She’s on a mission to save cats’ lives
By Kathy Chaffin
CHINA GROVE ó When Lorie Kluttz married Eric Corriher in 1988, she asked if it would be OK for her to bring her kitten, Cecily, from her parents’ house.
She promised Eric then that they’d only have one cat. “I told him that’s all I wanted,” Lorie says.
Twenty years later, 30 cats live on their 90-acre farm on Corriher Gravel Road. At one point, they had as many as 45 as a foster home for the Rowan County Humane Society.
“We went on a kitten rescue and when we finished calling ‘Kitty,’ we had 11 kittens,” Lorie recalls.
Her promise to Eric about having only one cat has become quite the family joke. “We were young and moving into his house,” she says, “so it was his decision. Then I found out that you don’t have to ask a man for anything.
“He’s a sucker,” she concludes, laughing.
Though he used to complain about all the cats, Lorie says Eric once ran out in front of a car to save a kitten. “I knew I was married for life then,” she says.
The Corrihers foster animals rescued or taken in by the Humane Society until they’re placed in permanent homes. For Lorie, it all started with an injured kitten named Tigger.
She was 18 when the kitten showed up at the house of her parents, Gail and Johnny Kluttz, on Mount Hope Church Road. Lorie says she noticed the kitten dragging its front left leg and tried for days to catch him.
When she finally succeeded, the kitten’s injured leg was a gruesome sight. It appeared as if someone had cut his leg to the bone and stopped.
“I knew people could be mean,” she says, “but I didn’t know people intentionally did that kind of thing to animals.”
Lorie says her mother told her she couldn’t keep the kitten, that they didn’t have the money to pay for the veterinary care it would need. She suggested calling the Rowan County Humane Society.
Lorie says she found the number in the phone book and called to see if the nonprofit organization could help. “They told me if I would keep the cat, they would pay for his medical expenses.”
Though her mother was expecting the cost to be hundreds of dollars, Lorie says Dr. Joanne Bryla of Kannapolis, who was in China Grove at the time, amputated the kitten’s leg and neutered him for only $40.
“Well, I had $40,” she says, “so I put it in the tip jar setting on her counter … Tigger’s the reason I’m in this mess.”
It’s obvious Lorie loves the mess she’s in.
She’s adopted 10 cats as her own and points to the foster cats gathering around her in the yard, identifying each one by name and sharing information about how she acquired them.
Everywhere you look on the Corriher farm, you’re likely to see cats and kittens of all colors. They’re in the front yard, back yard, side yard, porch and a few even stay inside.
Lorie loves to tell the story of the day a customer of Brenda Neely’s “A Perfect Dress” shop across the road pulled in her driveway in a Jaguar. “Have you ever heard of spay/neuter?” Lorie says the woman asked.
“I just laughed at her hideously because it was just too funny,” she says. “She was like, ‘I’m serious, Ma’am.’
“I was shaking my head saying, ‘Just give me a second.’ It was such a hoot.”
When she finally stopped laughing, Lorie says she explained to the woman that she fostered animals for the Rowan County Humane Society, which promotes spay/neuter and started its own low-cost program six years ago.
“I said, ‘I swear to God all of them that are old enough are spayed and neutered and the rest of them will be,’ ” she recalls. “Of course we both started laughing. I really admired her for stopping at a stranger’s house.
“She was so concerned.”
Lorie says she once asked a lady whose grocery cart was filled with cat food if she had heard about the Humane Society’s spay/neuter program.
The woman had not. “She said, ‘Someone threw all these cats out, and I’m just trying to feed them.’ She was so grateful there was something out there to help her.”
Lorie, who is self-employed as a pilot car operator for oversized-load vehicles, says they haven’t been able to place as many cats since the recession started. Even though the Humane Society charges a $50 adoption fee to cover the cost of spay/neuter, she says they’d be willing to work out a deal for anyone wanting to take in some barn cats.
“We are just so desperate for homes,” she says. “I’m to the point where I am having to turn away animals, and I’ve never had to do that before.”
The Corrihers also occasionally take in dogs. Right now, they have two ó a bulldog mix someone has already claimed and a Pomeranian mix that has to be treated for heartworms before he can be placed.
The most dogs they’ve ever had at a time was seven, she says, and that was when a Labrador retriever walked up with six puppies following behind. “She had on a collar that was imbedded in her neck and had to be surgically removed.”
The Corrihers were able to place the mother and her puppies in good homes.
People who adopt rescue dogs and cats from the Rowan County Humane Society are required to sign a form promising to contact the organization if they’re ever not able to care for them or decide they don’t want them anymore.
Animals that are old enough are spayed and neutered before being adopted out, and the Humane Society will cover the cost of adopted out before they’re old enough.
In their 20 years fostering cats, Lorie says she and Eric have converted some old buildings on their property to use as cat shelters, including an old chicken hatchery.
They’re also planning to use a mobile unit they purchased in Maryland as a cattery.
Though the Humane Society covers the veterinary bills, Lorie and Eric buy the pet food so they can claim a per-pet deduction on their income taxes.
People who foster animals can opt to have the Humane Society buy the pet food and not claim them as deductions.
At age 41, Lorie says she’s not about to stop taking in cats. She and Humane Society President Jane Hartness joke about what they’d do if they won the lottery.
“We’d just fence in the whole place and let the cats and dogs run wild,” Lorie says.
She and Eric have other animals as well, including chickens, cows, goats, ostriches, emu, peacocks and geese.
For information on fostering animals for the Rowan County Humane Society or to find out more about its spay/neuter program, call 704-636-5700, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or log onto humane societyofrowancounty.org.
Donations may be mailed to: Humane Society of Rowan County, P.O. Box 295, Salisbury, NC 28145.