Story by: Elida Coseri
May 8, 2009 – Driving back to Chicago from Joliet, Ill., Lisa Klotnia and Jennifer Saddoris are trying to talk over smelly, barking dogs the whole way home. The barks are those of joy, however, because they are on the road to a second chance and better life. As tough as those transports may be for the ladies, the smiling faces of the doggies in the back make the rescues worth every second.
Klatonia, 37, does more than make a living — she’s making a difference. According to the Human Society, more than 56 percent of dogs that enter animal shelters are euthanized. Klatonia, however, decided to take matters into her own hands.
For over half a decade Klatonia has been dedicated to the Chicago Canine Rescue Foundation (CCRF) — a dog shelter she single-handedly founded in 2001. Her idea was revolutionary. Instead of taking in abandoned and neglected dogs from off the streets, she opted to take in dogs from other shelters in the Chicagoland area that were slated for euthanasia.
“The majority of the dogs we took in had special needs, or were older, so they were in line for euthanasia. Our mission was to give them a safe haven, find them homes and provide medical treatment if it was required,” Klatonia says.
The first six years of the organization’s life, Klatonia and her crew had no location. That is to say, they functioned with no headquarters. Agreements made with boarding facilities and veterinarians gave some dogs a temporary home.
Others were placed in foster homes with volunteers willing to take them in on a temporary basis until permanent homes could be found. Klatonia herself says she has fostered well over 100 animals in the past eight years. Oftentimes, she is the one to take in a dog that has just had major surgery, or an amputation. Dogs afflicted with pneumonia have also become her specialty.
Over the years, Klatonia has learned how to administer an IV fluid, immunizations and more. With an average of $400-$500 a day in vet bills for a dog with pneumonia, it’s much more cost effective and comfortable for everyone involved.
“Lisa cares about each animal as if it were her own. She doesn’t turn a blind eye to animals that other rescues wouldn’t dream of taking — the old blind dog, the young dog with a hole in her heart, a mom and eight puppies — the list goes on and on,” says Saddoris, a CCRF employee and friend of Klatonia’s. She says that Klatonia has taught her everything about animal rescue, and considers her a mentor.
In June, 2007, the CCRF opened the doors of its first official residence on Belmont Avenue in Chicago. The two-room, one-story building is refuge to dozens of dogs. There are currently three full-time employees, four part-time employees and over 2,600 registered volunteers. According to Klatonia, between 150 and 200 active volunteers participate on a monthly basis. Money is always an obstacle, and getting started was no picnic.
“It’s hard to help these animals — they’re the ones forgotten by our society,” Klatonia says.
“There are times when it’s crazy and we sometimes aren’t sure how we’re going to make it through, but Lisa pushes us all to work harder,” Saddoris says.
Because of her technology background, the first thing she did back in 2001 was use the Internet as a tool. She started a Web site, www.chicagocaninerescue.org, to let the community know who the CCRF was and what they were about. It took over 70-hour work-weeks to launch CCRF and make it succeed, but her determination paid off. The donations began coming in, and community support has grown.
“It’s hard for people to get their mind around raising $2,000 — or more — for just one animal. We decided early on that we wouldn’t look at it saying, ‘Well, that animal’s too expensive, so we’ll just ignore it’,” Klatonia says.
Over the past eight years, very few animals the CCRF has taken in were euthanized, and only after everything possible to help them was done.
Angela Corp, an employee at CCRF, has known Klatonia for the past four years. She started out as Klatonia’s dog walker, then began volunteering for the CCRF, and has been working full-time since August, 2007. Since Corp was working in the animal care industry, she saw that no one was willing to try and help this group of animals.
“I admire Lisa for her amazing work. She gets no money out of it. I admire her passion and how hard she’s worked. She’s an amazing person,” Corp says.
While working with the CCRF, Klatonia has worked other jobs on the side. At one point she received a grant so she could work for the foundation and be paid, but currently she is working as a volunteer and makes zero profit.
“My husband is on board with what I do. He makes sure that we stay afloat financially so that I can continue doing this,” Klatonia says. Though her husband is not specifically involved, he attends most fundraisers and hasn’t minded sharing his home with the countless dogs Klatonia has fostered over the years. Her husband has, however, helped put parameters around her involvement with the foundation.
“I used to let the organization take over my life, and now he helps me reign it in a little bit,” she says.
Klatonia now volunteers an average of 40 hours per week, though she basically plays the “executive director role.” Most of her time isn’t on the CCRF premises, but rather spent dealing with financial and medical issues, and maintaining the basic needs of the foundation.
Saddoris says, “Lisa has a great passion for animals. She works tirelessly to raise funds and I admire her for never giving up. She reminds us that if we don’t help out these animals, then who will?”
Want to get involved at the Chicago Canine Rescue Foundation?
Here are some great ways to start:
Volunteer: Volunteering is simple. Go to CCRF’s website www.chicagocaninrescue.org to create a personal account. You can view the monthly schedule and sign up for day or times to volunteer. Bring a valid driver’s license or state I.D.
Foster: Fostering allows you to care for a dog in your own home for as long as you like, or until the dog is found a permanent home. Place an application (you can get one from the Web site) and turn it in. The CCRF will provide dog crates, dog walkers, cover vet bills and assist in any possible way, if needed.
Adopt: You can adopt either the pet you have fostered, or any dog you fall in love with at the shelter. All it requires is an application and a $200 fee. The process takes about a week, with an in-house visit and clearance from the residential landlord or association.
Attend an Event: The CCRF is constantly holding events to help raise money. Events are held around the Chicagoland area. Visit the Web site for upcoming bashes, or sign up for their PUPdate (weekly internet newsletter) to get information. Event on deck: Angels with Tails Adoption Event from noon to 4 p.m. on May 31, 2009 at Michigan and Oak.
Chicago Canine Rescue Foundation
2227 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618