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.
Meet pitbull Lacy, a beautiful girl who wants to teach us about forgiveness, love and kindness. Hers is a story that began tragically but today she is thriving and looking for her forever home. Phodographer Carolyn Evans selected Lacy for an Extreme Doggie Makeover. It’s a beautiful story. Please visit my pet blog to learn more – including how you meet Lacy. Blog Article.
I’d like to introduce you to Lacy, a sweet Pitbull who believes whole heartedly in the concept of pay-it-forward by freely giving of her love to those who have shown her kindness.
Sadly, she wasn’t always surrounded by people who care. Lacy made headline news earlier this year when a Brown County farmer found her near skeletal frame under a pile of lumber, clinging to a life with an unknown future. Her emaciated body was near frozen from the harsh ice storm. She had a fractured skull, an ulcerated eye and a head swollen from infection.
Authorities figured her skinny 27 pound frame was discarded after she was likely used as practice for bigger, stronger dogs trained for illegal fighting. When Lacy was brought to the Brown County Animal Shelter, her teeth were filed down, her body was covered with old scars, and she needed surgeries to remove the remnants of bullets.
A grudge? What is that?
The hearts of animals just amaze me. Such a powerless victim of senseless brutality should have no reason to trust humans again. But here she is a beautiful, plumped up girl who is eager to find her forever home where she can share and embellish love.
While her story began in an ugly place where evilness and hatred surrounded her. Those who have come into her life since that frigid day that she almost didn’t survive have more than saved her life. They have taught her that there really is good in this world. There are people who care and who can be trusted, and who want to see her thrive. And to each person who shows her some kindness, she gladly pays back with dogs kisses.
Lacy was a recently winner of Phodographer Carolyn Evans’ Extreme Doggie Makeover. Here she is being pampered by the groomer at Best Friends Pet Care of Cincinnati. And the happy studio picture below was taken by Carolyn to help Lacy find her forever home.
You can meet Lacy through the Adore-A-Bull Rescue group. You can even make her a part of her family.
And, if you do, I’d love to share your story.
I saw this on Phodographer Carolyn Evans’ Facebook page and knew I would have to share it. If you love animals they way I do, you will really appreciate it.
‘I Rescued A Human Today’ by Jannine Allen, CPDT
Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.
I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn’t be afraid. As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn’t want her to know that I hadn’t been walked today. Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn’t want her to think poorly of them.
As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn’t feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone’s life.
She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship. A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.
Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms.
I would promise to keep her safe. I would promise to always be by her side.
I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.
I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven’t walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.
I rescued a human today.
**”I Rescued a Human Today”, written by Janine Allen CPDT, Rescue Me Dog’s professional dog trainer. Janine’s passion is working with people and their dogs. She provides demonstrations for those who have adopted shelter dogs, lends email support to adopted dog owners that need information beyond our Training Support Pages, and aids shelter staff and volunteers in understanding dog behavior to increase their adoptability. Copyright 2010 Rescue Me Dog; www.rescuemedog.org
PHOTO CREDIT: Carolyn Evans, Phodographer