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My Furry Valentine Led By Passionate Animal Lovers


To organize a MEGA animal adoption event that finds homes for some 800+ animals, it takes a MEGA crew of hard working volunteers to make it happen. That event is the My Furry Valentine, our region’s largest adoption event that finds homes for pets from about 35 different rescue groups. And two names I want to recognize with that event are Carolyn Evans of PhoDOGrapher and Jennifer Grimmett.

Carolyn, and her pet photography business, is host and founder of My Furry Valentine. She is also someone with a HUGE heart for animals…and people. She has captured the spirits of furry friends for more than a decade; and her photographs have helped many animals find forever homes. Caroline is an ardent supporter of the No-Kill movement, the Board Secretary of HeARTs Speak, a united group of artists united to break down the myth that animals from rescues and shelters are inferior, and the Board President of My Furry Valentine.

Jennifer Grimmett is volunteer coordinator for My Furry Valentine, a Cincinnati pet adoption eventJennifer Grimmett is an assistant principal for an online high school; and serves as My Furry Valentine’s volunteer coordinator. It is Jennifer’s role to recruit, coordinate and manage about 265 volunteers for the two day event. It is a non-paid position that has required dozens of hours, and has even gotten her family including her children involved.

Spending that kind of time on anything generally takes someone driven by passion…something both Caroline and Jennifer have. You can read more about Carolyn in my past interview here.

Jennifer told me she has always loved animals. It is something shared by her entire family including her husband, Mike, and two daughters, Michael and Audrey. All three of their cats and their Pug, Finn, are all rescues. Finn came into their lives via a Columbus prison rehabilitation program for dogs, and is every bit a ‘mama’s dog,’ going most places Jennifer goes.

While she has spent so many hours communicating with people online or over the telephone, Thursday will be a big night as all volunteers will congregate for a big orientation meeting prior to the event. “I really can’t wait until our big volunteer meeting this Thursday before the event. It will be my first time meeting everyone in person. It will be the only time when everyone is in one room together. I think it will be amazing to share that positive energy with everyone,” Jennifer told me.

NOTE:  If you are planning on attending to find your new friend, please read my adoptions considerations in my pet behavior blog at

My Furry ValentineAbout My Furry Valentine

This year’s Main Event will again be held at the Sharonville Convention Center (11355 Chester Road; 45246) and will feature hundreds of adoptable pets (dogs, cats, puppies, kittens and other small critters) from dozens of different rescue and shelter groups from around the Greater Cincinnati area. Every pet adopted from our Main Event will go home with swag and adopters can enter to win one an adopter raffle basket.

As a courtesy to the adoptable animals already on site as well as for the safety and well-being of guests, owned pets are not allowed at the event. If you’d like to schedule a meet-and-greet between your current pet and a potential adoptee, My Furry Valentine suggests you contact that rescue or shelter directly.

If you are unable to attend the MFV Main Event, be sure to check out the many participating locations throughout the city. Satellite events are hosted throughout Greater Cincinnati by My Furry Valentine participating rescues and shelters. You can find a list on the My Furry Valentine website.




Early Bird Entry, Saturday: 10am – 12pm

Saturday, February 11th, 12pm – 6pm

Sunday, February 12th, 10am – 5pm

General Admission: $5 per person, ages 5 and up

Early Bird Admission: $25 for 1, $40 for a pair, children 17 and under free when accompanying an adult.


In my So Much PETential pet behavior blog, I wrote about some considerations to keep in mind BEFORE you go. Please click here to read them.

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Penguins Are His Passion


When Ric Urban walks into the area of Newport Aquarium where the African Penguins are housed, they all waddle over to him…especially one little girl, Paula. It is yet one more reason why this man who has been doing his work (Newport Aquarium is his fifth employer) for 35 years has no plans for retiring. He loves what he does. It is his passion and his purpose.

“With the birds at the Aquarium, I have been able to promote penguin conservation to a whole new level. When people see and meet a penguin, they are making a connection that will hopefully empower them to do something,” he said.

Ric Urban is chief conversation officer for Newport AquariumAs the Aquarium’s Chief Conservation Officer, Ric’s job is about promoting the mission of conversation in our community…and around the globe. He wants visitors of Northern Kentucky’s destination favorite to be enthralled while they are there, and leave with information to become interested and engaged in saving wildlife and the ecosystem beginning in their back yards.

However his job entails so much more. On any given day, he could be testing water, speaking to groups, teaching classes, creating programs, or traveling the globe. He has participated in many research projects through his career. This past spring he was appointed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to be the program coordinator for the AZA SAFE African Penguin Identification Project. The goal of the Project has been to tag at least 10% of the world’s declining population of African Penguins over the next 3 years. That’s around 5,000 birds to be tagged and identified in South African and Namibia. It is an especially important program as African Penguins were placed on the endangered species list in 2010. The Newport Aquarium is one of 50 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums that house these birds, and Ric did the original hand feeding of all eight that are on display in Northern Kentucky. Paula is often their ambassador, traveling with Ric on appearances to local events. I actually met Paula and Ric for the first time at a Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser.

When I asked Ric about his most interesting journey, he brought up the 2012 research project in Peru to learn about the Humoldt Penguin. They were working to prevent the decline in population of these birds, just as what has happened with the African Penguin. Guano, the fecal matter produced by sea birds, is a very effective and natural fertilizer, and of great value for the harvesters. The problem is that, being a natural pesticide, also makes guano an excellent place for Humoldt Penguins to lay eggs, and when the guano is harvested it has the potential for great harm to the Humoldt Penguin population. Ric was an observer. He was in South America to make sure the nests were undisturbed during harvesting. The whole experience was one he will never forget.

He shared this story.

“It was exciting to see wild Humoldt Penguins for the first time and go out with Peruvian biologists to watch what they are doing to save and protect the species, and preserve the ecosystems. Peru is one of the largest reserves for that penguin.

We were definitely roughing it. There was only power for three hours in the evening and no refrigeration. For toilets we had to use bail water from the ocean. We had male and female sides of the bathrooms, and would do bucket brigades every few days to fill the needed supply. We had to walk to the headquarters, about two miles away and across a coastal desert, to get a few minutes of shower time.

One night after our day was through, a young biologist invited me to explore. We wandered down into this area where the coastline had fallen onto the beach and created a long cave. The biologist had seen birds go there and then disappeared, and decided to follow them one day. That night he told me to crawl under a rock, and then we went on this incline that must have been 20 to 30 feet. You could feel the bottom of the cave below your belly and the space was so small that you couldn’t raise your neck. Then we got to the top and there must have been dozens of birds sitting on nests.

It was incredible. No where have I ever read about penguins nesting in the darkness of caves. It took everything I had ever learned and added a whole new level.”

With stories like that, it is no wonder why Ric has no immediate plans for retirement.

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Running For Animal Causes


It was in November of 2008 when Billie Mendoza retired from a long career with Delta Air Lines, a move that propelled her into a new line of work. Billie’s Paw Joggers dog exercising and pet sitting business has grown into one of the region’s premiere services of its kind. Along the way, her passion for running and animal (human and non-human) welfare has found her volunteering with her feet and her time to raise money for worthy causes. Then, through her business, she founded her own Paw Joggers Animal Billie Mendoza, owner of Cincinnati Paw Joggers, talks about her inspiration for creating the Paw Joggers RunCommunity Fund as a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting local animal rescues, shelters and advocates. Next weekend, October 15 and 16, is its fourth annual Paw Joggers Run and I’m proud to be a part of it for the third year…this year as the Ask-The-Trainer at its new EXPO on Saturday (from 3 to 6 pm at United Pet Fund in Blue Ash). The Run will be on Sunday morning at Sharon Woods. There are 36 beneficiaries this year!

Billie is one of the most upbeat people you could meet, always filled with positive energy. She has been so supportive of me with my training and it’s great to participate in her event. I wanted you to get to know a little about her. Please see my interview below, followed by details for the upcoming race.

Hope to see you next weekend!

Lisa: Talk to me about your passion for creating this race and how gratifying it is to see its success.

Billie: I believe the passion for creating this VERY charitable and dog-friendly run stems from my 18 years of running FOR charity—the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Knowing I can give back to the people and animals in this great community is extremely gratifying. Seeing the growth of this race is what keeps me and our team of volunteers motivated to continue, make it better each year in turn benefiting our local animal welfare community even more.

Lisa: How difficult is it to organize a race AND run a successful business?

Billie: The most difficult (hectic) part of organizing a run event is the 30 days prior and up to race day. Since the work is all voluntary, it takes a great team of dedicated VOLUNTEERS to pull an event like this together. Race week is the craziest. Running a business and ensuring you have time for family, friends…and your own health are priority. This being our 4th year has made it easier, but it’s those cogs thrown in the wheel, that can easily disrupt the fluid motion. Life happens…and I appreciate every day!

Lisa: Talk to me about your personal race history of participation.

Billie: I was an athlete in high school; cross-country running, track and cross-country skiing and stayed very active into my early 20’s. My son was born and I didn’t start running regularly again until age 33 when I signed up to run The Flying Pig Marathon with Team In Training. Go big or go home right?! Well that was 1999, the inaugural Flying Pig, and I’ve run every “Pig” through 2016, All with Team in Training, raising over $25,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. They call those who run consecutive races “Streakers” so yes, that’s me…a streaker. More importantly, I’ve bonded with the most wonderful people, have had tremendous coaches and the most lovely heroes to run in honor of for through Team In Training. I’ll continue to run for those who cannot until my legs will carry me no more. Running keeps me centered, happy and healthy! Now, off to some carb-loading as I prepare to run the Queen Bee Half Marathon in the morning. 


 Cincinnati dog trainer Lisa Desatnik to lead a kids and dogs activity at the Paw Joggers Rescue Run at Sharon Woods Park

About the Race

The 4th Annual Paw Joggers Rescue Run: is Sunday October 16, 2016 in beautiful Sharon Woods Park. There’s a chip-timed 5K for runners and walkers of all speeds or a relaxing 2K walk (strollers ok), both with or without a well-behaved dog.  The run/walk begins at 10 AM; festivities are from 8:30 AM to noon.  There are prizes for 13 categories in the 5K.

Register online at  Registration includes a donation to your selected beneficiary, a Technical long sleeve T for the 5K, a long sleeve cotton T for the 2K, and everyone’s favorite shirt for your pup.  The wag bag also includes dog toys and treats if you register a dog and a virtual goody bag with online coupons for discounts and freebies for everyone; you click and print the coupons you want.  No wasted paper.

New this year:  the PJRR EXPO at the United Pet Fund Resource Center :  11336 Tamarco Dr. Blue Ash  45242 from 3-6 pm.  Visit vendors with great products and services for you and your dog, canine and human exercise information,  ask-the-dog trainer booth, food trucks, late registration and one last packet pickup (no packet pickup on race day), raffles, and meet the people behind the PJRR.

Miscellaneous Race Information:

Both the run/walk and the EXPO are family- and pet-friendly.  The EXPO is open to anyone, even if not interested in participating in the Sunday Paw Joggers Rescue Run.

Early online registration fees through 9/30/16 are $35 per person 5K, $25 for the 2K, children under 8 free (no shirt); $15 per dog; fees for humans increase by $10 after that date.  Parking is included.  You can still register at the packet pickup locations and on race morning but preferred T-shirt size is not guaranteed.

Race Headquarters and starting line are at the Cardinal Crest Shelter.  There are 2 restrooms within a short walking distance, additional stops along the 5K race course.

This year’s theme: Paws for the USA

General questions email




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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 Carolyn Evans, Cincinnati's PhoDOGrapher, is founder of My Furry Valentine dog and cat adoption eventmother. 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.



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Xavier University Students Made Prosthetic For Assistance Dog


Tiny, a beautiful, gentle golden retriever being raised and trained through nonprofit 4 Paws for Ability to give independence to a child with a disability, got some assistance of her own.

The young girl who knows nXavier University Builds Prosthetic For Assistance Dogo strangers was born with part of her front, right leg missing which caused some challenges when it came to being able to be of help to someone else. Laurie Maier, Tiny’s foster parent, reached out to Xavier University’s new Center for Innovation and within hours, a solution to Tiny’s mobility challenges was within reach.

Students in the Introduction to Making class (led by Professor Gary Lewandowski) designed, worked with prosthetist Christine Reedey to make a mold, and produced a prosthetic using a 3D printer.  It was a huge accomplishment that took several prototypes to find the design that worked.


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