FixNation mourns the loss of co-founder, Mark Dodge
Mark Dodge, a corporate attorney, cat lover and co-founder of LA-based non-profit FixNation, passed away at his Topanga Canyon home on February 13th after a long battle with ALS.
Karn Myers, Mark’s wife of more than 40 years and co-founder/Executive Director of FixNation, is determined to keep their state-of-the-art spay/neuter clinic open and to realize Mark’s ultimate dream—to promote humane practices for controlling the population of homeless cats, not only in Los Angeles but in other communities as well.
“When we founded FixNation 10 years ago, Mark was the one who came up with the name. Not FixLA but FixNation. We’re making strides to expand the scope of what we do because that was his greatest dream. This will be Mark’s legacy,” Karn explained.
Mark was a passionate lover of cats since the age of eight. After graduating from UCLA, he did two years of active duty in the Army, went to law school and met and married Karn, a former entertainment executive. They had a number of pet cats throughout their long marriage, but it wasn’t until 1988 when their devotion to animals took a life- and career-changing turn.
In Karn’s words, “Mark was working as an attorney and I was working for a special effects company on Titanic when I noticed some people on the lot feeding these feral cats. I had no idea back then what a feral cat even was, and it a real shock to learn that there are tens of thousands of cats living on the streets of LA. Once we knew this problem existed, Mark and I felt compelled to do something about it.”
After much research and networking, the couple devised a plan and pitched it to Best Friends Animal Society. Their proposal for a monthly mobile spay/neuter clinic staffed entirely by volunteers was approved and partially funded and went on to great success—Catnippers has fixed more than 18,000 cats since 1999.
But that wasn’t nearly enough.
Karn and Mark realized they needed to do more—a lot more. As an attorney, one of Mark’s strengths was research, and the research showed there was only one viable solution for out-of-control populations of homeless cats. It wasn’t mass euthanasia. It was Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), whereby cats are trapped, sterilized and returned to their place of origin to live out the rest of their days, and allowing the number of unwanted births to naturally and gradually decline.
With TNR as the core of their mission, Karn and Mark moved forward with plans for a permanent facility to address the city’s rapidly growing homeless cat population. In 2007, they launched FixNation, the first full-time spay-neuter facility in Los Angeles to provide a comprehensive TNR program—free spay/neuter services for homeless cats, TNR outreach and education, free training and loans of humane traps, affordable services for pet cats and partnerships with rescue organizations to facilitate adoptions.
Over the past decade, FixNation has become a model for TNR and cat population management across the country and beyond (e.g. a new sister program in Israel), and has provided free services to more than 146,000 cats. Mark and Karn’s dream has been a huge success, raising awareness of the issues involved, proving that TNR works, and inspiring other communities to develop their own programs.
About five years after FixNation launched, the couple received a devastating blow. Mark was diagnosed with a rare form of ALS, a fatal disease that in his case was likely triggered by exposure to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.
For several years, Mark remained as active as possible, overseeing grant proposals, reviewing legal issues and attending special events and board meetings—even after he became completely paralyzed and was only able to communicate with eye-tracking computer technology. As time went on and his capacities steadily diminished, Karn took on more and more responsibilities for FixNation.
“It was an enormous challenge to do everything without the help of my partner, especially when Mark was such a tour de force in terms of fundraising and networking. He was the face of FixNation. But what keeps me going are the cats. FixNation is the only clinic in the country that does what we do at the volume we do—and we do it all for free.
“What would happen if FixNation wasn’t around anymore to help these homeless cats and prevent needless deaths and suffering? This is why we have to keep on doing what we’re doing. To keep Mark’s dream alive,” Karn explained.
In the wake of Mark’s death, FixNation’s many cat-loving supporters will be more important than ever.
“Mark was a visionary and his passion was infectious,” Karn said. “He wanted to have the clinic operating at full capacity seven days a week. Establish new partnerships with rescue groups. Coordinate more airlifts and ground transfers to other communities seeking adoptable cats. He aspired to have an even broader reach, save even more lives, prevent even more births.
“Mark was my soul mate and the love of my life, and I miss him terribly. Yet even though he is no longer be with us physically, I believe his spirit and his love and compassion for cats lives on. For the cats, and for Mark, we will never give up.”
Donations may be made in Mark’s name c/o The Mark S. Dodge Legacy Fund. On behalf of Mark’s memory and on behalf of all homeless cats in need, we sincerely thank you for being a friend of FixNation.