Twenty-four of Ron and Michele Riggi’s furry little roommates are the stars of a new book called “Posh Palazzo Pups,” which debuted Sunday at a fundraiser garden party at the Riggis’ home on North Broadway.
Proceeds from the book will benefit canine cancer research and the Riggis’ dream of creating a 24-hour animal hospital somewhere in Saratoga County. The nearest facility to Saratoga Springs is in Moreau.
Posh Palazzo Pups 24-Hour Animal Hospital is the name of the effort.
“We are looking for the land right now,” Michele Riggi said, adding that she hopes to build the animal hospital in the next couple of years. “You have to make sure that the property is in the perfect location for the clients.”
She aims to put the future clinic just off the Northway so people can find it easily. It would have a pull-up emergency entrance just like a human hospital.
“You know when you have a sick animal, you want to know exactly how to get there,” she said.
Now, people who have pet emergencies after hours must bring their animals to the 24-hour clinic in Moreau or Albany and then take the animals back to their home vet clinic for care during the day.
That can be stressful to animals in pain, especially those that don’t like to ride in the car in the first place, Riggi said.
“We are in such need of this in the Saratoga area,” she said.
Riggi is working with some veterinarians but said Monday that she did not want to reveal their names yet.
Riggi’s clinic would also have a wellness clinic for routine care, offering nutrition, acupuncture and water therapy.
Pet owners also could stay with their animals overnight in a special room in the proposed facility, she said.
Palazzo Riggi, the Riggis’ North Broadway estate, is home to 31 tiny dogs, the newest of which, a Chihuahua named Queenie, was “rescued” from a pet store on Saturday, Riggi said.
Riggi said her passion for dogs began in childhood when she was not allowed near her grandfather’s kennel full of beagles because they were working dogs. She began bringing home strays as a child. After raising four children, Riggi got her first Chihuahua, Kahlua, in 1997 and since then has been unable to resist any small furry face stuck in an inhospitable environment.
The dogs have three trainers and groomers at their disposal. Riggi said she has taken to walking 10 of them at a time.
“You should see me walking them down Broadway,” she said.
Each morning a bunch of the dogs run out of their room to hang out with Riggi during her workout.
“It’s like ‘101 Dalmatians,’ ” she said.
The idea to put a book together about Riggi’s dogs came from her friend Terri-Lynn Pellegri’s desire to photograph the dogs. Pellegri, a freelance photographer and close friend of Riggi’s, said Sunday that she never thought the project would get as big as it did. The book took four years to complete.
Pellegri said she spent a lot of time with each dog and took photographs that enhanced their personalities.
“You know each dog, like each child, has their own personality, and each dog’s relationship with Michele is different, too,” she said.
To go along with the photographs, Riggi commissioned Grammy-winning music producer Joel Moss to write a poem about each dog. Moss said Sunday that he interviewed Riggi about each dog, along with spending time with them to write each poem.
Moss said Riggi’s relationship with each dog is unique.
“It’s not like she’s a crazy cat lady or anything,” he said. “She really has a deep relationship with each dog.”
Riggi said the book was also a way for her to show people the inside of her estate, which is assessed at $4.8 million, without actually letting them inside.
“So many people have asked to see the inside of the house, so this is a way that I can sort of give them a tour,” she said.
The Riggis have been in the news recently over their desire to tear down a home they recently purchased for $1.1 million. The two-story brick structure at 23 Greenfield Ave. was built in 1858, and the property abuts their North Broadway estate.
Many residents and neighbors are opposed to the Riggis’ plans and have spoken out at City Council meetings.
The council enacted a moratorium at the beginning of July on demolition of any building in the city that is on the National Register of Historic Places or listed as a contributing structure. Riggi declined to comment on the controversy on Sunday.