Featured Volunteer: Robert & Cathy Kothe
It’s true, “dog people” and “cat people” really do have different personalities. In a study done in 2014, 600 college students answered questions about their personalities, as well as what qualities they look for in a pet. The people who said they classified themselves as dog people tended to be more lively and outgoing. They also said they tended to follow rules more closely. Cat lovers, on the other hand, were more introverted and sensitive, not as willing to conform to rules.
There’s no question the differences between feline fanatics and canine enthusiasts are ever present, but Robert and Cathy Kothe, devoted foster parents at North Shore Animal League America, are quite the anomaly.
“There are times when we have five dogs in the house at once, but it all comes in ebbs and flows when you are a foster parent at an organization which takes in so many animals in need,” Robert said. He and his wife began fostering dogs for our organization back in June of 2014. Since then, they’ve provided temporary homes for 21 dogs, including Zeta, their first foster, who they wound up adopting. “We definitely consider ourselves “dog people,” but there’s something very ironic about that.”
What Robert is referring to is his wife’s collection of Garfield memorabilia, which currently totals more than 12,000 pieces, more than 6,000 if you don’t count duplicates. The staggering collection, which fills most of their Huntington Station home, is the largest in the world according to Guinness World Records. Yep, you heard it right; self-professed dog people, who have devoted the last year and a half to fostering injured, sick, under socialized dogs, are obsessed with a fat orange cartoon cat. There’s enough irony in that statement to fill the 20-foot inflatable Garfield they have standing in their front yard.
Despite their deep appreciation for the cartoon cat, Robert and Cathy have quickly become an essential part of Animal League America’s Foster Care Program. Their willingness to take on some of the most difficult cases has made them stand out among our many volunteer foster parents, so much so that they were recently named Foster Parents of the Year at our annual volunteer appreciation brunch. Actually, the couple’s first foster dog was a beautiful Pomeranian named Zeta, who was rescued after years of breeding and neglect inside a Puppy Mill. Zeta quickly stole their hearts of the new foster parents and became a permanent fixture inside the Kothe home, acting as a little “big”sister to all of fosters that come through the doors.
“It was never about the number of dogs we could foster or keeping a tally, it’s the spirit of fostering that’s important. Looking down at their tiny little faces staring up at you and knowing you’re a gear in the machine that helps these dogs ultimately get adopted is why you do it,” Robert said. Robert and Cathy showed that spirit this past holiday season when they featured their many fosters on their yearly Christmas Card.
Whether it’s providing a safe, understanding environment for a severely under socialized dog like Sausage, who came from a Puppy Mill, helping to nurse Ebony back to health after multiple surgeries on her hind legs, or providing a home for Grandpa, a terminally ill adult dog in his final days, Robert and Cathy have made a significant impact on Animal League America’s Foster Care Program and many of its homeless animals in need of a second chance. The program’s manager, Tara Guclu said the Kothe’s are a unique breed of people who wear their passions on their sleeve – literally.
“They are probably the most enthusiastic foster parents I have ever worked with. They take on some of the most difficult cases and are always available regardless of the situation,” Tara said. “Their enthusiasm for improving the lives of these dogs on a consistent basis is starting to creep closer to their obsession with Garfield. To me, that says a lot since the last time I saw them they were wearing matching Garfield shirts.”
If you're interested in learning more about volunteering at North Shore Animal League America, visit animalleague.org/volunteer