Photo Comments Sex: Male
Leave a bone for Rusty (1996-2010)
Dogster stats for Rusty (1996-2010)
Rusty Dusty, Scooter, Fuzzy Wuzzy Baby Boy, Roosky Doosky
May 5th 1996
I thought he was kind of funny-looking when I first laid eyes on him. Someone had cut off the top of his ears and lopped off his tail (without anesthesia, Iâ€™ll venture). He was a golden dog, and I wanted a black one. Built like a fireplug. Not really the kind of pooch I was drawn to. But Bob the Husband immediately liked him well enough, and Calvin the Dobrador (Dobie and Lab) was ecstatic to find someone with whom to play chase. So what the heck, letâ€™s bring him home.
He had been tied up overnight to the doorknob of a pet store in Marin and was rescued by the St. Francis Animal Protection Society. I had gotten Calvin and two previous dogs, Tyler and Terry, from the St. Francis, all great boys. When our pack was down to three, thatâ€™s the organization I called. I told Helen, the founder, what I wanted and she gave me the foster contact for Rusty (then named Bear). So we set up a dog meeting, drove over to Berkeley and came home with a new guy.
At first, it was clear that Rusty had a serious side, and he had understandable abandonment issues. But he was a pretty good dog â€“ housebroken, playful, easy to feed, not bad on walks. And he had the best smile â€“ till the very end, in fact. In his first few months with us he did manage to chew up a couple of pairs of Bobâ€™s shoes, and he ran away once. Over the years he didnâ€™t bother chewing on things, but he did have a penchant for escaping. One time he climbed over the fence in the dog run, so we added another three feet of height. And another time he jumped through the back screen door to chase a wanton, teasing squirrel. And then that day he noticed the gate was open. Off again. Each time he ran away my heart was in my throat, since it hadnâ€™t taken long for me to get very fond of my Fuzzy Wuzzy Baby Boy. Twice he was found, once he came back on his own. He liked living with us, but he was an explorer and had a job to do.
On one of our hikes up to Sibley on a day after a series of storms, Rusty was off-leash and Calvin on. So Rusty went ahead and noticed, down a sleep, muddy, slippery slope, that there was what he probably thought was a pack of dogs. Being entirely dog-social at that time, he took off at full speed (and that was fast) to catch up to them. Unfortunately, it was a herd of cows, lying in the grass. As he approached, they got up, clustered together and began a stampede. I kept calling him and calling him by name â€“ no way could I have made it down that slope and caught up to them. Now, the law allows a rancher to shoot a dog that disturbs his herd, so I was pretty distraught. And even if the rancher werenâ€™t around, the cows could have trampled him to death. So I brought out the big guns and yelled, with every decibel I could muster, â€œRUSTY!! BISSSSSSCUIT!!!!!!â€ He stopped on a dime, turned around, looked at me and came running back as quickly as he had run away. Ahhh, the power of treats.
Rusty was a natural for the camera and we have many, many great shots of him. But we did have one major failure. That was at a Santa Paws event when he was eight or nine and Calvin was still with us. The set-up was in the front window of a pet boutique on College Avenue, and there was nothing but distraction after distraction. The boys climbed over Santa, trying to get away by jumping off the back of the sofa. Santa held, they squirmed, never facing the camera. We tried with Bob and me in the picture. No better. Finally we were given our money back, given a disc full of horrible shots, and asked to leave.
Back in â€™02 and â€™03 we were adding a second story to our house. I moved into my friendâ€™s house up the road with Calvin, while Bob and Rusty remained in the construction zone (January with no roof or back walls â€“ not for me!). One day when Bob was walking through a hallway, he stepped on the old heat register, which was covered with a tarp. It seems one of the workers had taken out the grill cover, and Bob fell through to his waist, cursing at the top of his lungs, with Rusty watching in horror. It took about three years before Rusty would walk anywhere near â€œthe hole that almost ate my Daddy.â€ Even at the end of his life, he looked nervously at the grill every time he passed by.
One of Rustyâ€™s favorite pastimes over the years was watching television. He was very particular, though, about what shows to watch. All I had to say was â€œAnimal Planet!â€ and heâ€™d get all excited and run to the TV, no matter where in the house he was when he heard it. One of the first times we were watching one of those African Animals on the Savannah shows, a pride of lions was passing from left to right. Rusty watched and was pretty amped up, so I turned off the TV. The first thing he did was to run to the end of the entertainment unit and look behind it, I guess to see where the lions went. When they werenâ€™t there, he ran into the bedroom that shares a wall with the TV to see if somehow they had gotten in there. He also got excited about baseball and would jump at the screen when a left-fielder (not exclusively Barry Bonds) would throw to the infield. He got amped on football too, but didnâ€™t care about basketball. Dogs, however, trumped everything. And he always knew the difference in the sound of a real dog versus an animated one. I think he should have had a job as a critic.
Rustyâ€™s lineage was unclear, and we never did a DNA test, but from his appearance, temperament and character traits, and the opinions of two vets, I began to refer to him as a RoBoChow. That stands for Rottweiler, Boxer and Chow Chow. He had the fearlessness of a Rottie, the playful use of his front paws that a Boxer would have, and the thick double coat of a Chow. But he was not a Pit Bull.
In 2006 I began volunteering with BAD RAP (Bay Area Dog lovers Responsible About Pit bulls). I had never been to their Saturday classes and heard that we could bring our personal dogs to the class, so off I went with Rusty in tow. When I got there, there were about 20 pit bulls and their handlers, trainer Tim Racer and Rusty and me. Tim was pretty taken aback when he saw the RoBoChow, but he gave Rusty quite an honor: Pit Bull for a Day. Rusty survived the class, but I still feel like a dodo for having brought him there.
In March 2007 we lost our beloved Calvin the Dobrador to cancer two months shy of his 14th birthday. He and Rusty had been buddies most of the time, but sometimes Rusty would get into a big disagreement with him and fur would fly. However, Rusty was obviously upset at the loss and had his own period of mourning. But he rallied when he found out how good it was to be an only dog in a household with two humans who adore canines. He got extra walks and hikes and treats, and he got to go to all kinds of new places. But I wanted another dog; a pit bull, since Iâ€™d fallen in love with the breed. So I began to seek out the perfect match for olâ€™ Lusty Rusty. After a couple of months I introduced him to Trudy, whom I had fallen in love with even before Calvin left us. Rusty didnâ€™t feel the way I felt, and we didnâ€™t push it.
At the end of May some of the trainers at the SPCA, where I volunteer, told me about this new pittie girl, Nellie, whoâ€™d come in. I met her and really liked her but was hesitant because of Rustyâ€™s reaction to Trudy. Yet every week when I went to the shelter, the first run I went to was Nellieâ€™s. This went on for four weeks, and we made a pretty strong connection. I had Bob come down and he liked her too. Now it was up to Rusty. We met six times over the next two weeks, and Rusty would play with her or ignore her, but never seemed aggressive or to have any kind of inappropriate behavior. So on July 2nd they became a couple.
Rusty now had a job: To give Nellie (now named Katie Lynn) the confidence she lacked and that I wasnâ€™t able to help her to achieve. And he was good. When they went together to Piedmont Avenue to sit at a cafÃ© or just stroll, she was comfortable because Rusty was relaxed (he was the Prince of Piedmont, after all). When I had taken her on the Avenue alone, she would tuck her tail and shake at every strange sound or fast-moving person or vehicle. The sound of a truck rolling down its rear gate almost sent her over the edge. With Rusty she was a different dog. You could tell the way she looked at him that she worshipped him. He certainly was her Prince.
In 2008 it suddenly hit me that Rusty was getting old. He still could go on hour-and-a-half hikes, but he was pretty wiped out when we got home. His once-black muzzle was turning white. Getting up and down from his bed took a little more effort. But he had such spirit and desire to do everything that I still thought of him as a big puppy.
This past October, on a Saturday morning, we woke up to find Rusty panting and disoriented and obviously in major distress. Bob took him to the emergency vet, where he spent the next three days. He had had a fluid build-up in the pericardial sac (around his heart), and it had been causing the heart to pump less, meaning less blood to the organs and brain. It didnâ€™t look good for the boy, and Bob and I agreed not to do major medical heroics on him, which he might not survive. But we did have the fluid drained from the sac and, miraculously, we got our Rusty back, a little slower (he no longer climbed up the stairs every night to sleep with us) but still with a great desire to live: walks, food, affection, letting us know when another dog was passing the house, chasing Katie and giving copious kisses for treats. We knew this was bonus time, and we enjoyed it all (despite the occasional incontinence).
About a month later Rusty had those symptoms again. This time it turned out to be a mass on his kidney, most likely cancer. Again, after heart-wrenching talks, we opted to keep him comfortable rather than have the mass removed. Again, we brought him home and he seemed to rally. He enjoyed his 20-minute walks, sometimes longer. He still played with Katie Lynn every day. His appetite was great, although he seemed to want/need some soft food mixed in with his regular kibbles.
Early in December I sat down and talked to Rusty. I told him how much I loved him, how wonderful he was, how smart and beautiful and funny. I told him how proud I was of him and how much I had learned about living life to its fullest from him. I asked him one favor: Please donâ€™t leave us until after the holidays. We have a history of losses at this time of year, and I didnâ€™t want him to be another. I think he understood. He continued to enjoy his regular life, and he even came up to sleep with us on Christmas Eve, for the very last time.
On January 1st he seemed uncomfortable, pacing and panting a little, and the next morning â€“ was that just yesterday?? â€“ he was worse, moving, as Bob describes it, like a shark, never settling, never relaxing. His rear legs, which had been failing him for some time, were almost useless, and he kept losing his balance and falling down. His incontinence had gotten much worse, and heâ€™d land in puddles before we could clean them. He couldnâ€™t walk normally; he was prancing like those poor high-stepping show horses that can no longer walk normally. And he seemed to have lost total vision in his right eye. He was as close to panic as Iâ€™d ever seen him. So off to the vet. It wasnâ€™t the heart, it wasnâ€™t the kidney. She suspected a brain tumor. As a last-ditch effort we had them administer Mannitol, a high-power diuretic that might relieve the pressure in various organs and bring him back to where he had been a few days earlier. It was a shot in the dark, but we werenâ€™t willing to subject him to general anesthesia for an MRI to determine if he had a brain tumor that we wouldnâ€™t have had removed anyway. This was the best option.
Last night we got a progress report and Rusty was no better. He was resting because he was sedated, but he wasnâ€™t having anything that could be called quality of life. Unfortunately, it was the same this morning. The miracle we were praying for didnâ€™t come. But we are so grateful for the two miracles the two previous months. At 10:30 I went to a meeting of my fellowship, where I got so much love and support, and found courage to make the hard choice. So after much prayer and meditation, and anguish, I told Bob that I agreed with him that it was time to say good-bye.
We drove down to San Leandro, mostly silent, sometimes telling Rusty stories. I sang a few of my silly Rusty songs. In my heart I was hoping that suddenly the meds would have worked and Rusty would come bounding out the door to greet us when we arrived. But thatâ€™s fantasy. He was able to go for a short walk with us outside, and then back to the sterile exam room for our time to say good night. If tears were water, we could have ended the drought today. Rusty was there with us, but he really wasnâ€™t with us. Heâ€™d already left the body before the drugs were administered. We both talked to him, told him how much heâ€™s meant to us, how much weâ€™re going to miss that big, beautiful smile and the mischievous-but-innocent eyes. How lonely weâ€™ll be. How hard it will be for us to sleep. And that we know heâ€™ll be happier and at peace. I asked him to check in with Calvin and have Cal take him to visit the grandmas, Suzi, Tyler, Coyote, Peanut, Terry and all the other dogs of my past. I asked him to leave a book of Rusty Rules for whoever next comes to live with us.
Yes, there will be another dog. But there will never be another Rusty.
Rest in peace, my beautiful baby.
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