Author: Kendra Meinert
Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette
Jan. 3, 2019
ASHWAUBENON - Tyler Rich made fast friends in Green Bay before he even stepped onstage at the Meyer Theatre.
The country singer met Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Monica, a four-pack of 12-week-old Labrador mix puppies named for the gang on TV's "Friends," during a pit stop Wednesday afternoon at Happily Ever After's Green Bay Adoption Center. Let's just say they hit it off.
"Oh my God, sweet baby," he said, as he scooped one of them up. "I need a puppy so bad. You wanna live in Nashville?"
Rich, who was in town to open for LANCO, paid a visit to help spread the word about shelter animals up for adoption. It's something he does regularly on tour stops as part of his Rich Rescues initiative, posting videos and photos on his social media accounts of animals in each city people might not know are looking for a home.
It was an easy call for a big animal lover like Rich, who was 19 when he rescued a 5-month-old husky puppy during the middle of the night from an abusive owner who left her in a hole. Fourteen years later, Abby is his best friend. That's her on the tattoo on his right arm and as his co-star with wife Sabina Gadecki in the video for his breakthrough song "The Difference."
Rich Rescues has been a way to get some dog lovin' out on the road when he's away from Abby and unwind from the rigors of touring.
"Enjoying every second of it. It's the best," he said. "Hanging out with puppies, it's therapy."
But the bigger the heart, the more all those adorable faces tug at his heartstrings.
"It's sad a lot. I'm just looking at their eyes and I want to take them all home," he said. "I'm gone so much. I'm never home, so I can't have a bunch of animals, so this is the equivalent of OK, how can I give back? How can I try to help? I can't take them all home, but at least I can try to find them homes from where they're from."
During his hourlong visit to Happily Ever After, Rich got a behind-the-scenes tour of the no-kill shelter, including a stop in the mud room to meet Bailey. The cat is a longtime shelter resident who gets the run of the room, because his favorite place at HEA's old location was on top of the washer and dryer. He's been adopted four times and returned four times. Always for urinating on his owner's bed.
"You can pee on my bed," Rich told him, noting his is a hotel bed.
Rich spent time out in a snow-covered backyard with Champion and Ross, adult rottweiler mixes who came to HEA from a hoarding situation in Texas. Both have been at the shelter for several months and are still learning to trust people.
They weren't pushovers, even for a guy who has played the Grand Ole Opry and was named one of Rolling Stone's 10 New Country Artists You Need to Know in 2018.
Rich took off running in hopes to get the pair to follow. Nothing. He tossed a ball around. Nothing. He tried treats. Still nothing.
"Damn," he said. "They're like, 'No, we like it here. We're good.'"
He sat down on a picnic table and with some coaxing - and more treats - they both eventually climbed up next to him. He literally had them eating out of his hand.
"Thanks for trusting me, guys," he said.
They were among the photos he shared on social media after his visit, asking his 230,000 followers to tag animal-loving friends in Wisconsin looking to adopt. That's valuable exposure for a nonprofit organization like HEA.
"When somebody who has a following can bring attention and awareness to the animals that are not only in our care right now, but to our mission in general, it just helps people see animals are worth saving," said HEA founder Amanda Reitz.
Part of the reward for Rich has been hearing from fans who have adopted animals he's featured through Rich Rescues. Others have sent him photos of dogs that need rescuing.
"It's really cool," he said. "It's great for all the right reasons."
After leaving HEA with a care package that included, among other things, a growler of Zambaldi Beer's Good Dog Porter and a Sammy's Pizza, Rich was headed to Lambeau Field for a tour.
The native of Yuba City, California, grew up not far from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' hometown of Chico. He's a 49ers fan - something he knows Packers fan won't appreciate, especially this year. "But we're all just big Aaron Rodgers fans out there," he said.
He surprised his bass player, who grew up in Beaver Dam, with news of the Lambeau tour. "He was like a kid on Christmas," Rich said.
Rich had only driven by Lambeau during a past visit to Green Bay for an acoustic radio tour a couple of years ago. He was struck by how it's in the middle of a neighborhood. He remembers something else about that day: late-night cheese curds at "the little diner across from Lambeau (Kroll's West)."