Camille Rolla is a Pittsburgh-based pianist. She’s very talented. Recently, she subbed with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra for a concert series in the mountains of West Virginia.
She’s also a dog rescuer.
You know these people. They’ve always got a random dog in the back of their car. They find them in parking lots, at shopping malls and on country roads. They’re always calling a vet or buying food or posting on social media about their latest find. They have huge hearts and often take incredible leaps of faith when it comes to their charges. Animals just seem to seek these folks out.
On July 2, the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, along with Camille, hopped on a bus bound for Canaan Valley where they performed at the ski resort. When the music was finished, the group got back into the bus to prepare for a Clarksburg concert the next day.
The bus stopped at a Kroger in Elkins so the musicians could buy snacks and stretch their legs. Immediately, Camille’s rescue-magnetism drew in a lost soul.
“There was a dog running around in the parking lot,” she said. “Apparently he was there all day just running around trying to get into the air conditioning and everything. If I see a stray, I always try to find his home. I’ve found so many strays’ homes — I swear, I’m a magnet, now.”
Clearly, the dog had a home. He was well cared for and friendly. Camille called her husband back in Pittsburgh — a fellow dog lover — and told him she didn’t think she could get back on the bus, which was headed to Washington, Pa. She was to return home, then board the bus the next day for the Clarksburg concert.
“I don’t have my car,” she said to her husband. “If I don’t get back on the bus, I don’t really know what I’m going to do.”
Another member of the orchestra bought the dog a collar and a leash as Camille considered her decision. If she got off the bus, she’d have no way to get to the performance in Clarksburg, let alone a way to get around Elkins. She had no clothing, no toiletries and no sense of where she was.
“But I said, ‘I’m just going to stay here and wing it.’” And the bus pulled out.
As if by magic, a fellow dog-lover appeared and gave Camille and the dog a ride to the Elkins Inn, the nearest pet-friendly hotel. There, she was met with more West Virginia hospitality.
“I had to check out of the hotel [in the morning] before I even knew what I was doing. The dog and I were hanging out in the lobby talking to the hotel employees. When the manager found out that I was rescuing the dog and heard the full story, she waived the pet fee. So many people stepped up.”
Things continued to fall into place for Camille and the dog: a vet within walking distance was able to read the dog’s microchip. His name was Marvin, and his owner lived in Elkins, but she was at work for the day. Camille left a message. By this point, she had to proceed to Clarksburg for the symphony’s evening performance. A friend from Morgantown arrived to help her get there, and Marvin came along. His owner finally called when they reached Clarksburg. She was relieved to hear he was safe and came at once to pick him up.
“She must have been a good dog owner,” Camille said, “because she drove two hours and paid for gas and everything to get her dog back, and he was happy to see her. I met all sorts of great people that day.”
Thanks to Camille, everything worked out for Marvin. And thanks to the kindness of others, everything worked out for Camille. Someone drove her to the hotel. Someone drove her to get toiletries and a clean shirt for the concert. The veterinarian. The hotel manager.
The members of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra paid it forward, too. Everybody on the bus pitched in to cover her expenses.
Camille said she’s found faith in people as time has passed.
“I’ve gotten a lot braver as I get older. I would never have done this 20 years ago. Taking that leap of faith is pretty good. I just kind of did it and figured people would help me figure it out.”
Camille’s own three dogs — all rescues — were waiting for her when she got home. Marvin is safe and sound with his family. She knows he probably won’t be the last dog she saves.
“They’re our babies,” she said. “We have to take care of them.”
Thanks to Camille Rolla and the kindness of West Virginians, we will.
• Laura Jackson Roberts is a freelance writer in Wheeling, W.Va. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University and writes about nature and the environment. Her work has recently appeared in Brain, Child Magazine, Vandaleer, Animal, Matador Network, Defenestration, The Higgs Weldon and the Erma Bombeck humor site. Laura is the Northern Panhandle representative for West Virginia Writers, a blog editor for Literary Mama Magazine and a member of Ohio Valley Writers. She recently finished her first book of humor. Laura lives in Wheeling with her husband and their sons. Visit her online at www.laurajacksonroberts.com.