A recent book about the Valencia County Animal Shelter is getting recognition, both regionally and nationally.
Written by former teacher and Albuquerque resident, Kate Kuligowski, “Let’s Git Outta Here,” was recently named a 2018 winner in the 15th annual Best Book Awards, sponsored by American Book Fest, in the Animals/Pets: Narrative Non-Fiction category.
Kuligowski said she wrote the book because she really wanted to catch the attention of large corporations, such as Facebook.
“Patty (Mugan, the shelter’s rescue transport coordinator) used Facebook to turn around VCAS,” Kuligowski said. “She wouldn’t have been able to do that without Marcy Britton.
“Judy Babcock (of Quixote Humane in Bosque Farms) couldn’t have done what she did without Marcy, and (former shelter director) Erik Tanner wouldn’t have been able to do what he did without all of them.”
Kuligowski’s latest book is dedicated to Mugan and Tanner, as well as animal activist Britton and former rescue operator Babcock.
“All four of those people and all of the rescue groups that work with the shelter are heroes. People need to see what goes on there and how hard these people with their own money, resources and time. They are what myths are made of,” she said.
Kuligowski said if someone from Facebook, or a large similar corporation read the book, then maybe their heart would be moved to make a difference at VCAS.
“If they had someone who could annually pay for a vet, it would make such a difference,” she said. “Sometimes, they have 100 intakes a day. If they had a vet, they could spay and neuter animals. There wouldn’t be dogs and cats lying in cages with broken legs, waiting for a rescue group.”
The writer said a strong spay and neuter program is the only long-term answer to the county’s high population of unwanted pets.
A lover of animals since a child, Kuligowski said animals are put on Earth to make us better people.
Growing up in Clovis, she would visit her aunt and uncle in Belen and be heartbroken by what she saw.
“It was terrible how people treated animals in Belen. I would cry all the way back (to Clovis,)” she said. “My family always rescued animals. We had as many as 40 dogs in Clovis. My family always, always respected life. It was ingrained in us … the most important gift God has given us is to respect life.”
After graduating from college and getting married, Kuligowski moved to Albuquerque. Eventually, she heard about the county animal shelter, which had made national news decades ago and dubbed “Killer City,” she said.
“I would go down there and my husband would have to drive back; I’d cry all the way,” Kuligowski said. “It didn’t seem to bother the residents or county commission. They were so lucky to have those four people who tried to pull them out of that awful mess. It has improved so much.”
She said, “Let’s Git Outta Here,” was a sad book to write but the right thing to do.
“It’s about time Valencia County residents were forced to examine their policies. They need some laws changed, need to know where funding goes and change their prevailing inhumane attitudes,” Kuligowski said. “All life should be precious. I’m not saying you have to like cats or dogs, but you always have to respect life or you can’t respect yourself.”
Her book is a top three finalist in this year’s New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, and the winner will be announced on Feb. 10, during the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.
The book was also designated a 2018 five-star read by Readers’ Favorite and received a publishing prize from AtriTeX Technologies.
A graduate of University of New Mexico, Kuligowski served for 10 years as education director for Animal Humane Association New Mexico and Watermelon Mountain Ranch No Kill Shelter.
A former teacher, Kuligowski is still a visiting teacher at Eldorado High School, speaking on animal humane and wildlife conservation issues.
Her first book, “Our Most Treasured Tails, Sixty Years of Pet Rescue,” was awarded the Maxwell Medallion by Dog Writers’ Association of America for 2014 Best Book in its category. It was also a Best Books USA finalist, and four-category finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona 2014 Book Awards and received a five-star read from Readers’ Favorite.
During a 2015 New Mexico Legislature ceremony, Kuligowski and her husband, Wally, and her family were recognized for their selfless efforts in rescuing New Mexico pets for more than a century.
Another of her books, “Goodbye Bad Guys,” was a finalist for Dog Writers’ Association of America and a finalist for Best Books USA, and was released in August 2016.
All proceeds from “Let’s Git Outta Here” go to the 22 rescue groups mentioned in the book that have given their time, energies and resources to VCAS. Copies can be ordered by email, [email protected].
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.