Duluth-area woman rescues pets after keepers killed in flight-from-police tragedyIn a Fridley, Minn. in early December, a pit bull named Coco, two cats named Pumpkin and Squeakers, and a ferret named Niko awaited the return of Amanda Thomas and her two children. But the woman and her children never came back.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Single mom Amanda Thomas was driving home with her two children from a Hanukkah celebration just after midnight on Dec. 5 when all three lives suddenly ended at West Broadway Avenue and Second Street North in Minneapolis.
According to the Minnesota State Patrol, Thomas’ 1994 Chevrolet Caprice was T-boned by a car driven by Rufus Victor of Edina, Minn., who was being pursued by a state trooper and ran a red light.
The Caprice was pushed into a third vehicle. Thomas and her son, 12-year-old Andre Mack, died at the scene. Akeron Thomas, 3 months old, died the same day at a hospital.
But a big part of their lives was back home in Fridley, Minn., waiting for them to return: a pit bull named Coco, two cats named Pumpkin and Squeakers, and a ferret named Niko.
The closest surviving relative was Thomas’ mother, who flew from Oregon with the daunting responsibility of planning a triple funeral for her daughter and her grandchildren. Caring for the pets would be another daunting burden.
“She was pretty honest about the fact that she didn’t have a lot of experience with animals … so we wanted to get the animals placed and out of there as soon as possible,” said Jen Wold, founder of Madison, Minn.-based Gemini Rottweiler and Pit Bull Rescue.
Wold knew about the situation because a close friend lives next door to Amanda Thomas. Wold already had placed a litter of puppies birthed by Coco. Although her nonprofit organization focuses on just two breeds of dogs, Wold said she helps any animal that comes across her path. As it turned out, a family friend took the pit bull, leaving the ferret and the two cats.
Enter Kathleen Zweber of Duluth Township, who saw a notice Wold posted on Facebook, the social networking Internet site.
Zweber, 39, trains and raises horses, and has several cats and a pit bull that’s a working therapy dog. She takes in foster animals but didn’t have any at the time. Sensing the urgency of the situation, she drove to Fridley on the evening of Dec. 8, returning that night with two cats and a ferret.
“Kathleen, yeah, she’s an angel in this situation,” Wold said. “She basically e-mailed me and said, ‘I’ve got my vehicle packed with crates and I’m ready to go anytime you want me to.’ ”
Thomas’ mother turned the pets over to Zweber.
“She was very grateful that I was going to take them because she said, ‘You know, I care about them, and I care where they’re going to go,’ ” Zweber related. “I think what she was doing was what was best for the animals, knowing that somebody who had both the knowledge and the desire to open their home was right there and available. And I mean, my gosh, this woman had a triple funeral to plan.”
The cats stayed in their crates for the first couple of days but are eating again and will rub against her legs, Zweber said.
Niko the ferret was 12-year-old Andre’s special pet.
“This is my first ferret,” Zweber said, laughing. “He’s absolutely wonderful. It was obvious that Andre loved him very much and was very kind to him. … I’m still really conscious of the fact that he had this special little boy, and now all of a sudden that child is gone. So I’m letting him get used to me. He crawls onto my hand and lets me pick him up. I’ll hold him on my shoulder, and he kind of snuggles in around my neck.”
Both Wold and Zweber say they’d be happy to restore Coco the pet bull to the group if it doesn’t work out with the family friend. Zweber said she’s willing to keep the pets permanently. She’d also be happy to adopt them out to a good home — but only as a unit.
“I felt strongly that they had been a family,” Zweber said. “They lost their family tragically, and keeping them together would be the greatest kindness that they could have.”
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