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Pet lover fights for life after 40-foot tree fall

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POSTED June 5, 2012 1:22 a.m.

LATHROP – A dedicated pet enthusiast and well-known member of the Lathrop community is fighting for her life.

Karen Duke – the president of Happy Pet Owners – fell 40 feet from a tree Friday afternoon while attempting to rescue a stranded cat. According to witness reports, a dead branch broke off and the 70-year-old and the feline fell through the branches before hitting the ground.

Bystanders rushed to her side to administer aid and call for emergency help.

She was flown to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento by helicopter with cracked vertebrae, a cracked pelvis, a broken femur, a punctured lung and a ruptured spleen. The majority of the weekend was spent on life support and according to friend Melanie Parker. Duke has already undergone her first successful surgery to repair the bleeding from the punctured lung.

Parker is co-operator of the non-profit animal rescue service Melanie Parker,

“She got called out there and like always she didn’t even think of herself and scrambled up the tree,” Parker said, holding back tears. “They said that the branches broke her fall somewhat, and the fire department said that she was lucky that she didn’t hit her head because she would be dead right now.

“She’s in critical condition, and we’re asking for prayers from people in Lathrop and Manteca that know her. She’s either known as the Avon lady or the cat lady and people either love her or they hate her, but there’s a lot more love there – that’s for sure.”

The organization – which aims to help people that can’t spay and neuter their cats and works to turn feral cats into common house pets – is something, Parker said, that people in the area have come to know thanks to Duke’s activism within the community.

Knowing that somebody so close to her is in critical condition because she doing what it is that she’s known to do, she said, brings mixed feelings.

Duke was like a mentor, she said, and the emotions right now are running high.

“She does a lot for people and we’re asking the whole community to keep praying for her – she has a long road to recovery,” an emotional Parker said. “She’s my mentor, she’s my strength, she’s my best friend – she’s everything to me.

“I’m just trying to follow in the footsteps of somebody much greater than me.”

Those wishing to find out how they can help with Happy Pet Owners in Duke’s absence can contact parker at (209) 239-8536. A fund is being established to help the family with any hospital bills associated with her care.

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