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Dog that was passed over in adoption surge might be headed for Big Apple

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rusty the homeless Labrador may find a new home in New York City.

The dog, profiled in a Daily Mail story earlier this week, is being transported by a dog rescue group. Locally, volunteers with Dog Bless are stepping in to arrange the details.

Chelsea Staley, founder of Dog Bless, said, "One of our New York rescues has asked some questions about Rusty. His age is an issue, because rescues don't want to take an old, ailing dog."

It was believed Rusty, who was dropped off at the shelter by a man who said he had been wandering in downtown Charleston, was about 11 years old. That assessment, in addition to what have been termed "food aggression issues," probably stood in the way of him being adopted.

In the past several weeks, a distemper outbreak caused Kanawha Humane Association employees to make a frantic appeal to the public to take the healthy dogs out. Many animals were destroyed, but about 70 found new homes.

Rusty was among just a few who remained through the holidays.

Now, it seems the dog may be on his way to a new life. And that life could be longer than at first believed -- the veterinarian thinks Rusty is more like 7 or 8 years old.

"So that will help in getting him a home," Staley said. "He's in pretty good health, too."

Shelter Director Donna Clark said she is relieved the dog is on his way to happiness.

"I hope it's good luck for Rusty," Clark said. "He needs out of the shelter bad. Hopefully he has several good years left.

"I'm sure in his wildest dreams here in jail, he never thought he'd be living in New York City."

Clark said the shelter's relationship with Dog Bless is a good one, and results in many dogs finding good homes. Most of the time, once the group takes a dog out she doesn't know where they end up.

"From time to time we follow up, and I will with Rusty," Clark said of the dog that lived there over two months. "He's been here too long and been through too much. We do get attached to them, and it's why we didn't put him to sleep."

Dog Bless is a volunteer-run organization that arranges for photographers to take pictures of homeless dogs and manages the shelter's Face book page. They coordinate with rescue groups in the Northeast to place dogs. 

Staley said, "If a rescue group sees a dog they are interested in they ask us for some information. If they agree to take a dog, they pay the adoption fee and we move it into a foster home here in the Kanawha Valley."

Once dogs are spayed or neutered, vet-checked and vaccinated, Dog Bless helps arrange transport by van or airplane.

"We run to New York City once or twice a month, 20 or 30 dogs each time," Staley said.

Rusty will remain in a local foster home for about 30 days, rather than the usual couple of weeks, to assure that he is healthy. The distemper outbreak has made rescue organizations more wary of taking dogs, Staley said.

"That way they can take him confidently," she said. "If one sick dogs gets in that van, they all could get sick."

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at or 304-348-4832.


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