Meet Rusty, the inspiration behind rustyrodas.com. He has an inspiring story of restoration, and the power of love and patience.
He was abandoned at an Oregon state park, captured in a trap, and locked up in the shelter for many weeks. Family after family saw his photo online and applied for adoption, but sadly after they met him they would change their minds. He didn’t have the normal “golden personality” they were looking for.
He was terrified of humans and wanted nothing to do with them. Any attention directed his way would cause his back legs to shake with fear and he would drop to his belly as if he was trying to disappear.
The second I met him, I knew I could not leave him there. The longer he stayed in that dark concrete shelter “jail cell” the harder it was going to be to rehabilitate him. My parents run an animal rescue and I knew that with their help, Rusty could learn to trust again and have a happy normal life.
Attempting to get him into my car for the drive home from the shelter was the first test of our new friendship. I had to start earning his trust and forcing him into my car would have been a major set back.
After 15-20 minutes of coaxing, treats, positive reinforcement, and patiently waiting in silence, he slowly crawled into the car. I sat in the backseat with him, avoiding eye contact, doing my best to give off a calm and trustworthy vibe. I kept my distance and didn’t push my way into this “safety bubble.”
Ten minutes into the drive, I couldn’t believe it. He looked over at me, and cautiously crawled over. He put his paw around my arm, laid his head on my shoulder and Rusty closed his eyes and fell asleep. For a fearful dog to close his eyes and sleep was a really big deal. It was in that moment I knew that with some work he could become a happy dog. He slept the remaining 20 minutes of our drive home. It was as if he could finally close his eyes, knowing he was now safe. He won my heart that day.
The first year with Rusty was challenging; fear ruled his life. He would drop to his belly and crawl through doorways, he would freeze up and shut down if there were loud noises, fast movements, garbage cans, mailboxes, you name it… Rusty was afraid of it.
Rusty is now five years old, and truly is the best dog. He has learned that the world is not out to get him and has come out of his fearful shell. Rusty is still timid at times, but overall, he is not the same fearful dog I brought home that day from the shelter. He is playful, friendly and really fun to be around.
Rusty has since been used as a rehabilitation dog for a local Animal Rescue named Northwest Animal Companions. He helps dogs that have been traumatized by humans learn to trust again.
He loves to have his photo taken, because he has learned that the camera means treats are not too far away. He sits still and seems to pose for me when I dress him up, waiting for the yummy snack to follow.
Rusty has taught me a lot about love and forgiveness, and their power in the restoration process.
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