By Adam Ganucheau/NEMS Daily Journal
Summer Knight has been called many things by people who do not know her. “The Tupelo dog whisperer” is one of the most popular nicknames.
For those who do know her, she is called something a little different: Genuine lover of animals.
“It’s who I am,” Knight said with a shrug. “Some people choose the path they want to take in life. For me, it has always been different because the animals have chosen me.”
The four dogs and nine cats she rescued off the streets share a home in Nettleton with Knight and her husband of nine years, Alex.
“Summer is just great with animals,” Alex Knight said. “She’s found homes for so many animals and she has kept multiple animals from being euthanized.”
Summer Knight, among other things, is one of the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society’s newest board of directors members. On any given day, she can be found at one of Tupelo’s newest attractions for pet owners – the Tupelo Bark Park, located on North Veterans Boulevard behind the Eastwood Softball Complex.
“The Tupelo Bark Park is something that was needed for a long time here,” Knight said. “It allows dogs and dog owners to exercise and socialize with other dogs and dog owners. It’s a great place for everyone.”
Knight grew up in Tupelo, where she saved animals when she was as young as 3 years old when her mother tried to give away Cocker Spaniel puppies.
“I pulled them away from people so they take them,” Knight recalled with a grin. “It’s just in my blood to save animals.”
Her animal background goes much deeper than just saving a few animals. She began her animal career at PetSmart in 2000 as a bather in the grooming department. She was sent to grooming school Nash Academy in New Orleans as an instructor. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home, she moved back to Tupelo and again worked at PetSmart until a shoulder injury forced her to resign in 2007.
She started working part-time at Baldwyn Veterinarian Clinic as a groomer and veterinary technician for four years. In 2011, the same nagging shoulder injury caused her to retire from pet grooming.
“My shoulder injury really has slowed me down a little bit in helping animals,” Knight said. “It hasn’t crushed my spirits though.”
It certainly has not crushed her desire to make the Tupelo area better for animals, either. She raised the funds for the Bark Park through benefit meals and raffles. She organized and emceed the 2012 Barktoberfest at the park, and continues to work closely with the Tupelo Parks and Recreation department to raise additional funds for animals.
“I am definitely not the kind of person who likes to talk about myself,” she said. “I do everything for the animals, not me. That’s what I hope everyone understands about me. I truly care about the animals.”
Knight began work with the TLHS in late January, and is excited about the opportunity.
“Over the many years of dealing with animals in the area, I have some knowledge about some things that might be a little new to the (TLHS Board of Directors),” Knight said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity to make this community a better place for animals and animal owners alike.”
While she starts serving on the TLHS board, Knight will continue to work on her next project, the Mardi Gras Dog Parade at the Bark Park. The parade is just one of many things that Knight’s legacy will be left on in Tupelo.
“I will be doing stuff like this for a long time,” she said. “If something gets in the way of that, I will find a way to get it done – just like I have my entire life.”