Sunday, April 6, 2008

A TRIBUTE TO RUSTY

On Monday, September 27, 2004 I sent the following e-mail to our closest friends concerning RUSTY, the first dog that Ann Marie and I brought into our home. Rusty was a red Golden Retriever who chose us to be his people family; an honor of which we were undeserving but welcome to accept. -
"Our Friends, It is with a sorrowful heart that I have to tell you that our canine patriarch has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Rusty Red of England Run was 14 years, 3 months and 6 days on God's earth and he spent all but his first 12 weeks or so in our trust. Most of you have heard us speak of him as our first-born puppy. He was the first of many of God's creatures to grace our home. It was a Saturday morning when Ann Marie came down to the family room of the England Run townhouse and announced that we were going out "to get a dog." Off we went to Ferry Farm, boyhood home of George Washington, to look at a litter of Golden Retrievers. The pups were enclosed in a fenced pen, and when the gate was opened they all scampered out and darted around the yard. All but one, that is. A dark red and rather healthy looking pup made his way to Ann Marie's feet and Ann Marie picked him up. The pup was blotched with mud and after looking at others we found him once again at our feet. He had chosen us so we reciprocated the courtesy and brought him home. I had previously had Goldens, but this was Ann Marie's first dog of her own. Upon learning that we now had a dog, Ann Marie's daughter Sarah was initially excited and wanted to see the new girl of the house. Upon being told that the pup was a male, she exclaimed, "Why did you get an icky boy dog?" They soon became best buddies. (Rusty even went on to star in Sarah's high school video project, a production of "Beowulf" for which she and her production partner, Michelle, received an A grade.) Our plan was for our newly named "Rusty Red of England Run" to spend his first nights in the basement storage area until he was housebroken. His plan was to howl all night unless "someone" stayed with him. His plan and our plan were combined to bring him up into a box in the master bedroom. That compromise has worked well for the 14+ years that we shared our home with Rusty. The bedroom will seem somewhat empty this evening. There have been a number of memorable episodes in our life with Rusty. We returned home one evening to find that he had pulled our newly acquired ficus tree from its pot and drug it throughout the living room, distributing the dirt over the light colored carpet. The ficus recovered and was only moved from our house about a year ago. (The ficus, now known as the Rusty tree, resides in Ann Marie's sister Suzie's house across town from us.) Rusty was very sociable and well liked in the England Run neighborhood. He would lie in the front kitchen bay window and survey his kingdom; he kept in touch with
One Saturday morning the doorbell rang while Ann Marie was upstairs attending to something. I answered the door and a young boy from down the street, whom I guessed to about 7 or 8 years of age, was standing on our doorstep. He very seriously looked up at me and said "Sir, can Rusty come out and play?" I hollered up and got Ann Marie's concurrence and then let Rusty join in the soccer game out on the court's median island. Rusty loved to play soccer. The boys would kich it and Rusty would run after it to the delight of his team mates. We hadn't known that Rusty was considered a vital team member.
We have very beloved home videos of Rusty with balloons. Rusty went haywire over balloons. He would jump as high as possible in order to catch one to break it. We were always afraid that he'd get the latex caught in his throat and gag but that never happened.
If you've ever wondered why pet toy makers put red hearts over the squeakers in fleece toys it's so that Rusty could more easily find the squeaker in order to rip it from the toy. Right now I must have about 20 squeakers in a draw down in the kitchen. I've been known to clandestinely get one out to squeak while hiding it; this always resulted in Rusty trying to seek out the source of the squeak. We found out a lot about dogs in general, Goldens in particular, and Rusty specifically while he was growing through his puppy years. We have often calculated that Rusty's puppyhood stage lasted for 8 years. Rusty didn't like thunder and lightning. In our ignorance, we once left him in the fenced back yard on a sunny day when one of those sudden afternoon thunderstorms springs up. Rusty had been frightened and tried to get into the house; I vowed to be much more cautious of weather conditions while I replaced the brick molding around the sliding glass door case on the back of the house.
When Rusty was about a year old we decided that he needed a friend to keep him company while we were away at work. We read a newspaper advertisement for a female Golden retriever available in Springfield, VA, just up I-95. Off we went and returned with another red Golden Retriever which we named Penny. Penny was to be Rusty's new puppy and they became inseperable lifelong friends. Rusty and Penny once managed to lock themselves in the upstairs bathroom while we were at work. We had to replace the door molding inside the bathroom. Rusty once buried a bone, or some other treat, in the middle of the MBR mattress; we replaced the mattress. Rusty was fond of sitting on people's shoes, if really excited he would sit on their shoes and perhaps let go of a little urine. Rusty once went into Ann Marie's closet while we were at work and chewed up one shoe from eight different pairs, all that was left of her leather sandals was the rubber heels and metal buckles. (That's when we had decided to get Rusty a girlfriend: Penny.) One summer Sunday afternoon Ann Marie was making fried chicken for dinner. She had placed the eight pieces on paper towels on the kitchen counter when the phone rang. She promptly brought the cordless out to the front of the house where I was working on one of cars. She went back in the house but immediately came out again. Rusty had devoured all eight of the pieces of chicken and not even disturbed the paper towels. We learned not to leave food out on the counters unattended. Rusty was always good about letting us know when he had to out. He would come to the side of the bed and lick one of our faces to wake us up. Once, when we were away, or for some other reason, Rusty needed to go out and he went into Sarah's room and licked her face but she didn't respond as he wanted. He then jumped up onto her bed and licked her face while straddling the bed. Again she did not respond as he needed. He then proceeded to lick her face while wetting her bed. He then got the response from Sarah that he had sought initially. Sarah learned that when Rusty tells you he needs to go, he really needs to go; now.
Rusty was our first dog, but the love we have for him led us to bring Penny into our home. Later , we saw another newspaper ad for a 10 years old Golden Retriever that had been abandoned and needed a new home, so we soon brought Bear into our growing family. The 5 years we had Bear were such that we felt we needed to help rescue other Goldens in need and we have done so. All of our concern and love for the breed can be traced back to our relationship with Rusty. Rusty would always welcome a pat on the head from a visiting friend. Rusty enjoyed lying by your side on the sofa or out in the grass. Rusty demanded nothing but gave everything. Last year at about this time Rusty was very sick. He was close to comatose and his condition was difficult to treat. Our vet, Dr Alan Witter, and his staff at Confederate Ridge Animal Hospital, was responsible for answering our prayers. Ann Marie prayed to be able to keep Rusty with us for another year. Doc Witter and his staff helped God answer our prayer. Rusty spent a week in their hospital being pampered by the women techs and other staff members while being treated by the vets. Rusty always felt comfortable at Confederate Ridge and thought nothing of walking around to greet everyone there during our visits. Well, our year is up and it was Rusty's time to go. We were supposed to have left on vacation down at Hilton Head Island this morning. Our next door neighbors, Doug and Kim, were going to tend our pack of six Goldens while we were gone as they always do for us. The track of Hurricane Jeanne caused us to changed our plans and remain home today; perhaps we'd go later in the week if at all.. We had a lot of interaction with all of the pets this morning, all the dogs in line for attention. JEB, up on the bed licking Ann Marie's face. Jubal laid on his bed to get pats. Chance, one of our rescue dogs, sitting like a prairie dog to get his due attention. Penny and Rusty had been sleeping on the master bed, as always, and were frolicking with Ann Marie. Our blind rescue dog, Gordon, barging to the sound of our voices for his share of attention. I sat on the floor by the old guy and stroked his head for awhile. He then got up to get in line for "momma" pats from Ann Marie. We all went downstairs and all the dogs had a good breakfast, followed by a rawhide treat. We had to run a few errands this afternoon. It was a pleasant day and Rusty was out in a favorite spot of his in the paddock. He nestled up against fence as if sitting before a hearth; he crossed his front paws and settled his head upon them and closed his eyes to take an afternoon nap. That's how we found him when we returned this afternoon, a peaceful parting to cross the rainbow bridge. He had no pain or suffering of which we were aware. Rusty simply went across the Rainbow Bridge to romp with Bear and Parker who have already left us. We'll miss him but feel blessed that we were able to share his life with him. Rusty was mischievous as a puppy but he was always a good boy and a good friend. We buried his body this evening out next to Bear and Kodi the cat. His spirit will always be alive in our hearts."

Rusty, aka: Rusto-Busto, Boy-O, Rustole-Canole, The Old Guy

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