August 21, 2007

A Tribute to Rusty
October 24, 1993 -- August 11, 2007


Rusty, my forever pal, trusted companion, child and the best dog a gal could ask for, blessed many lives, especially mine. When Rusty appeared in my life, I wasn’t planning on owning a dog for I still carried the scars of losing my childhood pets and wanted to avoid any more pains from losing a beloved pet.

One afternoon, as I was leaving the Keighley house and approaching my car, I spotted a furry, strawberry-blond head. Rusty was peeking hesitantly from behind the car gazing in my direction curious as to who I was. In retrospect, I think he wanted to play hide-n-seek, a favorite game of his. Rusty was my neighbor’s dog and occasionally I would hear the male owner strictly training Rusty in their backyard. Later, after my initial encounter with Rusty, I would peek over our fence to see a timid, unhappy and neglected dog. Unlike a typical Golden Retriever, his tail didn’t wag and he was weary of people. As time went by, I befriended Rusty by giving him graham crackers. Then I noticed the severely dry nose due to little or no water, the matted hair and the horrible welts due to an infestation of fleas. Being a young bold woman (ok, girl in her early twenties), I took Rusty from the neighbor’s backyard and brought him into my yard. There I would brush him, bathe him and then play with him. However, with time, his condition worsened prompting me to take him to a veterinarian. I left a note for the lady next door informing her of his condition and his horrific allergy to fleas thus the importance of keeping him bathed. Only a few weeks later, his condition returned and I took Rusty from their backyard for the last time leaving her a note to call me regarding Rusty. It was then she informed me she was planning on finding him a new home. I told her I would keep him until the new home was found BECAUSE I still did not want a dog. Well, as time went by, we knew Rusty had his new home.

With the excitement of having a dog, we were anxious to take this retriever to the beach. Greg, Leila and I ventured to OB Dog Park and, to our surprise, Rusty feared the water and showed no interest in getting close. We persevered anyways as Leila took his front paws and Greg and I coached him in. Eventually, the beach became a favorite spot and he would even swim out to the surfers in his younger days. But the dog beach and park eventually became a place where we, the parents, wanted to hide because Rusty was a bully. Our alpha dog loved to chase all the new dogs that entered the area, even causing us to be kicked out of Balboa dog park once because he tormented two giant poodles.

Rusty loved food--any food. He ate fruits, vegetables and anything on your plate whether you wanted him to have it or not! He was a horrible beggar. At my Rancho SD house, I remember Lois, my piano teacher, coming in to tell me Rusty snagged her food off her plate while it was still in her hand. Oh, the embarrassment!

Rusty also loved walks. And, thanks to Grandma and Grandpa Syrios, he took in many walks. In his younger days, I would take him to Cowles Mountain but needed to quit when he was only 7 as it became too difficult for his arthritic legs. Jim and I occasionally took him to Cuyuamaca and, if we paced ourselves, he enjoyed those hikes. He loved the wind and enjoyed being with us outside. My favorite picture of Rusty is him standing outside in the backyard of the Keighley house raising his head slightly, soaking in the sun and smiling (yes, smiling!). Once Tasha and Whiskey arrived, we would all sit in the backyard together in a meditative state sitting in silence listening to the birds and enjoying each other’s presence.

Rusty also loved car rides. He was a traveling trooper hopping into the car venturing to Los Angeles in his younger days to visiting friends and family. When we took off for camping, we quickly learned that if we were at the beach, we needed an umbrella. Until I purchased our own beach umbrella, Rusty would lay with strangers under their shade. With camping, Rusty preferred the car versus the dusty campground sites and scratched at the car door until we allowed him to lie inside.

We were blessed to have Rusty as long as we did and we are forever grateful to Dr. Dhupa and God for giving us an extra 16 months because Charlie was able to play and be in his company. Rusty was unbelievably awesome with children. When Jack was a baby and toddler, he could (as Charlie did) grab, poke, pull at his teeth, hair, etc., and Rusty patiently waited until I or Jenn would come to his rescue. He had a love for children with their high energy, fun-loving demeanors and he too was like a child. I never met a dog that loved to play tag or hide-n-go seek and I remember telling Jenn to include Rusty when she would play these games with Jack.

Rusty was fortunate to have so many people that loved him and took care of him—Papa and NaNa Syrios, Daddy Jim, Mommy Carol, Uncle Greg and Cris and Little Melanie, just to name a few. He was truly loved by the entire family. We will miss you, Rusty, lying next to Charlie’s crib every night watching over him. You are loved Rusty, truly truly loved and we will forever miss you!

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