to save nature's ill, injured
Helen E. McKinney
CARROLLTON, Ky. (November 2002) Like any good mother,
Shad Smith Marsh is often tending to her babies in the middle of the
night. But these are not human babies. Theyre raccoons.
She currently houses 29 exotic animals under the auspices of the Carroll
County Wildlife Recovery Program. Turning her three-car garage into
a heated pet room, she has cared for a hawk, hedgehog, a 36-inch wide
African turtle, an alligator, five iguanas and several skunks. All are
named, including Casper, a white skunk that nobody wanted.
Smith-Marsh with injured bird
Some are blind, some birds are without wings, the hedgehog
had lost his leg and others were discarded like yesterdays mail. But
to Marsh, They all have hearts.
People can buy the weirdest animals, then decide they cant
take care of them, she said.
Thats when Marsh steps in.
She has received calls from people who look to her instead of a veterinarian
when their animals are sick. I can only help, she said,
not perform the medical procedures some of these animals have needed.
Marsh never anticipated or planned to institute a Wildlife Recovery
Program. But her love for animals has led her to establish a foundation
for a necessary program that she hopes will only continue to grow.
Her organization is a tremendous asset to the community; its very
informative and educational, said Robin Caldwell, director of
the Carrollton-Carroll County Tourism and Convention Commission. She
works very hard, all on her own.
Marsh rescued one of her iguanas before it was shot and another from
a fire. She received a call one day from the Eminence, Ky., fire department.
A storage shed had been set on fire, and inside it was a cage with an
With a lot of nurturing, plenty of baby oil and round-the-clock care,
the iguanas near-death condition improved. With the love and attention
she gave it, the iguana has grown to seven feet long. She said her involvement
with exotics progressed from there.
Marsh recently acquired a much-needed building for $300. It had to be
lifted up and moved to her property on Kendall Road, but to Marsh it
was worth every penny she paid for it.
With her number of animals steadily increasing, Marsh needs all of the
extra space she can get. But she is still in dire need of cages, aquariums,
canned goods and cash to assist in the day-to-day operations of her
A fund-raising benefit held at the Kentucky National Guard Armory in
Carrollton in September did not go as well as expected, she said. The
Wild Spirit Benefit Concert featured seven bands volunteering their
entertainment services. But due to the Armorys sewer system being
down, word got out that the benefit was canceled when it actually wasnt.
One of her scheduled performers was Ron Whitehead, an internationally
known poet, author, editor, publisher, organizer, independent scholar
and teacher at Jefferson Community Colleges Carrollton campus.
The two became acquainted when Marsh took one of Whiteheads classes
at JCC. Students really like him, said Susan Carlisle, JCC
campus director. They take one of his classes, then seem to come
back for more.
Which is exactly what Marsh did. She has now taken four of his classes,
including a Native American literature class in which she assisted him
in helping students understand the Native American language.
Marsh, who is Native American, grew up on a reservation in Michigan.
She, along with the rest of the class, wrote a book titled, My
Dream Flying. She won a 9-11 poetry contest and, as a result,
her poem now hangs in an Indianapolis museum.
Cathy Gilbert of Carrollton also enrolled in Whiteheads class,
Creative Writing. Due to this acquaintance, Gilbert offered to help
Marsh with the Wild Spirit benefit two weeks before the actual event
Gilbert and Marsh share the same desire to help animals. Gilbert founded
the Carroll County Humane Society 14 years ago. Although the society
no longer exists, Gilbert now devotes her time to being the coordinator
of the Carroll County Spay-Neuter Project.
I did the promotion and advertising (for the benefit). I also
helped Shad set up and tear down the event, she said.
Even though the event did not raise the necessary money Marsh needs
just to cover the daily upkeep of the program, she refuses to give up.
Were responsible for these animals, she said.
From time to time, Marsh works with the school system to educate children
about exotic animals. She said she hopes to one day have a pet
store that not only sells, but educates also.
Marsh doesnt accept dogs or cats. In order to know how to care
for these exotic animals, she said she reads a book a day.
Occasionally she relies on the help of local veterinarian, Dr. Clyde
Beggs. I believe there is a need for this type of program. She
applies herself and the level of personal interest is there. Shes
a legitimate, caring person, Beggs said.
Beggs even has one of her rescued animals in his office, a cockatiel
named Bill Bad Bird. Marsh gave him the bird after he had taken his
children to visit her animals. It resides in his office, having become
his clinic mascot.
Shad has a very big heart for injured and abandoned wildlife animals,
said Gilbert. She has a natural ability to help them recover.
For more information, contact Marsh at (502) 732-9551.
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