WILSON — Catherine Titus won’t be forgotten by those who have crossed her path.
Years from now — perhaps even decades — they will speak of her unforgettable story of self-sacrifice and eccentric ways. Storytellers will recall how this 77-year-old lady once lived in a rusted and gutted van on a lonely hilltop in the country, spending her meager income on the care of about 110 stray or abandoned dogs. She likely will be recalled in one of two ways: animal activist heroine or crazy woman who lived with dozens of dogs. The reality may lie somewhere in between. "Catherine is not crazy,” said Karin Morrison, who has operated the Compassion Seeds Animal Sanctuary in nearby Healdton for the past 20 years. "I get angry when I hear someone call her crazy. She’s actually quite intelligent. She didn’t ask for all of this. But people have continuously dumped these animals off in the country where she lives, knowing she won’t turn them away. "What has she sacrificed? Her life. She has given her life for these dogs.”
No heat, water in vanTitus lives with no heat or running water inside a battered white van with two broken windows and a sliding side door that doesn’t shut. The van itself appears to have grown from the hill where it now rests; its bald and flattened tires partially choked by hard, caliche dirt. At night, she sleeps in a folding chair among her dogs inside the van with a ragged string of Christmas lights as her only source of light. From those dim lights she sometimes writes poetry about the dogs she has buried in the pasture where she resides. Amazingly, Titus has lived this way for seven years since moving to Oklahoma from Fort Worth, Texas. Virtually all of her $700 Social Security check goes toward the rent of the property, food for her adopted canines and storage for the food. Her monthly feed bill ranges between $700 and $800, and Titus said it’s only through the generosity of a local feed store that she is allowed to pay that bill in smaller portions. As for herself, she survives mainly off cold sandwiches.