Today my good friend Rusty passed away. I’ve often wondered when that day would come, and how it would happen, so today I found out. He died quietly in the back seat of my truck on our way to the Heights Hospital for Animals. Ironically, he passed away almost in the same way we met. In 2004, I was doing satellite dish installation in Arkansas and went to this really run-down home full of dogs and cats. Of all the dogs running around, only one was on a leash. I asked the homeowner why was he on a leash? The guy said it is because this dog constantly tries to escape and run away from us. I thought, “I can see why!”, but didn’t say that out loud. I just felt a little empathy and took a few minutes to pet him. The owner saw me and said, “You can have that dog if you want.” I honestly wasn’t looking for a dog to take home, but I considered it in the moment. I decided to take a little risk and remove the chain from around his neck. I was thinking, okay, perhaps he’ll run away, but a life in the wild would be better than chained up here in this pit. The dog immediately made a bee-line for my truck (the door was open) and jumped right in. I sat in the driver’s seat and he snuggled right up next to me as if to say, “Okay, I’m ready, let’s go!!”
So we did. That would be the first of many, many rides in the truck. He often didn’t even seem to care where we were going. He just loved get in the truck and go.
After that first day, it didn’t take long for this dog to become a good friend. He was an incredibly quick learner, and in fact learned the basics (sit, stay, speak, and lay down) in just one day. He also was house broken in just a matter of 2 or 3 days. He stuck to me like glue everywhere we went, and would even follow me down to the creek and jump in the water if I was in the water. Rusty become the first dog I ever had an emotional bond with. I didn’t know it was possible to love a dog like a child or any other human, but yes indeed that is certainly possible. He was an ever-present furry friend through many days of boredom, aggravation, poverty, wealth, sickness, and everything else you can think of. I’m glad he doesn’t speak. He could probably tell some stories about me! LOL.
I moved him from Arkansas to Houston, Texas in 2007 and was a little worried about how he well he do adapting to life in the city (and me too for that matter). We both did fine and he quickly found there were plenty of rabbits to chase along the Bayou near downtown Houston, and…omg…the beach in Galveston was just loaded with stinky, smelly dead things. He would literally roll around in that stuff and cover himself in stink. It was awful a couple of times driving back from Galveston.
Rusty was a one-person dog with me being the one person. He didn’t particularly like other dogs either, but he would gradually accept the presence of our dogs Tootsie, and Fifi, and even Potrillo. Amazingly, he got along very well with Potrillo and would even share a food bowl. That is something he’d NEVER do with any other dog. I think Rusty thought Potrillo was his child. LOL.
Around 2014, though, he began to noticeably age and lose some of his sense. He used to be scared to death of storms, but now it would thunder and lightning outside and he would flinch. It was because his hearing was slipping away. Then his eyesight began to fade as well. I could toss food to him and he wouldn’t even see it. Only his sense of smell remained and he’d follow his nose to the goodies I had tossed.
I knew Rusty didn’t have too much longer left in this world, but still I was hoping for a few more years at least. That wouldn’t be the case. In June of this year he suddenly began having difficulty breathing. I took him to the vet to see what the problem was, but the price to find out was HUGE – like $500 or more. I thought, well, maybe I can figure this out on my own and give him some natural remedies. I’m pretty sure it was some sort of fluid building up around the lungs. It was causing his blood pressure to rise and difficulty in breathing. After about 7 days, I realized nothing I was doing was fixing the problem, so I set an appointment to the doctor again for July 12th at 10:00 a.m.
During the night on July 11th, Rusty’s behavior changed slightly from the norm. He disappeared in the middle of the night. I think he was uncomfortable or possibly in pain. In the morning, I found him laying in the living room floor just sort of zoned out. He wasn’t whimpering or in any obvious pain, so we just went about our normal morning routine. I got Ivy ready for her daycamp at Impact Church of Christ, and picked up Rusty and carried him out to the truck. He actually got a little excited…like he always does…when I put him the truck. I guess he thought we were going to the park or something.
Maybe the excitement put him over the edge. On our way to Daycamp Ivy turned and looked at Rusty in the backseat when I asked, “What is he doing?” She said he was just breathing heavy. About 9:35 a.m., when she exited the truck and went into the church, I saw Rusty rustle around and move to the other passenger side of the back seat. He continued to breathe heavy, but he was just staring at me with a far-away look in his eyes. I drove on and headed toward the clinic for our appointment at 10 am.
As we were driving up Heights Boulevard, I turned up the volume on a song on the radio by The Bleachers called “Rollercoaster.”
When the song ended, it became quiet in the truck…I mean very quiet…I suddenly became aware there was no sound of breathing from the backseat. I glanced back and, sure enough, Rusty was not breathing. I pulled over to the side, turned and scratched his head. Nothing. I poked and shook him. Still nothing. He seemed to be gone. He must have passed away somewhere between I-10 and the library on 13th street on Heights Boulevard.
But suddenly, he twitched. Maybe he is still alive?! So I drove on to the clinic (only about 5 more blocks), picked him up and carried him in. I told the doctors he twitched a couple of times, so he might still be alive, but after a few minutes the doctor said, no, he is gone.
I left Rusty with the veterinarian to be cremated. It was a sad day.
I’m really glad things ended in the same way that it began…just me and Rusty in a truck. That seemed to be his most favorite thing in the world. I’m also glad he seemed to pass away quietly and with no apparent pain. I’m also glad he waited until Ivy was out of the truck in her daycamp. It was only 5-10 minutes after she exited the truck that he passed away. If he had died while she was still with us I’m afraid it would’ve been traumatic for her. Rusty has been a part of Ivy’s life since the day we brought her home from the hospital. I remember how curious he was about the baby, sniffing and even licking her head.
Overall, he lived a good life and chased a lot of squirrels and cats. I’m glad I was a part of it. Goodbye, my friend. Hope to see you again in Heaven.Share on Facebook