She Saved Over 600 Dogs
I love dogs, that is no secret. I also really enjoy finding stories of obscure women who also love dogs! This one jumped out at me. Yes, she was eccentric, yes, 25 dogs in a small apartment seems excessive... but this wonderful woman pulled it off. She was also very responsible. I just enjoyed her story and wanted to share it. I hope you enjoy this extraordinary woman’s story as much as I have.
Kate Ward, or Camberley Kate as she was known, was born in Middlesbrough, UK, on June 13, 1895. A very strict and very religious aunt brought her up, as she was orphaned before she reached the age of ten. Because of her aunt’s influence, Kate went into the ministry. Little is known of her life at this time. She worked a few different jobs, and moved to Camberley, a small town in Surry in 1943, where she bought a small cottage.
One day she stumbled upon a little dog who was lame and slated to be euthanized. She took him home, loved him, and nursed him. She said it devastated her when he died years later. After he died, she found more strays and take them in. She says people would often leave them tied to her door, or otherwise left on her doorstep. The police and other authorities brought her strays rather than see them euthanized. Kate took care of them all.
"She feeds them, well, but not too well. There isn’t an overweight one in the bunch,” according to a local veterinarian, Geoffery Kraddock. According to him, “All the dogs were incredibly healthy, and they lived to a ripe old age. She had great humor, great character, and great determination.”
Kate walked them all daily. The physically challenged or older ones ride in her big green cart that has “STRAY DOGS” hand painted on it. A length of string or rope attached others to the card, and a few ran loose beside her. Inside the cart, there was usually some meat for the dogs and a shovel to clean any mess away. She controlled the dogs with the help of a whistle.
Kate was a much photographed celebrity. She only tolerated photos if the photographer gave her a donation for the upkeep of the animals. Kate also made and sold her own photographic postcards and was unfriendly and discouraged those who wanted to steal their own picture. Many generous supporters gave her money to help her with her work and some left bequests. She was scrupulous and used this money exclusively for the upkeep and health of the dogs. The dogs even had their own bank account, administered by 2 trustees. She left money in trust for the few dogs left at her death.
Kate was a diminutive woman with a shock of white hair and always wore a beret. There were disputes, of course, over her work, and she had critics, but most local officials and residents loved Kate and backed her work. The local police especially appreciated her for taking abandoned dogs off the street and caring for them.
Once, when there was a proposal by the council to ban dogs from the precinct in Camberley, Kate took no hostages. She addressed the King directly! The Royal family continued, throughout her lifetime, as her favored route for correspondence. Another time a local schoolteacher said she had seen Kate beat a dog with a stick, Kate wrote directly to the Queen, setting that account straight as it had NEVER happened. When the Queen, Princess Elizabeth, got married, one of her dogs sent Kate a present of a dog lead. She certainly had friends in high places. They featured her in newspapers as far afield as Australia and the USA. Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon and Princess Margaret’s husband even made a film about her!
Once, a reporter asked her why she liked dogs so much and she said that she was getting older, felt lonely sometimes, and quite honestly - she preferred them to most humans.
While that may have been true, even on her small pension, Kate was generous to her neighbors and Camberley residents as well. She donated money to Camberley Baptist Church for new hymnbooks, bought rocking horse toys for disabled children, and donated £100 to a fund for Vietnamese orphans. I think this was one very special lady!
Being responsible, as she aged, she cut down on the number of dogs that she hosted in her home. In 1976, she stated she had 34 dogs, although by 1977 she had cut this down to 19, as she had been told to go easier at 82! She also set up a trust to care for the remaining dogs when she died. Even in death, she would continue to care for her precious dogs. We should note that Kate also had a few cats that she also loved.
Eventually, she suffered a series of strokes. Between those and old age, it forced her to leave her beloved cottage and remaining seven dogs. She provided for their care at a local kennel. She died on August 4th 1979 at Kingsclear residential home. In a statement after her passing, they quoted Geoffrey Craddock in the Camberley News as saying: “Camberley has lost its most celebrated and best known character. She will be greatly missed by those of us who had the rare privilege of knowing her. I shall miss her very much indeed”.
Kate is buried at St. Michael’s Church, in Camberley. Her tombstone reads “Devoted Friend of Animals,” and a likeness of a little dog, curled up at the base, protecting her.