Ted Koran and his wife, Karen, have been taking in unwanted or neglected animals for the past 25 years. The couple owns The Critter Place in Weeki Wachee,Florida, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to saving animals. The two acre property, which also includes their mobile home, currently cares for 68 animals.
"We started out with one horse," said Koran, 57. "The neighbor kept her on a tether rope, so we bought her from them. Unfortunately, she passed not too long ago."
In a cruel twist of fate, the couple that has saved countless animals over the years is now in need of saving themselves. Life has hit the Korans hard the last few years, and may have delivered the knockout blow this past week.
On July 30th, Karen, 60, was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer. This will mark her second experience with the life-threatening disease, as she had surgery last year to remove her ovaries. At this stage, the cancer has either spread to the lymph nodes or been detected in the abdomen. Possibly both.
"The doctors noticed a little bit had migrated outside of the ovaries the first time," explained Ted. "They thought it was so minut that chemo would get it, but apparently it didn't. Now she's in the early stages of recurrence."
Unfortunately for the Korans, they were't allotted much time to deal with the cancer issue before taking another left hook. The very next day, July 31st, the couple received a foreclosure notice. With no job and a wife battling cancer, Ted fears he's going to lose everything -- his wife, his property and his animals.
"Our slogan is, we're a forever home for throwaway animals. We made a promise to our animals that we would never let them go through what brought them to us, and now we're going to have to break that promise. It hurts a lot."
Ted and Karen purchased their property back in 1994. Before being able to settle on the land, Ted, a construction worker, would spend his weekends borrowing equipment and clearing trees from the area. After six months of land preparations, the couple moved their mobile home there and combined the payments to create a mortgage. They only owned a few animals at the time, so a small fenced section was all that was needed. Since that point, the two have had to add much more to the property including pig pens and horse areas.
Ted was forced to refinance his property back in 2000 after suffering an injury on the job. After being placed on workers compensation and enduring a severe pay cut, he was eventually about to catch up physically as well as financially. Since 2009, though, Ted has been laid off five times and is currently unemployed.
"I apply for everything, it's tough out there. They're going with young guys, and I'm pushing 60."
According to Koran, he and Karen owe about $37,000 on their home. They had been going back and forth with the bank for about a year until they received the foreclosure notice.
"They say get caught up or get out. I've been trying to fill out all the paperwork the banks keep having me do, and redo, but it just seems like I'm always told to cross another 'T' or dot another 'I.'
Koran has turned to social media in search of salvation. He has spent countless hours on Facebook and other sites sending messages to state representatives in an attempt to save his family and his animals. One evening alone he spent six hours attempting to contact individuals with clout.
"I even wrote to the White House," he said, adding that Oprah Winfrey should expect to be hearing from him. "Anybody I thought had a snowballs chance in hell at helping us."
As for Karen, who has two children in their 30's from a previous relationship, the recent misfortunes are just par for the course. As an epileptic she has been unable to work throughout her life, leaving her devoid of health insurance. That's been an extreme burden over the last two years, as she's had to endure the previous cancer surgery as well as an additional surgery for a thyroid issue. Add that to her previous experience with chemotherapy and what she is facing now, and it's a wonder how she's displayed such strength .
Her husband knows what fuels her, though.
"My wife is a fighter. The animals have been very therapeutic, and she says she's going to fight for them. All we can do is knock on wood."
Follow Dennis Bovell on Twitter @dbovell.