Valley woman helping injured animals get back on their feet

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A fox, a porcupine, and a possum walk into a rehab center. Sounds like a joke but their ability to walk out is the real story.

A volunteer at a local animal rehab center is helping save lives using a specialized form of treatment.

When Kristin Groth found an injured possum in her northeast Fresno backyard last Spring she did not think it had any chance of survival. The possum was part of a group she saw earlier that day in her backyard. She got home from work later that day to find her caught in a rat trap.

"I thought how horrible I didn't know what to do," said Groth.

Carla Montagno is a volunteer with the Fresno Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

"When this possum came in, they knew I was the person they should call," said Montagno.

Montagno specializes in a form of treatment called The Trager Approach which was developed in the 20's. She underwent training in order to help her disabled son.

"They told me he would never walk, within 6 months of leaving rehab he was hiking three to five miles in Yellowstone," said Montagno.

Montagno applied that same treatment on the possum Groth found and had the same success.

"Makes me cry," Groth said after she saw that possum on her four feet for the first time.

This form of therapy uses small and careful movements as a way to trigger reflexes and re-establish brain and body movement.

In this case, Montagno was able to help this little one, who she has nicknamed Angelina Jolie.

"You don't get all of them, it's not like a miracle but its pretty exciting when it happens and for them, it's life or death," said Montagno.

She is one of the few in the valley who has undergone training for this form of therapy and through the years has been able to help plenty of other animals, including a fox and a porcupine.

She is hoping to inspire others to learn the same form of treatment to help save more lives.

"My attitude is... we don't know let's just try it and see what happens," said Montagno.

Montagno says she gave the possum the name Angelina Jolie because she was tough and a fighter. It took her a couple of months, but she was able to get well enough to have babies of her own and be let back into the wild.
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