So, here I am in California getting to know Rusty.
He was withdrawn and wary at our first meeting. That’s understandable considering he spent his earliest days in the mean neighbourhoods of Los Angeles. Now he is enjoying a stable and loving life in the San Francisco area.
Rusty is my newest granddog. He joined my daughter’s family about a year ago and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to meet him.
He is a fine looking fellow. Medium size, light reddish brown in colour with fine rusty blond leg and belly feathers. Amber eyes. He looks a bit like an Irish setter but his face is too long and pointed for that breed.
He didn’t look this good when my daughter’s family adopted him from a dog rescue organization in Palo Alto. He had a cut on his head, was missing a tooth, had kennel cough and had lost the hair around his eyes.
The rescue group believes he was an LA backyard dog - dogs left on their own by owners who do not look after them. He doesn’t like loud voices, indicating he must have been kept by people who shouted at him a lot.
He was very tentative with me, watching me out of the corner of his eye and moving away whenever I came near. He is getting to trust me now and even brings me his ball to throw.
Rusty is my third California granddog. The first was Koona, a half Huskie, half Malamute my daughter brought with her from Canada when she moved here roughly 20 years ago. Koona lived to a ripe old age – 14 – for an Arctic breed.
Then came Ozzie, a pure-bred Malamute from a breeder who lived in the mountains near the California-Nevada border. Ozzie, a gorgeous big dog, died unexpectedly at age four.
Both were among the most intelligent dogs I have known. They vocalized a lot, a trait of the Malamute. They were loving guys, but fiercely independent.
Rusty doesn’t talk. He communicates with body language. He is loving but more laid back than Koona or Ozzie. He likes to be around other dogs, and people once he gets to know them.
He joins a long list of Poling granddogs who have graced our lives - Diesel, Memphis, Emma, Chase, Tasha, Molly and others whose names I might have forgotten.
The only other living granddog is Georgia, a Great Dane Harlequin who lives with another daughter in Mississauga. Georgia is so large that she rides in vehicles with her head protruding through an open sunroof.
Rusty filled a huge emotional void left when Ozzie died unexpectedly. When a cherished pet passes it is difficult to think about getting another.
The day she adopted him, my daughter took Rusty for a get acquainted walk. Not long into the walk they came across five white feathers laying in their path.
There is a belief in some parts of society that a white feather fallen from the sky is sent by the spirit of a loved one who has passed on. It is a sign that all is fine and life should be carried on without them.
I don’t know about that, but I do know that native Americans believe a white feather signifies rebirth and new beginnings.
Rusty has a new beginning here thanks to an animal rescue group and a family that has given him a loving home.