
I hope this gives you the sense of why I give back and love what I do. Life is so much sweeter after coming through darkness.
(One gets the feeling the animals she helps would say the same thing.)