A Pet Cause

Neko Case and friends perform to help some four-legged buddies in need

When golden-throated singer-songwriter Neko Case decided to move from Chicago to Tucson several years ago, she was excited that she'd finally be able to buy her own house, which she couldn't afford in the Windy City. But there was something else she was equally excited about.

"I was like, 'OK, I own a house now,'" she recalls. "In Chicago, I couldn't have a dog, because I didn't own my house. I was like, 'I don't even care about owning a house; I just finally get to have a dog again.'"

Case comes from a farming family and grew up with all types of animals. "Cats, dogs, ponies, goats, chinchillas, you name it," she says. "My family, being as dysfunctional as they may be, that is the one very great thing that they taught me: You respect animals; you treat them well; you make sure that they're happy; and you're going to get it back. ... That's something that's just in our DNA, I guess. We have a thing for the critters."

Knowing that Tucson has a swollen greyhound population because of the racing industry here, she decided to attend an "adoption day" at the Greyhound Adoption League one day, thinking, "OK, I'm just gonna check it out. I'm gonna see what it's about."

She ended up bringing one home.

"I fell head over heels in love with Lloyd," she recounts. "Just meeting him, I was like, 'He has the best soul,' and sure enough, I took him home, and he was the best pal I ever had. Greatest dog. And then he got cancer, and he passed away a few years ago."

In her spare time, Case volunteers with the Greyhound Adoption League and Arizona Greyhound Rescue, taking the dogs on walks so they're not sitting in cages all day.

"I just felt like since I had volunteered for (the) Greyhound Adoption League so many times, I knew there were so many dogs out there that desperately needed homes. And I had a blinking neon home, you know? Like, 'Hey! We need some dogs in here!'

"I have a total of four dogs now, and that's all because of Lloyd. After Lloyd passed away, coming home every day and not having that unconditional love meeting you at the door, it was lonely. My house didn't feel like a home. ... We ended up getting two cats and four dogs."

In the last few years, Case has performed benefit shows at the Rialto Theatre for victims of Hurricane Katrina and for No More Deaths, an organization that provides humanitarian aid to migrants. This week, Case will perform another benefit there, with all proceeds being donated to the Greyhound Adoption League.

Additionally, the show will raise awareness of Tucson Dog Protection, an organization headed by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Via which has collected enough signatures to place the Tucson Dog Protection Act on the November ballot in South Tucson. The act would amend South Tucson City Code to ensure that dogs are not fed raw or harmful food, prohibit the use of anabolic steroids for the purposes of performance enhancement or estrus suppression, and limit the amount of time dogs can be relegated to cages to a maximum of 18 hours a day.

Case says that neither the proposed amendment nor her activism is about shutting down Tucson Greyhound Park. "Clearly, dogs think running is pretty fun," she says, laughing. "They like it. But there are some things that need to happen. Whether it's animals for food, animals for companionship (or) animals for anything, there's a quality of life that every creature should have, and I don't think it's that difficult."

This week's benefit serves as the kickoff for a month-long tour that will include both club and theater dates as well as appearances at such high-profile festivals as Bumbershoot and Austin City Limits. Case is close to finishing a new album, Middle Cyclone, recorded at Tucson's Wavelab Studio and slated for release in March 2009, and she'll be playing a few songs from it. She'll be joined at the Tucson date by Crooked Fingers, on whose upcoming album she makes a guest appearance.

"They're coming to Tucson for the sole purpose of supporting the dogs," she says, "which is really sweet."

Not that she'd ever say it herself, but it is, of course, generous of Case to donate her time and efforts to these causes as well.

"Since I live in Tucson, I want to make sure that every time I play Tucson, it's a charity show. I feel like you should give back to your community."