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Deer Lake woman found her way back to animal rescue while battling cancer

Tayna Wight of Deer Lake Kitty Rescue, was involved in the rescue of over 40 cats from Little Bay Islands last Christmas, including Little Bae, a kitten that eventually found a home in Labrador.
Tayna Wight of Deer Lake Kitty Rescue, was involved in the rescue of over 40 cats from Little Bay Islands last Christmas, including Little Bae, a kitten that eventually found a home in Labrador.
DEER LAKE, N.L. —

Tanya Wight got her start in animal rescue as a child growing up in Rocky Harbour.

“I was the kid who brought everything home to mom; birds, and rabbits, missing kittens, whatever,” said the founder and chair of Deer Lake Kitty Rescue.

While attending university in Ontario, Wight got involved with the SPCA and helped with a program that brought animals to people with Alzheimer’s.

But after she moved to Deer Lake 20 years ago life got super busy.

“And I kind of fell away from it.”

She still had cats of her own, but that was it. Until 2014 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“And my whole life as I knew it came to a complete halt.”

With a year of treatment ahead of her Wight found going from being extremely busy to having everything stop difficult to manage mentally.

“I needed something. I’m not a homebody. I need to be out and on the go and connected with people. I need to feel productive.”

But she was limited in what she could do.


“And then the good Lord just kept sending cats to me.”


Then three or four months into her treatment a cat showed up in her backyard with a collar grown into his neck.

“And I just felt a calling. I just couldn’t ignore him.”

It took a while to gain the cat she named Leduke’s trust, but she did and was able to trap him. Then she and her husband, Tom Healey, worked with him and eventually found him a home.

A few months later she got a call about some kittens in a wood pile. One of them, Momma Puss, was to be rehabbed and rehomed but never left and became her constant companion during her treatment.

“And then the good Lord just kept sending cats to me.”

In August 2015, along with a few friends, her rescue officially became known as Deer Lake Kitty Rescue.

The rescue doesn’t have a shelter and instead houses the cats it helps in a room in Wight’s basement or in foster homes.

The primary role of the group is to support those animals that have no place to go or are in need of support in order to be adoptable. Wight is a firm believer that they all deserve a chance at a good life.

Many cats are adopted out and a few are returned to feral communities that the rescue looks after, including one at the town’s old landfill site. Over the past five years the rescue has helped over 400 cats.

Wight believes cats have a lot to give and she likes the challenge of working with them, especially the ones that are broken and have lost trust in humans.

Wight said the rescue is small but what the members do seems to function. That’s not to say she wouldn’t like to do more.

“I do have a dream.”

That is to have an animal sanctuary, a place for animals who seem to have no other place to go regardless of their age, health, or temperament.

There are a lot of cats that need help and Wight said it’s a problem that was created by humans.

“And I do think we need to be part of that solution, too.”

Along with the sanctuary, she’d like to create a network across the province so every animal in every community has the capacity to be supported and that the infrastructure is there to do it.

When not rescuing cats, Wight is an instructor in the early childhood education program at the College of the North Atlantic in Corner Brook.

After a few years of working in community-based organizations and childcare centres she started teaching 15 years ago. She doesn’t miss the hectic schedule of childcare but does often miss the children.

“Children bring me joy.”

A lot like the cats in her life.

Wight recently participated in a question-and-answer session with SaltWire Network:

Q. What is your full name?

Tanya Wight.

Q. Where and when were you born?

Norris Point, NL December 1973.

Q. Where do you live today?

Deer Lake.

Q. What’s your favourite place in the world?

I have two. I love the beach and I love the mountains. Not in any particular locale, but the beach and the mountains. Secluded beach, secluded mountains. You give me either or and I’m in my bliss.

Q. What’s been your favourite year and why?

That would have to be 1999 when my daughter was born. The most precious gift that I’ve ever been gifted in my life.

Q. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

Battle cancer. Even more so than the treatment itself it was overcoming that fear of cancer. But I’ve made it. I’m seven years cancer free.

Q. What’s your greatest indulgence?

Dark chocolate and red wine. If somebody said you had to choose one over the other, I don’t know that I could. In moderation it is a solitude for the soul.

Q. If you didn’t take this career path, what would have chosen?

I should have been a vet. If I had a total redo I think maybe that might be the career path that I would have chosen.


 Diane Crocker reports on west coast news.

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