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01 Oct 2022

Animal-mad woman turns her home into a rescue sanctuary and has the ashes of her beloved dead cat and a tragic baby fox tattooed into her skin

Animal-mad woman turns her home into a rescue sanctuary and has the ashes of her beloved dead cat and a tragic baby fox tattooed into her skin

An ‘animal-mad’ woman who shares her home with more than 50 rescued animals and reptiles has the ashes of two beloved pets inked permanently into her skin so they can ‘always be with her’.

Alexandra Ashe, 35, who has at least 30 images of her rescued creatures emblazoned across her body, decided to have the ashes of her late tabby cat, Lamb, embedded in her right arm, and the remains of a three-legged baby fox called Matilda tattooed next to her heart.

Crediting the cat she had owned since she was 18 for having pulled her through recovery after she fell into heroin addiction in her late teens and 20s, Alexandra has now been drug free for five years and dedicates her life to caring for rescue animals in a sanctuary in her home.

Alexandra – whose mother’s maiden name was Dolittle – also lives with her husband, security guard, Michael Evans, 41, in Florida, USA, and said: “Whatever I go through, I always come back to the animals – they are my safe place, my serenity, my foundation.

“Having Lamb and Matilda’s ashes tattooed into my skin means I get to carry them with me forever.”

Getting her first tattoo of one of her lizards at 18, Alexandra’s body is now a love letter to all her pets and rescue animals, both past and present.

She said: “There is something so magical and unconditional about creatures that humans just don’t have, that I really treasure.

“Every one of my tattoos means something to me and has a story.”

Alexandra decided in 2019 to get her “cremation tattoos” – where some of each pet’s ashes were embedded inside a tattoo of its portrait – after two particularly painful losses.

“In 2016, I rescued Matilda, a three-legged baby fox, who was just incredible.

“She never acted like a fox, she was more like a dog and was such a one-of-a-kind and had a very loving relationship with humans.

“I adopted her from another sanctuary after she was rescued from a fur farm but tragically, she died when she was just three-months-old and I was shattered.”

Alexandra kept Matilda’s ashes safely in an urn,  surrounded by pictures of the little fox, on a memorial shelf in her bedroom.

But three years later, she suffered another blow, when her beautiful 12-year-old cat, Lamb – who had been there for her throughout her heroin addiction and recovery – sadly passed away from a brain tumour in 2019.

She said: “A year after joining college, I got Lamb as a kitten from a rescue shelter in July 2007 and she gave me purpose and something to come home to.”

Alexandra added: “She would follow me around everywhere and always be by my side.

“She was there for me throughout everything. She was my world.”

While grieving, Alexandra’s friend recommended a cremation tattoo, which uses a blend of normal tattoo ink and a small amount of cremation ashes.

“When my friend told me about her cremation tattoo for her dog, my mind was blown,” she said.

“I had never heard of anything like it.

“One week later, I went to my tattooist with Matilda’s ashes and Lamb’s ashes and I had Matilda tattooed over my heart, and then Lamb on my right forearm.”

She added: “It means I can always see them both on my skin, and know they are always there.

“My tattoo artist captured Lamb’s beautiful almond-shaped eyes so perfectly and the little details.”

If and when her other pets or rescue animals reach the end of their lives, Alexandra says she wouldn’t hesitate to have more cremation tattoos.

She said: “Without question, I will do it again, it it such a big part of the grieving process and means so much to me.”

Alexandra’s love affair with animals began at a very early age, when she was growing up in Pennsylvania.

“My mother’s maiden name is actually Dolittle so it’s always been a joke in our family that it’s in our blood to love animals,” she said.

“My mum had lots of cats, dogs, rabbits and different aquariums around the house, so I have always been around animals and loved them.”

When she was 14, Alexandra began her own pet collection.

“I saw my first baby dragon and I was so enamoured by it that I just had to have him,” she said.

“My collection grew pretty quickly then and by the time I was 16, I had around 18 reptiles in the space of two years, which I kept in aquariums in my bedroom.”

Heading off to West Chester University in Pennsylvania, aged 18, to study writing, Alexandra had to lose some of her pets.

“It was so unnatural for me to be living away from animals in college dorms – I had one bearded dragon I kept at my boyfriend at the time’s, but it wasn’t the same,” she said.

Studying full time in college, while managing a restaurant in between for work, Alexandra found herself addicted to heroin.

She said: “The beginning of my downward spiral was in September of 2008, when things got out of hand, and I ended up moving back home with my family in the spring of 2009.”

For the next few years, Alexandra tried various drug rehabilitation programmes to get clean.

And her pet Lamb was there throughout it all.

“She was there for me every step of the way – she was a part of me,” Alexandra said.

With the help of her pets, family and rehab, Alex became sober in 2012 and one year later, met her now-husband, Michael.

Moving into their three-bed home in Boca Raton, Florida, in 2015, Alexandra began to grow her animal collection again.

She said: “Michael had never had a single pet but had always wanted animals and was obsessed with researching them so I allowed him to unleash that passion.

“He started training for handling venomous snakes and reptiles, while I am more interested in the mammals.”

Relapsing briefly in early 2017, Alexandra was able to get sober again by March 2017 – and has remained sober since.

And the rescue animals who depend on her have helped get her stay strong.

“We have over 50 animals in the house – one alligator, a number of lizards, six tortoises, two flying squirrels, one owl monkey, a dozen venomous snakes including cobras, vipers, rattlesnakes, 18 kinkajous and five house cats,” she said.

“We have completely remodelled our house so that we can both live in it and the animals have the space they need inside and outside.

“So for the snakes, we took one of our guest bedrooms and refashioned it to be an escape-proof room, with all the ceiling vents covered.

“The sun room at the back of the house has been remodelled to be an indoor enclosure for four of our kinkajous.”

She added: “It sounds crazy but you wouldn’t have any idea that we have the animals in our home!”

There is one kind of animal in particular, which has become Alexandra’s primary focus – the kinkajou, a tropical rainforest mammal related to the racoon family.

She said: “I got my first ever kinkajou in 2015 but I did it all in the wrong way.”

She added: “I did no research. I just went to a pet shop and got one. I figured I knew what I was doing – but I was so wrong.

“I very quickly realised that there was no education or information about how to keep these creatures.

“I realised we needed a community, a voice and I haven’t looked back since.”

Doing all the research she could, Alexandra officially set up her home as a non-profit nocturnal animal sanctuary – called Kinkatopia – in March 2018, housing 18 kinkajous.

Now referred to as the ‘Queen of Kinkajous’, she said: “We have helped place over 100 Kinkajous into permanent homes, whether that be in a zoo, a sanctuary or credible private owner.

“On social media, I post about how to care for these creatures and advise people that they’re not traditional pets, because really, they’re wild animals that shouldn’t be in most homes.”

She added: “I am on a mission now to ensure these animals have the best care possible.”

Link to Alexandra’s Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/kinkatopia/

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