Passion for Pups
SSPCA volunteer goes above and beyond to help shelter dogs
By Jessica Laskey
Nereo Rebellato is one of those kind-hearted souls who not only talks the talk, he walks the walk.
The former Raley’s executive has volunteered for the Sacramento SPCA for the past four years doing a myriad things—one of which is befriending dogs who catch his eye at the shelter, “fixing them up” if they need medical attention or socialization, and then getting his many friends and colleagues to adopt them.
To sweeten the deal, Rebellato offers to watch the dogs for free any time the owners go out of town. The only thing he asks is that they consider donating what they would have paid him for pet sitting directly to SSPCA.
“I’ve probably rehomed between six and 10 dogs at this point,” the Pocket resident says proudly. “My friends joke that they won’t answer my calls anymore in case I have a dog for them.”
After working 65-plus-hour weeks at Raley’s for decades (he retired when his position was eliminated) Rebellato decided he wanted to give back by doing something he was truly passionate about: helping animals.
Rebellato attended a volunteer orientation at SSPCA four years ago and the rest is history. He’s now one of the organization’s most active volunteers, helping with programs like Love on Loan, in which he takes his own dogs to nursing homes, children’s homes and businesses to lend some puppy love.
He works with Camp Kindness (a summer camp for kids ages 8 to 14), appears on ABC10 and Fox40 once a month to feature adoptable pets, and trains new volunteers on how to handle small animals.
He also participates in mobile events where he takes shelter dogs to gatherings all over the city to encourage adoptions and donations. “Anywhere we can get some attention,” he says.
But Rebellato’s biggest contribution to SSPCA has been his impressive ability to raise money for the Doggy Dash, the group’s largest annual fundraiser. In 2018, he became the first person to raise more than $10,000 in the 26-year history of the event and has consistently been the top individual fundraiser ever since he joined the organization. Rebellato credits this immense success not only to his own perseverance, but also to the generosity of his former coworkers.
“I still keep in touch with my Raley’s family and I’d say 65 percent of my donations come from them,” Rebellato says. “I keep a spreadsheet of everyone I’ve ever asked and those who’ve donated in the past and then I wine-and-dine them—mostly as a thank you for what they’ve done. I canvas the neighborhood—as a person who walks a lot of dogs, I come in contact with a lot of people. I make flyers. I even offer incentives like bottles of wine. Nobody likes asking for money, but if you believe in the cause, you’re going to be persistent. In the end, my name may be attached, but the money I’ve raised is really a credit to all of those people who care.”
Ultimately, it’s about helping animals in need. “I truly believe animals are a gift to humans to help us be a little bit better,” Rebellato says.
“At first, I wondered how I was going to stay busy in retirement after working so hard for so many years, but now I much prefer getting paid in sloppy kisses. I couldn’t imagine life without dogs.”
To volunteer, donate or adopt, visit sspca.org.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.