by Nancy Marano
Saying Isa Coleman loves animals is like saying the sun rises in the morning. Animals have filled Isa’s life since she was a child growing up in Kassel, Germany after World War II.
“My father owned twelve German Shepherd Dogs and a Jack Russell terrier. The Jack Russell was the boss of the whole group,” Isa says. “My dad was crazy about animals. Once he picked up a crow with a broken wing. One of the Shepherd’s befriended the crow and carried him around the yard in his mouth.”
Isa married a U.S. airman stationed in Germany. They moved to the United States in 1964. In 1981 they left the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and moved to Farmington, NM.
“At first I was very unhappy in Farmington,” Isa says. Luckily for Farmington’s animals, she stayed. Isa is a “hands on” type person who needs to be doing something for others. While volunteering at the local hospital, she was introduced to Sybil McDaniel, the head of the San Juan Animal League (SJAL). Isa worked officially with the SJAL for several years before becoming an independent dog and cat rescuer.
Picking up injured animals was the most difficult part of the job for Isa.
“One night I received a call from a woman on the Old Kirtland Highway. She said she was next to a dog who’d been hit by a truck. When I came over the hill, I saw a huge, white sheet in the middle of the street. I could see the dog was badly hurt so we put her on the board and got her into my car. I put her on the front seat next to me. Somehow she managed to crawl over next to me, put her head on my lap and sigh. When I got her to the veterinarian, I said, ‘You do not put her down. That’s my dog.’ We’d just lost a dog a month before and I thought we needed another one.”
When it comes to adopting kittens or spaying feral cats, Isa has definite opinions.
“A man wanted to adopt one of my kittens. I told him the kitten had to be neutered in two months but he told me he didn’t want to neuter the cat. I said, ‘You don’t get him then.’ He was angry but I didn’t feel sorry one bit.”
Isa gladly helps any animal, but she quickly learned she didn’t always agree with groups’ rules. “I don’t mind rules. But I believe rules have to be made for the benefit of the animals not the group. An example is spay and neuter. I think spay and neuter should be done before the animal is adopted because people don’t do it later.”
Isa has fostered animals, picked up injured animals, transported animals to Colorado for spay and neuter, adopted out animals, run classes on humane animal care for 5th graders and visited nursing homes with her animals. Of course, she’s kept a few of the animals herself. “I keep ones who won’t do well in another place,” she says.
Her current household has nine cats and three dogs. “I think there is a sign on the house inviting them here.”
The current dogs are a poodle named Susie Q., who was picked up on Blanco Highway. “She was very spooked when we got her. By the time she calmed down, she was our dog.”
One day Isa was driving behind a truck with four Huskies loose in the bed. When Sasha, a Husky/shepherd cross, flew out of the back of the truck Isa took the dog home to stay.
Patty, a Sheltie/Basenji cross just showed up in the back yard. “A woman wanted to adopt her, but Patty just lay on her back and peed on herself. She’s never done that before or since. I don’t think she didn’t wanted to leave.”
She still mourns the recent death of Rosie, a Maltese/poodle cross. Rosie was left in her owner’s yard with a heavy chain around her neck. The neighbor finally took the chain off and Rosie left home. Isa took her. She called the owner who yelled at Isa, “Do whatever you want with the dog but don’t bring her back to me.”
The Coleman cat menagerie includes Alfie, who came to her as a one-day-old and has been there ever since. Maynard, a 20 pound Maine Coon, who was adopted twice but brought back each time because he howled all night. He never does that at Isa’s so everyone thought he was looking for her. Heidi was thrown against a wall when she was three weeks old. She needed special care to survive and Isa couldn’t part with her after that. Luna, Salem and Onyx are the trio of black cats. Emily, Big Boy and Missy round out the group.
Isa loves cats, as is reflected by the number in her household. “She once wrote an article containing pictures for SJAL on raising baby kittens if their mom was lost. It is one of the most requested articles. In addition, Isa has always been willing to help folks take care of tiny kittens by giving encouragement and advice,” says Kristin Langenfeld of SJAL.
In a lifetime of living with animals, Isa has learned many lessons.
“Animals don’t talk back. If I do something good for them, they’re good to me. I feel I’ve rescued an animal who otherwise might have died. If I don’t find the right home, I keep them,” she says. “I cry when I adopt out an animal because by then I’ve lived with them for several months.”
Isa checks up on her adopted animals. Her instincts usually are correct and she believes that 99% of the animals are in good homes.
“I want people to understand that spay and neuter, shots, a leukemia test for cats and heartworm test and medication for dogs are the most important things animals need to start their lives. I think education is vital but it needs to start early in the elementary schools. I also want people to know they should never use a wire as a collar around a dog’s neck. It hurts the animal. I had a dog whose neck was an open sore about two inches wide because there were three wires embedded in his neck,” Isa continues.
It is impossible to imagine Isa without a house full of animals. Her cheerfulness and warmth bubble through the phone line as she describes her animals, their personalities and their quirks. She is a natural mother to the kittens she bottle feeds and keeps in a special incubator.
Isa describes the power animals have over her by saying, “I love animals because they have wonderful souls. The joy of living with an animal is precious. A person can talk to an animal and the companionship is priceless.”
The world needs many more Isa Coleman’s to bring love and hope to the homeless animals among us.
Nancy Marano is an award-winning author who is owned by two cats, Sammy and Rocky, and a Westie named Maggie May.