People Staff
June 27, 2012 08:30 PM

After years of working with Pets Alive, Rob Thomas and his wife Marisol decided they were ready to take the next big step, and the couple recently donated $350,000 to the animal rescue organization.

The gift was made in two parts: $125,000 was personal, and $225,000 came through the Thomases’ own charitable organization, the Sidewalk Angels Foundation. The money helped launch Pets Alive’s newest project, an animal sanctuary based in Puerto Rico, where abandoned and abused animal populations can overwhelm local resources.

“We were doing rescue there remotely,” Marisol, who is of Puerto Rican descent, tells PEOPLE, “and we realized there was really a need there. I wanted to see a real change happen on the island.”

The sanctuary’s aim – as well as the couple’s – is to change the culture of animal rescue in Puerto Rico. “The only way to rescue an animal isn’t to take it away from Puerto Rico,” Rob says. “There’s a much deeper way to change the way people there think about all these animals.”

As much as they are giving to animal rescue in Puerto Rico, the island has given something precious to the couple, who found their dog Oliver during their first remote rescue mission there. The terrier-dachshund mix had been “listed as anorexic and catatonic,” Marisol says. “Rob just said, ‘That’s him. That’s our dog.’ The minute he got into Rob’s arms, he just melted.”

Rob feels just as strongly about Ollie: “I’m telling you right now, my dog is the f–in’ man.”

The couple’s other dog is an “insanely gorgeous” Pomeranian named Samy, who was rescued from a grooming salon that was a front for a puppy mill. Unlike Ollie, who is “sensitive and looking for love,” Samy “doesn’t give a s–,” Rob says, adding that Samy is a bit like the character in the viral video hit Honey Badger.

“I am constantly having to work around my system with Samy in my lap,” Rob says. “I can’t tell you the number of times when I’ve been trying to record a demo, and I’m singing, but I have to take a break because when I listen back to it, I hear [panting noises].

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