Rhody Pets now includes “Rhody Pet of the Month” a sidebar curated by Karen Kalunian, host of Animal Talk, a weekly radio show on WPRO. Kalunian shares that her rescue efforts trace their roots to a five-pound Maltese dog named Gizzy. “Six pounds if she’d had a few extra treats!” chuckles the animal advocate. “For 14 years I took her everywhere with me, developing a noticeable case of ‘dog arm’ from carrying her!”
When Gizzy passed away in 2010, Kalunian was in “deep anguish” and began volunteering at what is now Heart of RI Animal Rescue League in Cranston, as a way of honoring her beloved pet. “I was happy to help but it pained me to see certain animals repeatedly overlooked due to their age, or health issues, or the fact they seemed ‘old news’ if their picture had been up on the website a while.”
An idea for how to address this common shelter problem came when Kalunian’s daughter Kim was directing a youth production of Annie and seeking a dog to cast as Sandy. “I saw this as an opportunity to showcase one of the long-timers: Buddy was a pretty, fluffy, Chow-mix senior who had sustained some injuries, which is one of the reasons she wasn’t getting applications, but given this chance to show her personality, she became the star of the show and found a cozy beachside home as a result!”
This wasn’t the first time that Kalunian used a platform for good. In her role as Mrs. RI America, she saw how media attention could amplify the message of a charity or cause; in addition to a weekly radio show, she travels the state visiting animal shelters and fosters with a volunteer team of professional pet photographers and videographers.
“Our mission is to shine a spotlight on animals in need and find a new audience of potential adopters. Not everyone is on social media so I’m thrilled to be here on the Rhody Pets page, introducing a new face to fall in love with each month.”
You might think Kalunian herself would be taking home a new pet every month but her heart still belongs to Gizzy, and as she puts it: “Now they are all my pets!” Follow along on Instagram @animaltalk19