DC radio star Jen Richer dishes about her four-legged family

By Joseph Grammer

Photo by Georgette Tsongos

NOVADog Magazine sat down with Jen Richer, who is co-host and executive producer for “The Tommy Show” on 94.7 Fresh FM. Her constant companions on the airwaves are the inimitable Tommy McFly and Kelly Collis. In 2018, Washingtonian Magazine named their team “Best Local Radio Personality,” but these three friends have been having fun on their early-morning program since 2011. Please learn more at www.947freshfm.com, or tune in to 94.7 from 6-10 AM. Joining us were Jen’s best friend Lindsey and their two beautiful rescue dogs, Bruce and Grant.

Jen Richer is an exceedingly nice person. When she invited our photographer Georgette and me into the Fresh FM studio to talk about her pups (and how much she loves them), she showed us nothing but generosity. Before she came downstairs to let us in, however, she put Bruce and Grant in one of the studio’s windowed rooms for a quick second: just for the time it took to ride the elevator down, welcome our intrepid team, and bring us upstairs.

Unfortunately, we discovered that the dogs’ room wouldn’t open. Bruce and Grant were locked inside, and while we could see them jumping around excitedly, we couldn’t get them free. Jen made a few phone calls to Tommy McFly, her dazzling co-host and namesake for “The Tommy Show,” but it was his birthday, so he was a bit indisposed. In fact, Jen was planning on joining the party right after she spoke to me.

To complicate matters further, it was Sunday, so there was minimal security and staff in the building. Basically, it was up to Jen, Lindsey, Georgette, and me to free the dogs. (Luckily, they seemed to be having a good time in there.)

Now, you might’ve seen movies where people slip in through locked doors with nothing more than a bobby pin or credit card. Personally, I had never seen the trick work, but I suggested it to Jen as a last-ditch effort, and with all the hope and energy she brings to her show, she jammed one of her cards in the crack between the door and the wall and started fiddling with it.

In about ten seconds, the lock clicked, and the door popped open. Grant and Bruce, who had been building up to a wild level of excitement as they watched their mom on the other side, immediately sprinted out and began jumping for joy.

It was a great moment for teamwork and ingenuity, which was a nice place to start our conversation. Seated in the studio proper, with audio equipment all around, we broke down the stories behind Jen and Lindsey’s fabulous dogs and explored why they love canines so much.

How did you adopt your dogs?

I met my best friend in the whole world, Lindsey Randall, in college. We were roomies 12 years ago, and now we’re doggie co-parents who still share an apartment. (It’s awesome.) Everyone said it was a terrible idea to adopt a dog with your roommate, because what if you stopped living together? But we both said “phooey!” and just went for it. We’d been roommates for about six years at this point.

We knew we wanted a dog, and we’d moved into a building that was dog-friendly, but we were waiting for the right one. Lindsey found Home for the Holidays in Reston, and we were looking around, hoping to find our perfect pup, but there just wasn’t that connection yet. You know how you always hear that the dog finds you?

So we had lunch, which was more like a pity party since we hadn’t had any luck finding a match. But as we’re walking back to the car, Lindsey spots this beautiful, black, 7-month-old mix who’d just gotten to the event. It was love at first sight. In maybe 3 ½ minutes we decided Grant was coming home with us. To make a perfect match even more perfect, it turned out he was a Lost Dog—we’d been volunteers there already, so we didn’t have to do any of the background.

When we got back to our apartment, Grant just sat down and curled up like he’d known us forever. We were expecting a puppy to climb all over everything, but he was so gentle. He has this old, mellow vibe—his eyes look right into your soul.

Grant is co-dependent, though, so we knew we were going to get a second dog. We weren’t actively searching, but I knew someone in our building was fostering a Homeward Trails dog named Bruce. Grant, who doesn’t play with a lot of dogs, saw Bruce in the lobby and actually got along with him. That was a big deal, so I put my name in to adopt him, not really thinking much of it.

I texted Lindsey (who was away) and said, “Have you seen the new puppy Bruce in our building?”

And she’s like, “Yeah, he’s cute.”

So I left it at that, although I didn’t exactly tell Lindsey I’d put our names in to get Bruce. Cut to that huge snowstorm of January 2016: the Snowpocalypse.

Lindsey is away again for work, and now she gets another text from me: “How do you feel about getting another dog?”

She says, “Yeah, I guess.”

Meanwhile, Bruce was already in our apartment, crated and everything. I was really happy she said yes, because otherwise, I don’t know what I would’ve done. He was 15 weeks old, and snow was just pouring down outside.

It’s nighttime, there’s a blizzard, CostCo is shut down—the universe is going into chaos. The way it went down was that Megan, who fostered Bruce, had texted me, “Hey, are you home right now?” She didn’t tell me that we’d been qualified or approved, but she showed up at my door and went, “Here’s Bruce!”

At the time, I had zero puppy supplies, since Grant was older by then: no pee pads, no crate, nothing. Luckily, everyone in the building chipped in to help, which was amazing.

Bruce wasn’t potty trained yet, so I was like, “Oh, this is going to be great.” The roads were closed, snow was everywhere, and I had to take him out every hour for a bathroom trip. That was a bonding experience.

What are their personalities like?

Grant is a diva. He spends ninety percent of the day just chilling, and he will cuddle you forever if you let him. Socially, Grant is like the super-smart gentle child who goes over to the other kids playing and then everyone just disperses immediately. He has a Shih Tzu brain and Golden Retriever body, and he’s perfection, even if he isn’t always popular with other dogs.

He also totally has a death-wish. If he doesn’t want to do something, he’s really passive aggressive about it. When we first got him, Lindsey and I thought we were going to walk every day and lose all this weight. But we found out that Grant would only make it about a block before lying down. People would come up to us all concerned and say, “He needs water! You should carry him!” And we would say, “No, he’s just sitting and looking at this squirrel over there, and we’re not going in the squirrel’s direction.”

One day I see this woman on the street, and her kid is throwing a temper tantrum. I was like, “So glad I don’t have to deal with that!” Then I realize Grant is lying down in the middle of the street at the end of the leash, totally oblivious to the danger of cars. He does whatever he wants, which is mostly relaxing.

Bruce, on the other hand, is all about adventure. He should’ve been a search and rescue dog because he has so much energy, and he’s really good at finding stuff. But his favorite thing is just catching a ball.

Bruce is hesitant with other dogs at first, and he’s a bit shaky around little boys or wheels. He can be aggressive on the barking, but then he chills out. He and his brother were picked up at 10 weeks old, on my birthday actually—the universe aligned on that one. But it was hard for him early on, I know.

The best compliment we get is, “Oh, are they brothers?” Most of the time they get along great, but they do antagonize each other sometimes. Bruce demands that Grant play with him, which means he’ll stuck his butt in Grant’s face. That doesn’t always go over well.

What are their backstories?

Grant’s foster mom, Cathy Grimes, is amazing. Her husband is a dentist, and she runs his office. They have this huge property out in Leesburg, and at any given time they have like 15 dogs on the property. A few are theirs, but many are fosters. The house is a basecamp when they do a shelter pickup.

Grant originally came from a puppy mill in West Virginia. It was an absolute mess: the owner wasn’t giving the dogs the de-worming meds or anti-diarrheals they needed. An Animal Control agent found the mill on Craigslist and went undercover specifically to adopt Grant. She’s like, “I want the Golden Retriever,” and they brought out Grant, who’s black. The puppy mill owner told the officer he would “turn gold” later, which was ridiculous. [He’s just a “black Golden.”] Luckily, the officer shut the puppy mill down, and Grant went over to Cathy. He was three months old at the time.

Cathy took care of him, puppy trained him, everything. He had a lot of stomach issues, so she was nervous about showing him to us, but we adopted him right away. We bring him back every year to see her and her family at Home for the Holidays. This will be our sixth one, and Grant remembers her completely—he loses his mind when he sees her. 

Bruce and his brother Samson are also from West Virginia. They were found walking the streets at 10 weeks old, and then Animal Control picked them up and took them to Leesburg, where Bruce was fostered out to Megan.

We did the DNA thing with Bruce, but we honestly don’t know if it’s true. He came back Chihuahua, Husky, and some terrier. Grant’s was 100% accurate, though: half Shih Tzu and half Golden Retriever.

What do you like to do with Grant and Bruce?

They’re not good summer dogs, so we can only take them outside really early or really late in the day. I haven’t tried bringing to them the beach yet. Bruce and Grant are definitely fall and spring dogs—not so much hot weather.

They do love the NOVADog GlowDogGlow Run in September. Don’t leave dogs in back seat with glow sticks, by the way. Luckily, they’re non-toxic, which we found out after a panic attack or two and some intense Googling. Bruce was literally glowing for a while.

We do a lot of road trips with them. We’ll visit a friend in Connecticut, or maybe Lindsey’s parents in Long Island. But usually they go to “fat camp” in Olde Towne Pet Resort, where they’re treated like kings. There’s this girl Rachel there who sees that Grant and Bruce are coming, and she goes nuts, makes announcements over the PA system—it’s great.

If we could get Grant to move regularly, that would be great. We tried swimming, but Grant only does it begrudgingly. Bruce freaked out about it, which was strange. I thought he’d be Michael Phelps with all his energy, but he was not feeling it. I grew up right near the beach in San Diego, so our dogs would be in the water all the time. I’d love it if these guys were into swimming, but it’s not really happening!

Can you tell us about your rescue work?

We were a big rescue family. When I was born, my parents had two rescues named Little Bit and Mitzi, and I was almost like the third dog who came along. My aunt was a firefighter, so if people left their pets or she rescued them, she’d be like, “Can I bring this cat over to you?” and they’d end up at our house. So it’s always been a part of my life.

In terms of local rescues, we still help out with Lost Dog. The thing that blows my mind is that this area is so dog-friendly, but it’s so hard to transport the dogs here from different places. A lot of them come from the kill shelters in South Carolina and West Virginia, and the big issue is literally just moving them here. NOVA has a high demand for rescue dogs—there are plenty of homes willing to take them in. That part isn’t a problem.

I asked MoCo [Montgomery County] Humane Society, “If you could have money for anything, what would it be?” They said, “We’re dying for a new van to collect the animals from other areas and drive them here. We have lots of volunteers, lots of spaces at the shelters, lots of adoptive families, but transportation is what we struggle with.”

Dylan, the woman I work with over at MoCo, just mentioned this casually. I was like, “Tell me which van you want and we’ll set up a GoFundMe!”

Our neighborhood dog expert Chuck is tight with Arlington Rescue League, and apparently they have the same problem: transportation. Imagine the person going down to that kill shelter and saying, “I only have room for eight.” That shouldn’t be an issue.

Any dog stories you want to share?

There was one Thanksgiving when Lindsey’s parents came down. Her mom brings these New York clamshell cookies, which are delicious. Now, our dogs are generally well-behaved when we’re around, but when we leave, even for a little while, they become evil. So I come out of the shower, and there are clamshell sprinkles everywhere. Grant is there looking at me like, “I’m busted.” He ate the entire plate.

Food is definitely a theme in our stories. There’s this natural powdered dry dog food where you add water to maybe half a cup, and it expands into a full meal. So I put the food on the counter one time, and I didn’t think twice about it because it was boxed and sealed. I left for an hour, and of course Grant gets into it. He ate probably two cups of powder, and he is not a big dog. When I got home, he looked miserable, just lying on his back. He was like a king who’d eaten four whole chickens. You could literally see it expanding in his body. (He ended up being OK, though.)

Grant has chewed a few shoes in his day, too. It was extra-sad when he’d get into Lindsey’s designer shoes, but you know you’re a dog mom when you’re like, “It was my fault for leaving it out, not his. We should know better.”

What would you tell someone who’s thinking of getting a dog for the first time?

Don’t overthink it. Both of us grew up with dogs, and we knew what we were getting into. A lot of people might try to dissuade you, but don’t worry. If you’ve thought about it, get a dog and you will make your life fit around him or her. The dog’s still going to love you in 10 years!

Joseph Grammer is Managing Editor for NOVADog Magazine. He lives in Alexandria, VA, but grew up in New Jersey with a bunch of adopted dogs, including a mutt (Blizzard) who he found on the street.

You can find Jen on Twitter @jenricher and Instagram at jenthericher. (Grant and Bruce make appearances, too.) And of course, tune into 94.7 Fresh FM at 6 AM for “The Tommy Show,” where Tommy, Jen, and Kelly keep DC’s mornings moving along with plenty of laughter, songs, culture, and conversation.

Check out Georgette Tsongos’ marvelous pet (and human) photography at www.lotusphotography.net, or call 703-915-1858.