Tobi Kosanke already had quite a few animals — “two parrots, two dogs, a bunch of cats,” she recalls — when her family relocated from New Orleans to Houston in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.
In Houston, however, they ran afoul of restrictions regarding the number of pets allowed. So Kosanke’s next move was to put a compass on a map and draw a circle to determine where they could live that would keep her close to Houston yet have property without issues related to her pets.
Little did Kosanke know that the piece of real estate in Hempstead, Texas — roughly 52 miles from Houston — she and her husband bought in 2006 would contribute to a surge in their animal count.
“The folks who were out here before rescued animals, and when they left, they only took one dog and left everything else here,” said Kosanke. “We had inherited a boatload of chickens, geese, ducks, sheep, goats and horses.”
Kosanke left her job in 2009 as a geologist for Shell to devote full-time effort to the 35-acre farm dubbed Crazy K Farm Poultry and Livestock.
“It usually hovers around 200,” she said with a laugh, referring to her usual animal count at the nonprofit sanctuary. “Since we don’t adopt out, the animals here have a place for life. So we lose animals to old age, and they tend to pass away [from] cancers that are rarely seen. We always let the veterinary school keep the body so that they could see [the ailments of] these older livestock animals.”
Whenever there are storms in her part of Texas, people nearby “go to amazing lengths to bring us animals they find floating in the water,” she said. “They tend to be orphaned ducklings, when the mothers lose them. We took in so many ducklings that I had to hire someone over the weekends.”
Inventing, selling practical pet products
Around 2009, Kosanke’s concern for her hens that were “being beaten up” by the farm’s roosters prompted her to create a protective device, a triple-layer apron she named the Hen Saver.
“I didn’t even think about selling them,” she said. “I was making them for my chickens. And they went over so well, I thought, ‘Other people must have this problem, too.’ So I put them up on eBay, and I could not keep them in stock — and I had a business.”
Crazy K Farm Pet and Poultry Products has since expanded its line of merchandise to about 10 items, with proceeds supporting the animal sanctuary. The biggest seller to date is the Kitty Holster, inspired by her cat Kimba, whom Kosanke says would lay flat whenever she tried putting a harness on him.
“The seamstress who was making the Hen Saver for me — I drew this picture for her and said, ‘Make me this,’” explained Kosanke. “And she did. It was super lightweight. I laid it on my cat, closed the Velcro closures around his neck and belly, picked him up, took him outside with my other cat, who then took off on his leash, and [Kimba] stood up and started walking.”
With Kosanke’s manufacturers currently making personal protective equipment for frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic, production on her latest invention, the Dia-Purr, is behind by several weeks.
“I had a cat that was incontinent and a cat that was spraying,” she said. “I was able to create a diaper that they can’t get out of and is highly adjustable, so one size fits all. So it fits my 22-pound fatty — we affectionately call him Cat Loaf — and it fits my skinny old guy with thyroid issues.”
Lending a helping hand to Crazy K’s business side is Kosanke’s daughter, Jemma. (Her voice, recorded when Jemma was about 12 years old, is the one heard on the Crazy K phone greeting.)
“Jemma goes to trade shows with me,” Kosanke said. “It was shocking how this kid — she obviously knows the products, but doesn’t know anything about selling — was so proactive. The first person who walked by at [last year’s] SuperZoo, she said to him, ‘So, what kind of pet do you have?’ [The reply was] ‘I have a cat.’ [And Jemma said], ‘Let me show you this,’ and she started selling. So I brought her to Global this year, and she did the same thing.”
And there’s even more to the Crazy K business – vacation stays. A cottage and a cabin next to the animal sanctuary are available for overnight rentals through Airbnb. Click here for more details.