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Three Dog Night: During Rialzo IV, three more lucky puppies will be auctioned, joining this growing alumni.

Mar 11

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Monday, March 11, 2013  RssIcon

TWO BLACK LABS, ONE MINIATURE SCHNAUZER, AND A Labradoodle tugged at their leashes and dragged their owners one recent crisp winter afternoon. They ran. They played. They posed for pictures. Each are pedigreed, in tip-top shape. These are the puppies of Rialzo.

If it isn’t their lineage that makes these dogs special, it is their people, the ones who believe profoundly in Meridian Health Services. It’s their people who are Meridian devotees. Every year since 2010, Rialzo fans have been bidding on dogs and betting that they can make a difference. The payoff: Community-wide awareness regarding whole-person health.

Labradors from the same litter, sisters Bella and Scout, were the first Rialzo dogs auctioned in 2010. Bella won Charlie and Claudia Sursa. Scout went to Kathy and Dr. Jeff Rapkin, who that year had boarded the labs until the auction. In 2011, Winston, the Miniature Schnauzer, won the hearts of Tara and Scott Smalstig, and last year, a Labradoodle went to Kim and Greg Miller, who named her Stevie.

It turns out Kim is a die-hard Fleetwood Mac fan and couldn’t resist creating a namesake for lead singer Stevie Nicks.

“She gives kisses on command,” said Kim Miller, as she cradled all 50 pounds of her nearly one-year-old puppy as though she were a lap dog.

All Rialzo owners say they had no plans to buy a dog when they showed up to the area’s biggest charity event of the year. “You don’t plan these things,” said Charlie Sursa. “I was across the room when someone said, ‘your wife’s bidding on the puppy.’ ” By the time Sursa made it across the dance floor, it was all but over.

During Rialzo IV, three more lucky puppies will be auctioned, joining this growing alumni.

This story isn’t complete without mention of the honorary Rialzo dog called “Oullie” (pronounced like Julie with the “j” silent). One of Rialzo’s most tireless volunteers, Fred Reese, agreed to board the 2011 Rialzo pup until the auction that evening in May. He and Fred were together three weeks. What Fred did not count on was the connection he made with Winston. When the Smalstigs outbid him, Fred was admittedly grief stricken. Even he was surprised by his reaction.

“I was in such a state,” Fred explained. The next morning, a seven-pound mix breed ARF dog, was brought to his home. “His full name is Reese Raoulo Reese or Oullie for short, which is what my cousins called my mother.” He goes everywhere with Reese and both have visitation rights to see Winston.

In honor of this year’s musical group - the legendary Three Dog Night - Rialzo IV will have three puppies to auction.

Rapkin, who works for Meridian and whose job it is to find the puppies, gives fair warning:

Come prepared to fall in love.

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