By Maddy Vitale
Roscoe, an Italian mastiff, looked menacing, peering from the bars of a pen at the Humane Society of Ocean City. His baritone bark matched his hulking, 145-pound frame.
But when the gate opened, and the skilled dog trainer George Mueller led him out, the nearly 6-year-old dog was a bit puppyish, sniffing a stranger, welcoming pats, and attempting leaps at treats.
Despite double hip dysplasia and a neurological condition, Roscoe seems to be content.
“People say, ‘Oh, that is sad. This dog lives here for four years.’ But for Roscoe, he thinks this is what it is all about,” Director of Shelter Operations Angela Coyle explained. “He is very happy. A volunteer comes to walk him a few times a week. He has an orthopedic bed. He has everything here to give him as comfortable a life as he could have.”
Making sure Roscoe and other special needs animals will continue to lead a happy life at the shelter, the HSOC held a fundraiser Saturday night to help pay for their care.
In Roscoe’s case, for instance, he receives medications, supplements and special dog food at a total cost of about $200 a month. It would be difficult, if not impossible for the Humane Society to provide for his care without money raised from fundraisers such as the one Saturday night.
At the fundraiser, animal lovers joined at the Somers Point Fire Hall for “Grateful Pets,” a benefit featuring the Grateful Dead tribute band Dead Reckoning. There was an assortment of food, including vegetarian dishes, tables of deserts and raffles.
The proceeds of the $25 ticket sales went to helping with Roscoe’s continued care as well as the other special needs animals at the shelter.
The shelter raised $2,500 last year and the same the year prior. By 8 p.m. Saturday, Phil Bellucci, shelter operations manager, said they had exceeded that figure.
“We have had an absolutely awesome turnout.” Bellucci said. “We really care about the animals. It is a super rewarding thing. This event is what it is all about.”
Bellucci commented about the band performing free of charge. “They could be making money somewhere else on a Saturday night, but they do it because they care.”
Dana Carroll, bass player for Dead Reckoning said she loves playing the HSOC benefit.
“I love animals. I have five cats, so I really am happy to be here,” Carroll said.
Charlie Wigo, guitar, percussion, vocals, has known Bellucci for a long time.
“He needed help, so I said I’d be there for him,” Wigo said. “I’m happy to be a part of putting this together.”
Willie Fannon, owner of OC Paddleboard, said he is all about getting the community together for a good time and a good cause.
“They do an amazing job,” Fannon said. “They do it right with just the right mix of fun.”
He mentioned that he would like to possibly partner with HSOC for a future fundraiser.
Courtney Venzie, assistant shelter manager in charge of the cats, said prior to the benefit, that it is so important for the shelter animals.
There are about 100 cats at the shelter. Some of the felines have thyroid conditions or other medical needs including special diets.
She also people should consider adopting cats, like dogs, they really need forever homes too.
“It is the same with all shelters. It is harder to adopt out the cats,” Venzie said.
Mueller who is an assistant shelter manager as well as dog trainer at HSOC said, “This has been important for the shelter. Every year it seems to get bigger and bigger. It’s a really fun event.”
Roscoe and the other animals weren’t there, but everyone at the fundraiser was thinking about them back at the shelter.
Rosoe’s beginnings were far from comfortable. He was rescued from horrible conditions in 2012, Coyle said. A dog trainer found out he was being kept in someone’s garage, either to be used as a fighting dog or bait.
The trainer rescued the dog and placed him in a home. Unfortunately, the home was not suitable. He ended up living in the busy couple’s basement. By the time Roscoe arrived at the shelter in 2013, he started exhibiting signs of health problems.
Coyle said initially the staff attempted adopting him out, but quickly learned, he was in the best care there.
“He suffers from early-onset arthritis. If he takes a tumble, we can have him X-rayed immediately,” Coyle said.
And like other special needs animals, anyone who adopted him must be willing to make a financial commitment.
So, Roscoe has become the mascot and is not up for adoption. And shelter staff say that is what is meant to be.
“Being a mastiff, he is already a natural guard dog,” Coyle said. “We are his people now.”