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This Is New York: Anne-Marie Karash, Caring for the Neediest Animals

By Amelia Pang
Epoch Times Staff
Created: November 12, 2012 Last Updated: November 14, 2012
Related articles: United States » New York City
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Anne-Marie Karash, the associate director of the no-kill shelter at the Humane Society of New York, speaks about the adoption center as she holds Leonardo on Nov.8. (AMAL CHEN/THE EPOCH TIMES)

Anne-Marie Karash, the associate director of the no-kill shelter at the Humane Society of New York, speaks about the adoption center as she holds Leonardo on Nov.8. (AMAL CHEN/THE EPOCH TIMES)

NEW YORK—The elevator door opened to a metal gate, which was bombarded by a horde of yelping dogs. Anne-Marie Karash carefully waded through to open it as she chatted to the animals, “Why, hello my silly children.”

It was a typical morning for Karash, the associate director of the Humane Society of New York (HSNY), a nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter.

“Every morning, we let them all out to run around and play. It’s all fun, but when they see me, they start competing for attention, and it all turns into bedlam,” Karash said.

The hours at HSNY are long, and the pay may seem limited when compared to her old career as a stand-up comedian, but Karash finds simple happiness amid the disarray.

“My philosophy on life is that you should find the laughs where you can, for the tears will surely find you,” she said. And HSNY provides its fair share of funny stories.

My philosophy on life is that you should find the laughs where you can, for the tears will surely find you.

Many of the animals at HSNY are the neediest ones from regular shelters, the ones who are most at risk of being euthanized. The shelter provides a temporary home for over 200 animals, such as Kingston, the anti-social Maltese who scorns other dogs, and Drex, the gargantuan, obese cat.

Recently, Kingston and Drex were caught napping together. The dog slept leaning on the cat as if it were a cushy pillow.

“It’s so funny. This dog—that can’t even be walked because it hates other dogs—likes this cat,” Karash said. “I want them to go together as a pair.”

Anne-Marie Karash, the associate director of the no-kill shelter at the Humane Society of New York, speaks about the adoption center as she holds Tulip, an emaciated boxer, on Nov.8. (AMAL CHEN/THE EPOCH TIMES)

Anne-Marie Karash, the associate director of the no-kill shelter at the Humane Society of New York, speaks about the adoption center as she holds Tulip, an emaciated boxer, on Nov.8. (AMAL CHEN/THE EPOCH TIMES)

It’s a funny story, but a far cry from the humor and fame that Karash enjoyed in her previous career. Karash had been a professional stand-up comedian for 11 years before she began working for HSNY.

A Jewish girl raised in Memphis, Tenn., Karash learned to laugh at the absurdities in life and developed a talent for finding humor in troubling situations.

She has been on Lifetime’s “Girls’ Night Out” and worked with famed actor and comedian Alan King.

One evening over a decade ago, Karash went on stage to perform a gig in front of a large but intoxicated crowd. She scanned the audience as she made her jokes, but only saw empty faces and a woman attempting to walk without realizing that one of her heels was missing.

“They paid a lot of money, but by the time I got there, the crowd was already smashed,” she said. “I just thought to myself, ‘What am I doing?’ It all felt so hollow.” Karash decided to work full-time for the shelter after that evening.

At that time, Karash had already been volunteering at the HSNY for five years. She fed the animals and cleaned their poop, but for some reason, spending time at the shelter provided a kind of fulfillment and mirth that she could not find at a job that paid to make other people laugh.

“In such a complicated world, you can still provide the simplest of pleasures to these animals,” she said. “It takes so little to make them happy.”

Karash feels that altruism provides a higher level of happiness. “It’s not about me wanting to prove something anymore. My whole focus has changed for the better,” she said.

The shelter takes care of many abused animals: a dog that was starved to half its normal body weight, another with an ear infection from being kicked in the head, and many more. Karash feels that the animals’ resilience and ability to forgive are lessons that human beings can learn from.

A few years ago, the shelter took in a cat with a missing paw. Karash thought the paw must have been lost though a freak accident, but upon examination, she realized that it was a clear cut. Someone had cut the cat’s paw off on purpose.

“But this cat is not mad at people, which I certainly would be if I were her. She doesn’t hold a grudge. She isn’t afraid of people,” Karash said. “It’s just such an amazing spirit that these animals have.”

HSNY also has a hospital that sees 36,000 animals a year for low prices. The hospital overlooks thousands of dollars in payments each year for people who cannot afford full-priced veterinary care. “We provide a small-town type of care in New York City. We work out payment plans. People should be able to afford to continue to take care of their animals.”

HSNY has seen many neglected animals, but throughout Karash’s 11 years as the associate director, she has never seen an animal as emaciated as Tulip, a dog that was found on the streets in the Bronx during Hurricane Sandy.

The skeletal dog weighed 32 pounds when she arrived at HSNY; her normal weight is supposed to be 65 pounds. It was not the result of the hurricane, but of prolonged neglect.

She is fed with small amounts of food on a fixed schedule, so that she doesn’t develop problems from overeating. Tulip rests listening to classical music.

“These little faces all have a story,” Karash said. “The shelter is like a [base at a] baseball game; … they’re safe here. I’m happy to be able to be here for them.”

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