Carolyn Evans Has A Heart For Animals
To many, Carolyn Evans is better known as Cincinnati’s very gifted and kind hearted PhoDOGrapher whose art is capturing the beautiful relationship between pets and their humans, and their very real emotions. Carolyn is also the heart and soul of what has grown to be one of the largest animal rescue adoption events in the region – even nationally – called My Furry Valentine.
She will tell you, it is a journey she never intended to take but sometimes in life your heart draws you down paths you hadn’t discovered. Carolyn grew up in an animal loving household. Dogs, bunnies, cats, hamsters, gerbils, mice and even a bird were part of their menagerie. Her role model for understanding and appreciating the welfare of animals was her mother. Together many years ago, mother and daughter were among a crowd protesting the capture of beluga whales.
You could say, caring for animals in need was just part of her DNA. It was about 20 years ago when Carolyn founded a non-profit called Happy Tails, that created note cards featuring touching stories and photographs of adopted animals. She couldn’t volunteer at shelters (as the vulnerability to come home with additions to her clan was too great) and saw this as a good solution. On the back of each note card was a description of the shelter or rescue group from which the animal came. Money raised went back to the shelters. Back then there was no such thing as PetFinder or rescue websites so this was an even more valuable service.
One thing led to another. People she had photographed and people who admired her work began asking for more photos, and soon PhoDOGrapher was born. In addition to photographing people and their non-human companions, she also photographed shelter dogs who were about to be euthanized in hopes of helping them find happiness again in a new home. I remember many of those images, portrayals of dogs whose lives were at risk because people had let them down. Carolyn’s talents have helped save countless animals.
She also joined the board as president of nonprofit, United Coalition for Animals (UCAN). UCAN opened our region’s first low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter clinic, offering an effective and humane alternative to euthanasia in tackling overcrowded shelters.
And, somewhere along the way she began holding small adoption events. However, a small thinker does not describe Carolyn. In 2012, she founded My Furry Valentine, an adoption event traditionally held over Valentine’s Day weekend that has grown so large that it now needs to be held in a convention center. In 2015 alone, the event helped facilitate the adoption of a record 813 animals. In five years, My Furry Valentine has collectively helped facilitate the adoption of over 2000 animals. It is a huge accomplishment with wide support from the media, sponsors, and rescue organizations.
Lisa: What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Carolyn: For me, what is most rewarding is knowing you have impacted someone’s mindset on adoption. There are many people who would not have made the choice to adopt an animal if it were not for our event. Even greater than the numbers of direct adoptions through the actual event, we are planting that seed in people’s minds who, down the road, choose to bring an animal into their life this way. We are also making a long term impact by directing people to the rescues and shelters, who they may have otherwise never heard about. For many of our 2000 plus adoptions, those people were first time adopters and we made them a lifelong adopter instead of a buyer.
Lisa: Tell us about your own pets.
Carolyn: Currently our home includes two dogs, Abby (a black flat coat mix) and Jack (a golden retriever/irish setter mix) who found their way to us shortly after our other two dogs passed away.
Jack is my photography muse as he is very photogenic. He was the cutest, furriest puppy at an adoption event we had just stopped at so that I could deliver a donation. I convinced my husband to come inside; and, after he had told me that IF they were going to get another dog, it would be older and smaller, he grabbed this flub ball who was not even potty trained. That was it.
Abby was a stray that a friend found wandering the streets of Covington, Kentucky in an area where animals are frequently abandoned. Our plans were to just foster her temporarily but we ended up keeping her.
Lisa: What would you like to say to people about animals who are up for adoption?
Carolyn: Many animals end up in shelters and rescues through no fault of their own. They are often victims of circumstances outside of their control such as a change of life for their caregivers. But they have big hearts and they can forgive. They may need training and patience to fit into and adjust to their new family and home, but there are huge benefits.