GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In the early days of the pandemic, the number of pet adoptions soared at shelters across the country. Even now, the Kent County Animal Shelter is doing really well. After two snow days, they’ve adopted out many of their dogs and almost all of their cats, and even their rooster Charles found a home.
But there’s one resident of the KCAS that’s been there longer than any of them, and still is: Rusty the dog.
Rusty came to the shelter in August of 2020, in the early months of COVID-19 and as pet adoptions were near their highest peak during the pandemic. But all this time later, Rusty still calls a kennel home.
“He’s an awesome dog; he’s quirky like many of us are,” said Heather Hughesian, volunteer coordinator at the Kent County Animal Shelter. “He’s just very anxious.”
Rusty hasn’t had an easy life. He came to the shelter as a young stray — about a year old. They were able to run his microchip and track down his owners, who told the shelter to keep the dog.
“We contacted them; he said, 'You know what, this dog just keeps escaping my yard to try to pick fights with other dogs; you can just keep him,'” said Hughesian.
Heather says Rusty would need to be the only other pet in the house and needs a home in an area with low foot and road traffic. More than anything, Hughesian says Rusty just needs patience and love.
“He was not always so uneasy meeting new people,” says Hughesian. “But the length of time that he’s been here, he’s gotten a bit more unsure of new people.”
Hughesian says the longer Rusty stays at the shelter, the worse his anxiety gets. Volunteers have taken him for extra walks, to the park and even to their homes temporarily.
“Usually the longer they stay here, the more stressed they get, and sometimes they can just get depressed and kind of give up,” says Hughesian. “He can’t live here forever; we can’t maintain him forever. This is not a home; it’s not a replacement for a home.”
Right now, Rusty is in his own section of the shelter. He has space, and he even has his own Christmas stocking still hung over his bed. Hughesian and the rest of the staff at KCAS have gotten quite attached to Rusty, understandably, but they can’t wait for the day he walks out the door with his forever family.
“As long as he’s willing to fight, we’re willing to fight for him,” said Hughesian.