Rambo wasn't living up to his name.
The 2-year-old purebred beagle had been dropped off at the county animal shelter because "he refused to hunt." In fact, the shy hound was frightened by any sharp, loudnoises -- even nose blowing and nail clipping.
Enter Annapolis resident Gerald Lavin. In April, the 64 year-old volunteer gardener at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter on Bay Ridge Avenue spotted the frightened and lonely beagle cowering in the corner of his cage.
Lavin promptly gave his new pet a kinder, gentler moniker -- "Rimbaud," (pronounced ram-BO) aFrench poet of the late 1800s.
"He looked so pathetic . . . and he wasn't housebroken. Chances of him getting adopted were nil except by suckers like me," said the amiable Lavin, a retired United Nationsemployee.
SPCA volunteer Carole Jamieson wants to teach people that pets are not a disposable part of society, and Lavin is one of 24 local seniors helping her by adopting pets through the Purina Pets for People program. The effort unites orphaned pets with people 60 and older.
Fees for adoption and the costs for spaying or neutering, initial veterinary visits, shots, pet supplies and a starter supply ofdog or cat food are paid by the Ralston Purina Co.
Lavin has spent a great deal of time nurturing his tan-and-white floppy-eared dog.
"That the dog has done so well is a great credit to Gerald," said Jamieson, who spends 15 to 20 hours a week volunteering at the shelter.
Barbara and Marshall Hicks, both 71, a couple who recently adopted a pet through the program, live in Heritage Harbor. The Hicks, who retired from jobs in the Montgomery County school system, brought home a purebred cocker spaniel named Linda.
"It's just like having a child again," Barbara said about the frisky blond-and-white dog.
"She loves people, and she loves attention.
"When we first got her, she always wanted to stay at our feet, but now she's getting better," she added.
"(Linda) has such a sweet disposition," said Jamieson, who develops relationships with the owners and stays in touch to make sure everything is OK.
In subsequent follow-up calls to the new owner, Jamieson verifies that the pet has been taken to the vet and is healthy. She also will ask about how the animal is adjusting to the family and other pets.
Recently named to the SPCA board of directors, Jamieson says pet ownership is beneficial to the physical andmental well being of people of all ages, especially seniors.
Jamieson even conducted a unique home delivery for an 87-year-old woman who was housebound on a large farm in Friendship. The woman, who was unable to drive to the shelter to pick up a pet, allowed a friend to choose a cat for her, and Jamieson took the cat and adoption papers tothe woman.
Studies have shown that pet companionship may improve the health of seniors by lowering blood pressure and reducing stress.In addition, pets offer a reason for exercise, as the owners must walk their pets.