If you're in the process of adopting a greyhound from a local agency and the red-headed handler looks familiar, you're not crazy: That's Neko Case.
The alt-country and folk singer-songwriter volunteers from time to time at a local greyhound adoption agency.
Case spoke on the phone last week from her Tucson abode about her Monday night show at the Rialto Theatre, which will benefit The Greyhound Adoption League of Tucson and shine some light on other local canine causes.
As she talked, her four dogs lingered close by.
"They're right here. Would you like me to put one on?"
A member of The New Pornographers, a Canadian group, Case has become a prominent solo artist with releases like 2002's "Blacklisted" and her acclaimed 2006 breakthrough, "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood."
She is wrapping up work at Tucson's Wavelab Studio on her next album, "Middle Cyclone," due out next March.
Case is beloved for her fierce independence and bold singing that seems to carry the Southwest in every breath. Her voice is a sweeping instrument with emotional punch that swoops, flutters and soars like a desert hawk.
On the phone, she comes off more like a colorful next-door neighbor: friendly, self-effacing, on track to set a new record for superlatives about animals, and in love with Tucson.
"I really believe strongly in getting involved in your community," she said.
Case is trying to make a habit of holding annual Tucson benefit shows. Last year she played a show at the Rialto to help the humanitarian group No More Deaths and was "really moved" by the turnout.
"It just makes you feel good to connect with your neighbors in that way," she said.
One of the many nonprofit groups to be highlighted at this year's Rialto event is Tucson Dog Protection and its initiative on the November ballot. The initiative seeks to protect dogs from being fed rancid meat, kept in small cages for the majority of the day and injected with steroids.
If approved by voters, the initiative would protect greyhounds, in particular, while they're at Tucson Greyhound Park.
"I don't think dog racing is bad," Case said. "I just think the way they're treated is bad."
The director of marketing for Tucson Greyhound Park did not return calls for comment. In a May 8 story in the Star, General Manager Tom Taylor said that dogs are not being mistreated at the park. He also said that even if voters approve the initiative, it won't matter.
"We will go actively toward grandfathering Tucson Greyhound Park to the ordinance," he added.
To those who say the greyhounds at Tucson Greyhound Park are doing just dandy, Case said: "They're lying and they don't want to lose their jobs."
Case said that part of the reason she's so passionate about the local greyhound movement is because she deals with the aftermath of owners who dump underperforming dogs.
"They end up living at my house," she said.
Case was born in Alexandria, Va., grew up in Tacoma, Wash., and has since sputtered around the country, living in places like Vancouver, Seattle and Chicago, before landing in the Old Pueblo earlier this decade.
She's become involved in community issues, recently trying to combat the Regional Transportation Authority, and doesn't want to see Tucson wrecked by developers out for a quick buck.
"Tucson's such a great place. We really are lucky, and we really have it going on," she said. "And we really have to keep our eyes open and make sure we're not being taken advantage of."
Tucson has also finally afforded her the opportunity to have a house, and, therefore, a dog.
Around 2002, she adopted a shelter dog named Lloyd. The greyhound passed away in 2006.
She now owns three greyhounds — Travis, Guy and Swan-Y— and a "mutt" named Liza.
Case adopted Swan-Y three months ago, she said. Before that, the dog was kept in a cage for seven years and bred constantly.
Although Case loves all dogs and is not a breed snob, the lanky racers clearly hold a special place in her heart.
"They're so subtle, they're so funny," she said. "They're like the Bob Newhart of dogs."
If you go
• What: Neko Case in concert, with Crooked Fingers. Benefit for The Greyhound Adoption League of Tucson and Tucson Dog Protection.
• When: 8 p.m. Monday.
• Where: Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St.
• Cost: $20 general admission and $22 reserve seated balcony.