In a small Kentucky town lives a couple with big hearts and a soft spot for the animals that no one else wants.
Paul and Vicki Hopkins have taken in abandoned animals in their community for more than 10 years. They care for 10 dogs and close to 30 cats at their primary residence in Shelbiana as well as at their mountain ranch a few miles away.
“We provide all the food, water, bedding, flea treatments, spay/neuter procedures and emergency medical treatment as best we can,” says Vicki Hopkins. Food and vet bills can add up to hundreds of dollars each month, and with so many animals to take care of, the Hopkins have to prioritize how they spend their limited funds.
“Our primary concern is to keep the animals fed,” Vicki explains. “The second is to get them spayed and neutered, third is flea treatment and fourth is vaccinations. We do try to keep an emergency fund for injuries and new animals.”
New animals show up more frequently these days at the Hopkins’ household. Their daughter, Polly Hopkins, explains that the number of animals in her parents’ care was manageable until word got around town. The couple’s animal-loving reputation meant that more people starting abandoning their unwanted pets near the Hopkins’ house.
Vicki Hopkins says that most of the animals she cares for are discarded pets, though she and her husband do also look after some feral cats who live in an abandoned house on her property.
“Summer is an extreme hardship due to kitten births,” she laments.
She goes on to explain that in her community, many people own hunting dogs, and the dogs can get lost or run away. When Hopkins and her husband find a lost dog, they do everything they can to contact the owners, and if the dog is not tagged, they’ll post photos around town in the hopes that the owner will come forward. But none of the animals the Hopkins have taken in were tattooed or microchipped.
Despite the growing number of four-legged residents at the Hopkins’ house, Vicki is reluctant to bring any of them to the local shelters or ASPCA. Like many shelters across the country, severe overcrowding means that many dogs and cats are euthanized almost immediately, and animals can live in cages for months or even years awaiting adoption in no-kill shelters. Instead, the Hopkins try to find homes for the animals on their own, but, “if not quickly enough, we become too attached and keep them!”
And the couple became very attached to one dog that they rescued in 2005.
Minnie, a mixed breed, has a hip disability. She was the runt of a litter born next door to the Hopkins to one of the stray community dogs who was “just wandering around.” Paul Hopkins took her in when she was just a couple of weeks old and bottle fed the tiny, disabled puppy. The Hopkins nursed Minnie back to health and encouraged her to learn how to walk despite her disability. Vicki says that Minnie became the couple’s first indoor dog, and that she’s a “real attention getter.”
“She loves to travel and always wants the front seat. She also became a weekly visitor to the assisted living facility where our mothers were residents.”
In addition to house-dog Minnie, the Hopkins self-proclaimed “animal kingdom” includes dogs Dewey and Louie who were left when their owners moved away; Syph, whose owner went to jail; Survi, the couple’s first indoor cat, who was rescued from a mother with no maternal instincts and bottle fed; and the most recent addition, an abandoned and neglected dog.
“Just this summer we found a sleek hound left at our farm. She was very afraid and extremely thin.” Vicki explains. “She has regained some confidence, but still prefers to eat alone. And she loves her new name, Lady Diana.”
And when they are not busy caring for the animals they’ve taken in at their home, the couple is always trying to help other stray animals in the area.
“Stray animals are a big problem in our area,” says Vicki. “We always have animal food in our cars to leave at several locations. We do post pictures, info and pleas for possible adoption.”
Both Paul and Vicki are retired and live on a fixed income. With no one else able to take care for all the animals, the couple has not had a vacation together in years, but they put their dogs and cats first.
“Our philosophy is that God made all creatures big and small! Animals depend on the kindness of people to survive. They want only to be loved.”
The couple does not receive any outside support or assistance to care for these animals. They rely on discounted vet services from their local veterinarian and will regularly pick up treatment and food supplies from local flea markets, and use coupons whenever possible.
Polly Hopkins, who lives in France and helps out as much as she can during visits back to Kentucky, has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to aid her parents in caring for these animals, including necessary spaying and neutering. If you’d like to make a donation, please check it out here.
Read more about rescue on Dogster:
About Crystal Gibson: A child-sized Canadian expat in France who is fluent in French and sarcasm. Owned by a neurotic Doxie mix, a Garfield look-alike, and two needy Sphynx cats. An aspiring writer and pet photographer with a love of coffee and distaste for French administration, she can be found as @PinchMom over on Twitter.