Thursday, May 12, 2016

Running With Rusty


Let's be honest here: I don't actually run with Rusty, I am simply lucky enough to get to take him on his walks where he tends to run like the wind. I get to admire my surroundings and wonder why anyone would abandon this amazing dog.


It's been two months since I picked up this bundle of nerves from the adoption fair in Homestead on February 27th and he has come into his own. When first I took him home he illustrated exactly why life on the streets is so hard for a stray dog. He jumped at any sound, he slept with one eye open, actually open so he seemed exhausted all the time. On walks when anything scared him he would rush for cover, if off the leash he ran deep into the bushes if on the leash he strained like a condemned man on a rope. And this was a dog who had spent a few months in a loving foster home, so his nerves when actually on the street must have been pitiable. He's a bit different now.


He carries the scars of a street dog. One tooth is missing as are a few small tufts of fur around his face, evidence of abuse or of street fights. He is scared of larger dogs but friendly with dogs his size or smaller. However these days when he sees a large barking dog trapped in a yard he walks on by with no fear and the other day when a large dog got out of a car in a parking lot, my little explorer ran back to sit beside me rather than running into the woods.

I have started to think Rusty might like to swim and I a planning an expedition to a beach where we could go into the water together. He shows signs of not minding the ocean and on hot days he dunks himself to cool off. Baths are a different mater . His first bath led Rusty into crisis mode, disappearing for a bit to shake off the trauma followed by distrust and fear as though he was being punished for doing something wrong. I, however, persisted, talking cheerfully to him as I held a hind leg and soaped him up and rinsed him. These days he sister in misery barely held as I do the dirty deed to him. I even get a kiss after I'm done and he will sit with me without going off to lick his wounds. The price of admission to this family I tell the clean smelling bundle of wet fur.

Rusty is a smart willing dog. I like him a lot and he seems to enjoy learning and he is eager to please. I haven't had to raise my voice in weeks, indeed I make a point of keeping calm around him all the time as I learn how he likes to cope. For instance I tied him off to a tree just this morning and he promptly chewed through the leash. All he did then as I watched him from the coffee shop where he wasn't allowed to be, was that he trotted over to the car and sat in the shade next to it waiting for me. So perhaps tying him up won't work. As a precaution we bought a six foot mental leash for our road trip next month so if he have to tie him he will be there when we get back. He will be pissed but he will be there.


Ours has become a very companionable relationship. He waits for me at the top of the stairs when I get back from work and I barely have time to climb off the motorcycle before he barrels into me like a furry cannonball. He jumps up, pink and black tongue out, his paws scrabbling at my chest. Then he leaps into the car and I find a place for him to walk off his energy stored over night.

He really likes rural walks and takes the time to explore every leaf and every bush on every trail. He runs ahead and disappears for a moment but he comes looking for me periodically, or sits on the trail till I amble up. If I want him back I whistle and in seconds the little brown bulletin is flying to me. We had words early on about not coming when called and he never forgot that lesson. When he gets scared he lays down and scratches his ear in contrition. He hasn't done that with me for weeks now so I think he's as happy as I am.

He eats gently and takes treats with the softest mouth, he is easy to pet and he loves to cuddle, when it suits him. When he's tired he retreated to his bed in the bedroom and he pricks up his ears when he hears dogs on Netflix. He likes to use his dog door so when he gets back from his walk he runs up the stairs and zips round the deck to his door ignoring the front door used by humans, even if I open it for him.


When he has to stay home I tell him to stay and he does reluctantly. No doubt he imagines I am off having fun without him ( at work no less) but he never leaves home. There is no fence to keep him in but he stays in the drive sometimes just watching the street with his paws crossed. Sometimes he sits at the top of the stairs or snoozes and sunbathes. He has the run of the house and it's clear he enjoys not being a stray anymore.

Rusty has got used to my wife and he greets her with almost the same abandon he greets me. He sits in the kitchen to help with food preparation and he hardLy ever takes food off the coffee table even if we aren't looking. He is really a remarkable dog.


Some peop,e make a lot of noise about not taking in abandoned dogs, preferring to pay for animals from breeders and worst of all from pet shops. Frankly I don't get it. Every breed you might want is available through rescue organizations across the country. I started looking through Labrador Rescue of Florida before we got Rusty and they had every kind of Lab available. You hear people say you inherit problem dogs when you adopt. I think this page proves that's not the case. Cheyenne was wonderful and I think of her fondly every day. Rusty is doing a fine follow up job keeping me cheerful and making every day special. I couldn't have bought better dogs.

So the next time somebody tells you bums on the streets are living the life, think of this little guy starting at every sound, fearful and unsure of his every move and look at him now. Home is best. Everyone should have one.