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Wildlife Rescuer

Carrollton's Smith-Marsh
expands operation
to save nature's ill, injured

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

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. They’re 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.

Shad Smith

Shad 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 can’t take care of them,” she said.
That’s 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 iguana inside.
With a lot of nurturing, plenty of baby oil and round-the-clock care, the iguana’s 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 nonprofit organization.
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 Armory’s sewer system being down, word got out that the benefit was canceled when it actually wasn’t.
One of her scheduled performers was Ron Whitehead, an internationally
known poet, author, editor, publisher, organizer, independent scholar and teacher at Jefferson Community College’s Carrollton campus.
The two became acquainted when Marsh took one of Whitehead’s 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 Whitehead’s class, Creative Writing. Due to this acquaintance, Gilbert offered to help Marsh with the Wild Spirit benefit two weeks before the actual event took place.
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. “We’re 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 doesn’t 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. She’s 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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