Every litter bit helps

Karol Kennedy acts as foster parent for animals until they are adopted

Karol Kennedy acts as foster parent for animals until they are adopted

July 31, 2007|By JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like...

Karol Kennedy

Age - 62.

Hometown - La Mesa, Calif. She now lives in Hagers-town.

Where would you see Kennedy? - Karol Kennedy has always been an animal lover and still remembers the first kitten that "followed her home" as a child. She said she wanted to be a vet as a child, but that women didn't become vets then.

Now, Kennedy shares her passion for animals as a volunteer at the Humane Society of Washington County.

Lately, her time has been devoted to the mother cat and her litter, in addition to an orphan kitten, she is providing foster care for at her home off Marsh Pike. This is the third litter she has fostered since May.

As the kittens tumble over and wrestle with each other and Kennedy's own cats, Kennedy delights in having them around.


"I feel like a new mother with a house full of toddlers," Kennedy said. "When we had the litter of six kittens, we didn't even turn on the TV at night. They are hilarious."

She said her husband of seven years, Shane Williams, is warming up to the idea of fostering kittens. The couple's own menagerie includes four dogs, four cats, two pygmy goats and one pony.

Growing up, Karol always had cats and said her mother was very tolerant when she brought strays home. When Karol's son was younger, they had pets including reptiles and rats.

"Kids used to call our house the zoo," said Kennedy, who was a single parent. She also has a stepson, stepdaughter and two grandchildren.

Kennedy spent almost 40 years in the United States Army Reserve, 30 of those years in federal civil service. During that time she had pets and would take her dogs with her when she traveled by car for work.

Retirement has afforded her the time for community service. She began at the shelter by helping socialize cats, walking the dogs and working at fundraisers.

Kennedy said she was easily persuaded to foster kittens once she heard it increases their chances of being adopted. She keeps scrapbooks of the kittens to show their personalities and how they've grown, for those who might be interested in adopting them.

The last litter of kittens is kidproof, Kennedy assures, after they spent 10 days with her 3-year-old grandson and 8-month-old granddaughter, who were visiting from California.

The Humane Society's foster program is for special needs animals, said Margaret Becker, volunteer coordinator at the shelter. That includes puppies and kittens too young to be adopted and animals that have the potential for successful adoption after recovering from an injury, surgery or just in need of socialization.

Foster homes are also provided for some dogs who are afraid of the noise at the shelter. The Humane Society pays for all the expenses involved, including vet bills, medicine, food and cat litter, Becker said.

Kennedy and her husband moved into their home on Blue Heron Lane about three years ago. It has three acres with a fenced yard for the dogs to run in.

"We wanted room for antiques and room for critters," Kennedy said of their move from Washington, D.C. The house still bears the dog doorknocker from the previous owners, which Kennedy said was fortuitous.

The couple got reacquainted while working at the Pentagon. They had known each other before, when Williams was Kennedy's boss.

She credits him from keeping her from being "a little old lady knee deep in newspapers and cats."

Kennedy said she was thrilled when someone suggested she try a corrugated cat scratcher to keep the cats from damaging her antiques. Upholstered furniture is protected with throws and the kittens are confined to a large bathroom with litter boxes at night.

"The house is sort of given over to them," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said she had the litters four to five weeks before they were returned to the Humane Society. She admits that it's hard not to get attached to the animals, even though she knows she can't adopt all of them.

"Fosters get all the fun and somebody else has the placement challenge," Kennedy said.

Those interested in fostering animals are required to sign a form acknowledging that the animals belong to the Humane Society, Kennedy said.

With the large numbers of cats and kittens that are turned into the Humane Society this time of the year, Kennedy realizes that not all of the kittens she fosters will be adopted and some might be euthanized.

"I may give them the best five or six weeks of their life," she said.

The shelter's Web site indicates that there are nearly 100 kittens in need of homes and that the shelter has a total cat population of about 300.

Kennedy understands the shelter's need to euthanize animals due to their limited space. Her frustration lies with irresponsible pet owners who don't get their pets spayed or neutered or abandon pets that simply needed some training.

"So many perfectly healthy, good-natured animals at the Humane Society have to be euthanized because owners turn them over," she said.

Kennedy recently adopted a dog with only three legs that will be trained to be a therapy dog, in hopes of taking it to VA hospitals or Walter Reed to cheer up recovering soldiers.

For more information about being a foster parent or adopting animals, call the Humane Society of Washington County at 301-733-0248.

Hobbies - Kennedy said she takes piano lessons and is learning how to play golf. She loves antiquing, but because her house is furnished, she has to limit herself to smaller acquisitions. Kennedy also has a booth at the Beaver Creek Antique Mall.

What does Kennedy like best about Washington County? - "It is such a different pace of life than Washington, D.C. If the light changes, people don't honk at you," she said.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024 or e-mail

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