October 18, 2013 11:00AM
By CYNTHIA DRUMMOND
Sun Staff Writer
CHARLESTOWN — From her curly hair to her rapid-fire speech, Louise Anderson Nicolosi, the founder of the Always Adopt animal rescue group, exudes energy. Friends and colleagues describe her as a pioneer, a force of nature, a firecracker.
“Louise has more energy than 20 toddlers put together,” says Always Adopt volunteer Mollie Ingram of Stonington Borough. “Louise is smart enough to listen to her group of experts, and then she takes what they tell her, decides what it is that she needs to do, and then, simply nothing will stand in her way.”
Created just a few months ago, the group has already placed nearly 400 dogs in two events called Super Dog Adoption days, in May and August. Those events attracted a total of 3,000 people, and Nicolosi and her army of volunteers are now planning a third adoption day on Nov. 2 at a plant nursery in Matunuck.
Nicolosi, a physical therapist, owned 20 health clinics back in her native England. She switched from treating humans to treating animals when she moved to the United States 12 years ago. Today she spends only about 20 percent of her time on her business, Rhode Island Pet Rehab, and the rest running Always Adopt.
Nicolosi shares her home in Foster Cove with her husband, John, and two adopted pets: Harley the dog and Percy the cat. Sitting at a table with an expansive view of the water, she recalls watching a shocking 2012 documentary on pet overpopulation that inspired her to start the group.
“I saw this program on HBO called ‘One Nation Under Dog,’” she says, her eyes filling with tears at the memory of seeing dogs killed just because they were unwanted. “I cried for about five days, and then I said ‘Right. The time has come to do something to help.’”
Nicolosi attended a conference organized by the Utah-based Best Friends animal rescue group, and came home with the idea of holding adoption events where hundreds of people would be able to meet hundreds of dogs from many different rescue groups, all in one place. “I thought, ‘We need to have some nice big adoption events where all these rescue groups can bring their animals, and then I can do all the PR and bring people in,’” she says.
Ingram says it was an idea whose time had come.
“Her concept takes advantage of the changing landscape of people’s time and energy,” she says. “If I can go and see 150 dogs at once, versus going to 10 different events where I get to see 10 dogs each time, which one would I rather do?”
Nicolosi is expecting at least 10 rescue groups to participate in November. Some of them bring dogs up from the South, where euthanasia rates are high. Others specialize in certain breeds, or dogs with special needs. Dogs entering Rhode Island from other states must first undergo veterinary checks and a quarantine. Two veterinarians, eight veterinary technicians, and 10 dog trainers, all volunteering for the adoption event, will also be on hand.
“It’s a lot of pre-event planning, it’s a lot of coordination, it’s a lot of compliance with local regulations,” says Heidi Durand-Lenz of Friends of Homeless Animals, a Providence-based animal rescue group that plans to bring about 40 dogs to the November event.
Nicolosi points out that despite the grand scale of her events, all of the adopters will have access to plenty of free professional support.
“Everyone that leaves with a dog, they go and see the vets... then they all see the dog trainers, and the dog trainers talk to them about how to set themselves up for success,” she explains. “And then there’s a hotline number, so that if any of them get home and they have a problem, they can call the trainers. If they’re still having a problem, the trainers will go into their home and help them. So we do a free consult,” she says.
In order to be eligible for one of the adoption days, a dog has to meet two basic criteria: it must be healthy and friendly.
“I’m happy for all dogs to come, whether they’ve got three legs, they’re blind, whatever, it’s a mother that’s just had puppies. I like them all to be welcome, as long as they’re healthy,” Nicolosi says.
Anyone wishing to adopt on the day of the event must fill out an online application form beforehand. Nicolosi has recently streamlined the process by introducing a single form that will be used by all the rescue groups. Adoption fees range from $200 to $500.
In addition to the rescue group volunteers, 150 Always Adopt volunteers, each matched with a dog, will walk the dogs on leashes throughout the day so they can meet prospective adopters. Dogs that are not adopted will not be euthanized. Each one will return to its foster home.
Durand-Lenz says Nicolosi’s adoption events bring Rhode Island rescue groups together with spectacular results.
“It doesn’t take off without a pioneer,” she says. “She’s been instrumental in being able to bring a lot of the local Rhode Island-based rescues together for these events and obviously the results have been amazing, as we’ve been able to find homes for so many dogs... Our organization from the past two events, has been able to place close to 60 dogs.”
Rebecca Clark of Save a Lab rescue in Middletown says her group has found homes for about 30 dogs in the two adoption events. “In the eight months I’ve known Louise, I’ve met more of the independent rescues than I ever knew existed,” she says. “Even though we all work independently we now all have connections among each other, which is beneficial to us and the dogs.”
Nicolosi says she and her volunteers work “flat out” in the two months before an event, but she says the experience is so uplifting, she still can’t wait for the day to arrive.
“The first event, we had 1,300 people come. The second event, we had over 2,000 come, and the atmosphere of joy was just electric,” she says.
Ingram, who volunteered at the two previous events, says she’s also looking forward to the next one.
“Are you kidding? I can’t wait,” she says. “Every dog that comes is cuter than the next, and you see these little kids light up. You see these grownups light up.”
Nicolosi says everything she does has one overriding goal: reducing the number of homeless pets.
“If we adopt, and we work on the spay-neuter side, then we’ll be winning,” she says.
Always Adopt plans to hold three super dog adoption days every year.
The Nov. 2 event will take place at Clark Farms on Route 1 in Matunuck from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
More information and the online adoption application form can be found on the group’s website: http://www.alwaysadopt.com/home.html