The power of love: How a courageous woman and her loyal dog built a new life after tragedy

Kathi pulled up to her neighborhood dog park in Greeley last year to let her beloved border collie Rider run freely. It was one of their favorite activities and one they’d enjoyed hundreds of times before.

But this afternoon’s trip was anything but enjoyable. Within minutes, a woman came into the dog park and grabbed the border collie. After a fight to save her best friend, Kathi got her dog back in her arms but, before she knew what was happening, the woman and an accomplice drove off in Kathi’s car, which was filled with her purse and many personal belongings. It was a moment of terror – and the last straw after a series of devastating losses.

Since 2020, Kathi had experienced more grief and loss than most people do in their entire lives. Within two years, she had lost both of her parents, her sister, brother and one of her nephews. In deep depression, paired with a lack of a support system, Kathi struggled to get out of bed many days. Her job as a senior care coordinator was on-call, but not consistent.

When Kathi’s car and purse were stolen, she hit rock bottom. She had very little to her name and she was soon evicted from her home. Her boss gave Kathi a place to stay until they found out about Samaritan House Fort Collins. Within days, Kathi had a warm bed, nutritious food, storage space and a community of supporters to help her get on her feet. A local couple offered to foster Rider and, while it was terribly hard to let him go, she knew it was best for him, and for her, so she could focus on herself and what she needed to do to heal.

The first few weeks at Samaritan House were tough. She struggled with a deep depression and undealt with grief. She doesn’t recall much from those weeks, but she does remember encounters with her case worker Britney, who helped her see that life was worth living. They talked through Kathi’s sadness and connected her to resources needed to replenish her personal belongings, including her state identification card.

“Every week we’d have goals for me to work on. At first, they were small, like making my bed each morning. Then we’d find ways to piece some of the missing parts together. I’d check them off and was so proud of myself,” said Kathi.

Kathi lived in the Fort Collins area as a young teen and knew the area well. One day when she was out on the patio at Samaritan House, she saw the bus she used to ride. Like a bird learning to flap its wings again, she walked to the bus stop and rode to the rehousing organization, the Murphy Center, that her caseworker had mentioned. It was the first time in a long time where she felt capable of doing anything she wanted to. Over the next few weeks, she would spend hours there, filling out paperwork, advocating for herself. Every time she’d come back to the shelter, she felt a deep gratitude for Samaritan House Fort Collins, a reliable place that was there at the end of her bus route.

In January, Kathi received an eagerly anticipated call from the housing navigator. She was awarded housing a few blocks away and would be able to move in the following week. She received her keys and Samaritan House Fort Collins helped to furnish her new space with donations. Best of all, Kathi was reunited with her beloved Rider. She was nervous about picking him up from the couple who fostered him. They lived on a big ranch, and she worried he’d forgotten all about her. On the contrary, Rider yelped with joy upon her arrival and hugged his owner tightly.

Happily, the two now live near Old Town Fort Collins in a one-bedroom apartment with a dog-run outside. Kathi still works with the elderly as a senior care coordinator. Her boss helped relocate her duties to Fort Collins and it is now a job she thoroughly enjoys and is passionate about. She recently invited her old bunkmates from Samaritan House over for dinner and regularly talks to a therapist.

“I tell everyone, advocate for yourself first. Look for what’s out there. There is so much more than you think,” shared Kathi.

Posted in