If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know I’m a dog person and that a spotted coonhound rescued from North Carolina – Ollie – is a member of the family. If you’re a “dog person,” too, you might remember a story last August about an adoption day, attended by hundreds, at Inskip Motors. The driving force behind that event and others like it is a frizzy-haired dynamo from Great Britain, Louise Anderson Nicolosi, who is the founder of Always Adopt.
On Sunday, I went looking for Louise, figuring she’d be easy to spot even in a crowd. The short curly blonde hair is part of it, but having met her once, I was sure I could find her in the midst of the action at Balise Toyota of Warwick. It was more difficult than I imagined.
Balise was the epicenter for dog lovers Sunday. The Always Adopt event was scheduled to start at 10 a.m., but prospective adopters and people just crazy to meet dogs started arriving before 9. A line of cars stretched outside the dealership by 10:30 and people were being directed to park elsewhere because the lot was full.
The inside of the service bay was filled. People in lime green T-shirts, all Always Adopt volunteers, rotated through the masses with dogs on leashes or cradled in their arms. All the dogs had kerchiefs tied around their necks, giving them a roguish look, as if all were bandits out of a vintage western.
I hadn’t gone 20 feet before meeting Victoria Bramble and her mother Renee of Cranston petting “Rufus.” Rufus loved the attention, rolling on the garage floor and returning Victoria’s strokes with kisses. He was ready to leave at that point, although Greg Bramble wasn’t convinced Rufus was quite the match they were looking for. The Brambles rescued a husky seven years ago from the Providence Animal Rescue League.
“We’re looking for a little dog, a pocket rocket, to play with him,” he explained.
Lauren DuBreuil, one of 200 volunteers, kept Rufus from following as Victoria turned her attention to a nearby pen of puppies. She and her husband, Dan, adopted a dog at the August event.
“He’s a little angel,” she said. “We named him ‘Fin.’”
The name, she explained, is an abbreviation of Infiniti, the Inskip dealership where they found him. They knew they had to adopt Fin as soon as he fell asleep in Dan’s arms. Now Lauren and Dan are members of Louise’s growing cadre of people committed to saving dogs.
Louise has that effect on people. Her message hasn’t changed since I first met her and she described her conversion. The catalyst was the documentary “One Nation Under Dog.” It has a scene where dogs are forced into a steel container that looked like a dumpster – a gas chamber. The barking, whining and scratching of the dogs was audible. Slowly, the noise diminishes until there’s an eerie silence. Then the container is lifted and dead dogs spill out onto a truck for disposal.
When she recounted that scene last August, she wiped her eyes and apologized for becoming so emotional. It was hard not to want to take a dog home that very instant. My Ollie would have understood. He had heartworm when we adopted him. He must have been on death row before the East Greenwich Animal Protection League brought him and 40 other dogs north for rescue.
Another volunteer, Mark Sugar, whose family is committed to the cause, guided me through the throng. Dogs were everywhere; wrapping their leashes around people’s legs; looking into the eyes of passersby; wagging their tails; occasionally barking; licking faces of people who bent over them; and, yes, once in a while making an unwelcome deposit.
Mark found Louise for me. She had on her florescent construction worker’s vest with “Top Dog” emblazoned on the back. She was busy answering another volunteer’s question, then, looking up she spotted me. She gave me a smile, hug and a kiss.
“Can you believe this, it’s bigger than we imagined.”
She estimated more than 1,000 people showed up to see about 100 dogs that had been rescued from Louisiana. Some puppies had been found in plastic bags, others came from kill shelters. Another 100 dogs were from groups and animal shelters from across this state.
Louise spotted Aldrich Principal Allie Nascenzi. She was holding a wriggling spotted pup that looked to be a Dalmatian but with a smoky gray coat instead of white.
“This is my dog,” Allie said. “I love him.”
“So, you were pre-approved?” asked Louise. That was the case. Allie and her husband had been cleared to adopt, so they could leave with a dog immediately. Louise pulled out her smart phone.
“Can I get a video?”
Allie hugged the newest member of the Nascenzi family, who would be joining two cats.
“His kitty sisters are already sleeping on his bed,” she said for the video, which will surely go into the well-orchestrated social media effort, which is a staple of the Always Adopt campaign. The next Always Adopt event is Nov. 1, at Clark Farm in Wakefield.
Nearby, Balise general manager Mike Connell watched.
“It’s an organized chaos,” he said with amazement.
The dealership has been in preparation for the last four months. Never did he imagine such a crowd. A Warwick policeman found Mike. He had a legitimate concern. People were parking on the other side of Post Road and families with kids were running across four lanes of traffic to see the dogs.
Mike wasted no time. Cars could be double parked if they had to, but safety was a concern.
The policeman was satisfied.
“I’m going to look at some puppies while I’m here,” he said, and disappeared into the dealership.
Mike laughed. It’s not what he expected. Then he made a confession. Ever since he was a boy and severely bitten, he’s been scared of dogs. But, on Sunday he petted a dog and, with the family’s urging, he was giving consideration to adopting a dog. Then, looking over the crowd, he reached a conclusion.
“You don’t see anybody in a bad mood here today.”
It was true. People are happy when they’re with dogs.
It makes you wonder how anyone could treat them so brutally.