If you spent any time at all in the sprawling Maplewood complex that houses Encapsulated Records prior to April, you probably met Nora, the label's unofficial mascot. Energetic and friendly, the black terrier mix was hard to miss, excitedly wandering up to get attention from the musicians making use of Encapsulated's dedicated practice spaces, lounging on the sectional couch in the building's main room or just hanging out during recording sessions.
"She was extremely friendly and just wanted to be with you the whole time, from the first minute I got her," explains Encapsulated label head Mike Jones. "Super chill, relaxed, awesome dog."
Nora came to be a part of Jones' life through Stray Rescue of St. Louis after being fostered by Rick Giordano, guitarist/vocalist of St. Louis metal act the Lion's Daughter (and occasional RFT contributor).
Giordano inherited the dog from Stray Rescue after the young couple who'd initially adopted her suffered from buyer's remorse. The hyperactive pup had apparently accidentally knocked down their toddler a few times.
"She was wound the fuck up and playful and fun," Giordano recalls. "'Yeah, she's gonna knock your kid down, you fucking idiots. And also thank you, because now I get to hang out with this dog.'"
A few days of fostering turned into six months. Then Jones stepped in. His previous dog had recently passed away, and Giordano wanted to move Nora into a permanent home. Encapsulated seemed like an ideal fit.
"There was never a shortage of people to hang out with or play with and I could go see her whenever," Giordano says. "So really it was a perfect situation."
Jones picked Nora up in December 2011, four months before Encapsulated officially opened for business. She settled into her new life as a record label mascot quickly.
"She was greeting people at the door, she was always just kinda hanging out, checking everyone out, and just wanted to be pet by everyone," Jones says.
"She was a sweetie," agrees Fister singer/bassist Kenny Snarzyk, whose band practices and records at Encapsulated. "Any time you would go sit on a couch there she would jump up and put her head in your lap. She was beautiful."
Nora was generally well-behaved, but if she was outside and spotted an animal, all bets were off. One of Encapsulated's neighbors raised chickens, and Nora took a few of them down throughout the years, despite Jones' best efforts.
On the morning of April 18, Nora's killer instincts got the better of her. Jones had gotten some coffee and took Nora outside, their usual routine. The two were outdoors for about a half an hour when he called her back in.
She started coming right away — but then she saw the rabbit.
Nora took off after the furry creature. Jones heard cars coming — in an instant, he knew this wasn't going to be good.
"And I just heard this thud, and it was a really loud thud," Jones explains. "And I knew instantly what happened."
A car had hit Nora full-force. Jones ran to the accident and found his dog struggling to get off the pavement. He scooped her up in his arms, and as he ran to his vehicle to take her to an animal hospital, she took two final breaths before going limp.
But that wasn't the end of the story.
Giordano had held his first benefit show for Stray Rescue in 2010 — a comedy show at Fubar that raised roughly $1,000. He held another benefit at the Ready Room in 2014, which also served as a release show for the Lion's Daughter's split release with Memphis' Nights Like These. All proceeds were donated; that show raised $2,006.
He decided that the perfect tribute to Nora's life would be a metal show, a fundraiser for Stay Rescue. Like Nora herself, it ended up being larger than life.
On Saturday, September 3, Nora Fest overtook both stages at Fubar, with nearly a dozen metal/punk bands donating their time and talent to the cause. A massive raffle included everything from a Fister test press to a vibrator (courtesy of Hustler Hollywood) to some bottles of Jeppson's Malort (widely considered one of the most vile alcoholic concoctions on the planet). All proceeds were to be donated to Stray Rescue, and attendees gave generously.
Also available at the show was a Nora Fest compilation CD assembled specifically for the cause, with 25 local bands each contributing a cover of a classic punk or metal song. Participants included Everything Went Black, Bruiser Queen, the Humanoids and of course the Lion's Daughter. On the cover of the CD is a picture of a black terrier mix, familiar to many, but sporting an unfamiliar snarl for the photo.
"Rick tried to find the most metal picture of her possible," Jones laughs.
In all, the efforts raised $2,937, every dollar handed directly to Stray Rescue.
It can seem odd, in a way, that a group of metalheads would be so concerned with the plight of dogs. As a rule, the genre doesn't tend to view mankind itself with much sympathy.
"If you were to take everything that heavy metal is about and you personified it into one person I would say that person would be pretty misanthropic, yeah," Snarzyk says. "Mankind is horrible as a whole — you get too many of us together and we're gonna do terrible things."
Yet when man's best friend needed them, the metal community was there.
Asked why, Snarzyk responds with a chuckle.
"There's many ways you can look at it. I mean, the stupid way to look at it is, well, dogs are wolves, and wolves are tight," he laughs.
Giordano has his own theory.
"It seems like a lot of what would get a person into something like punk rock or metal or whatever usually stems from some anger, and that anger usually is caused by people, you know?" he says. "Your parents shit on you, or people at school did, or your teachers were dicks, cops pushed you around — whatever happened that pissed you off and made you get into more aggressive styles of music.
"I don't know that anybody has a story where they're like, 'Yeah man, my life was great and my parents were cool and then I had this fucking dog that chased me home from school one day and I went out and bought a Black Flag record and now I'm just fucking pissed off and fuck dogs. But people are OK.'
"Like, I don't know," he says. "That doesn't really happen."