Photographed by Nina Westervelt.
When Kristina Clark's cat Ninja fell ill this winter, the desperate pet-owner would stop at nothing to get him medical attention — even if that meant trudging over avalanche debris and ultimately winding up in jail.
After the veterinarian in her hometown of Copper Center, Alaska refused to treat Ninja without several hundred dollars down payment — money that she didn't have — Kristina reached out to the another vet, 100 miles away in Valdez, who agreed to help without a deposit.
Kristina, along with her friend Donney, then put the sick cat in the car and began to drive. But before they could arrive, the pair was halted by a highway closure; a series of avalanches had made the road impassable and crews were on the scene to move the snow. Naturally, Kristina and Donney parked, wrapped Ninja in a blanket, and started out to finish the rest of the journey on foot.
Kristina and Donney hiked for several miles down the highway, over two avalanche fields. When they encountered workers from the Department of Transportation (DOT) along the way, they were advised to turn around, but with sick Ninja in tow they decided to press on anyways.
"We didn't know we were going to get arrested," says Donney.
Not long after, a DOT helicopter stopped and picked up the two humans and cat, carrying them on a five-minute flight into Valdez. Once on the ground, police charged Kristina and Donney with disorderly conduct, sending them both to jail and Ninja to the local animal shelter.
Kristina used her one phone call to dial the veterinarian, Dr. Kelly Hawkins, who collected Ninja and gave him treatment for what was a life-threatening infection.
"That cat wouldn't have made it much longer," says Hawkins. "I have to commend them for doing something to get their cat help."
Kristina and Donney were released on bond after spending a night in jail — a small price to pay, says the heroic pet owner, to save the life of her cat.
"It was worth it for Ninja."