Beltway Barks: Smooch a Pooch or Take One Home

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When Rusty the celebrity dog goes looking for kisses this Saturday, he won’t be alone.

Joining Rusty will be a cadre of adoptable dogs and animal-loving actors brought together by Lisa Carrier Baker, founder of DC Actors for Animals, whose annual Beltway Barks adoption event in Rockville Town Square gathers celebrated DC performers to entertain crowds, raise awareness, and facilitate dog adoptions.

Actor Matt Hirsh introducing an adoptable dog at last year's Beltway Barks.
Actor Matt Hirsh introducing an adoptable dog at last year’s Beltway Barks.

Baker was inspired to found DC Actors for Animals six years ago after observing the similar Broadway Barks events that Bernadette Peters hosts in NYC.

This year’s Beltway Barks will take place this Saturday, September 15th and will showcase the talents of noted DC performers including Kari Ginsberg, Solomon Parker, Jessica Ball, Hasani Allen, Awa Sal Secka, Harrison Smith, and others (music direction by Elisa Rothman). Each performer will entertain crowds with song and present the dog they have paired with for the day.

Look for the performance part of the day to take place from 11 am to 1 pm. People interested in adopting will then be able to meet the pooches at designated booths and submit adoption applications from 1pm to 3pm.

In its first five years, DC Actors for Animals has helped around 200 dogs through adoption, transport, fundraising, and fostering. 37 out of 45 dogs were adopted at the 2017 Beltway Barks event, several of whom had arrived last minute from Southern states after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

According to Baker, an equal number of people show up to adopt a dog and to see the entertainment and, Baker says, “Every year a dog is adopted by one of the performers! They just form a bond.”

Dog-loving theatergoers are encouraged to bring their own dogs to the event, which, in addition to performances and adoptions, will include a festival-like atmosphere including an agility course, pet trainers, vet services, pet bakeries offering canine treats, and face painters for children.

Tracy Olivera and Evan Casey perform at a past Beltway Barks event.
Tracy Olivera and Evan Casey perform at a past Beltway Barks event.

And… a kissing booth, featuring one of DC’s more unique celebrities: Rusty the celebrity dog. Rusty, who is fresh off the heels of performances as Sandy in Annie at Olney Theatre Center and Toto in The Wiz at Ford’s Theatre*, will be on hand all day to offer his own brand of wet kisses to anyone who ventures to his booth.

We reached out to Rusty’s manager/pal/roommate, Ken Kemp, to see how he feels about Rusty’s profligate kissing at this event. “Rusty is a people person…. Err, dog… and he loves meeting his public. He never gets tired of posing for pictures. There’s not really a lot of kissing involved, but plenty of hugs, head rubs, and tail wags!”

DC Actors for Animals hosts its Sixth Annual Beltway Barks on Saturday, September 15 from 11 am to 3 pm at Rockville Town Square in Rockville, MD. The event is free to the public.

*Best of luck to Rusty at his upcoming audition for the role of Cheeky, the wayward pup, in Arena Stage’s Anything Goes