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12 Saves of Christmas: Rusty, #3

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Every year we countdown 12 very special adoption stories through our 12 Saves of Christmas series. Each day we will post a new adoption story on our website. Be sure to check in daily as we get closer to announcing our #1 on Christmas day.

Rusty arrived to the ARLGP in September from one of our Georgia-based rescue partners, Furever After Rescue (FAR). Rusty was in their care since he was a young puppy, part of a litter being fostered to send to a northern partner shelter for adoption. His Georgia foster started noticing different behaviors with Rusty’s eating, drinking and health. Soon after, Rusty was diagnosed with a liver shunt.

A liver shunt means that his liver can’t detoxify his blood, because there is an abnormal vessel shunting the blood away from the liver. The severity of shunts varies widely. Rusty underwent surgery in Georgia where he had coils placed into his shunt in an attempt to restore normal blood flow. Unfortunately, Rusty’s procedure was not successful. Not all liver shunts are repairable. Everything possible was done. It is a terminal diagnosis; his liver will remain very small with poor function for the remainder of his life.

In August, FAR sent an email to their northern transport partners:

“Hi everyone,

I’m sending you all this message because I know that this may not be a dog that works for all–or any–of you, but I’m going to give it the old college try.

I have a very special 10-month-old puppy who needs a special situation. Rusty currently weighs about 35 pounds. He absolutely loves kids, other dogs and cats. He enjoys walks and cuddling. He is trained to sit still and take treats nicely.

Rusty had to have surgery for a liver shunt and at this time he will need to stay on a daily medication (and) a special diet. Despite everything he has gone through he is a great puppy who is ready for a loving home. 

Would you have a place for Rusty? He really is a great little guy. He’s not meant to live in (a southern) shelter. He’s used to being with a family.
Thank you for considering it.”

We needed no time to consider it: we happily replied, “we will take Rusty.”

Rusty with canine caregiver, Phoebe, at the ARLGP in October.

Upon arrival, our ARLGP veterinary team performed thorough screenings and diagnostics, to confirm that his shunt was indeed unrepairable. They found the same conclusions that his Georgia team found. The prognosis for Rusty under these conditions means that he must maintain a strict diet and medication, and that his life will undoubtedly be shorter than the average dog. However, it also means that he could live a great life – for whatever time that is – and enjoy love, family and a Maine-based bucket list until his liver begins to fail.

On Saturday, October 12th, we put Rusty’s story online and he quickly went viral. He received thousands of shares, likes and comments reaching people across the country. A local woman, Kristen, brought her family in to visit Rusty. At that point, Rusty was on an adoption hold while a family was researching his diagnosis and discussing his needs. Kristen and her family spent time with Rusty, as we explained that he had a potential adopter that we were waiting to hear back from. After a great visit, Kristen left our building at the very same time the other family called in to tell us they didn’t think they could give Rusty everything he needed. We chased Kristen out into the parking lot to let her know the adoption fell through. As soon as we told her, she agreed to adopt Rusty.

These days, Rusty LOVES life. He has a canine sister and cat siblings. He has human siblings and loving parents. He feels great, loves playing and snuggling. Looking at him, you would never know how sick he is. Kristen says that Rusty was meant to be:

“Rusty’s adoption was so special because knowing he was a sick pup and the ARGLP was looking for a hospice home to care for his special needs, I knew my family could help out. I did not know at that time what a wonderful addition Rusty would be, he’s so full of energy, excitement, love and endless snuggles. Our family lucked out that the ARLGP trusted and believed that we were the right family for Rusty. When I first read his story in the weekly newsletter I thought in my heart, he belonged with my family, then meeting him, I knew he belonged with us. I teared up the second I met him, I wanted to bring him home. We are so thankful to have Rusty with us this holiday season and enjoying every minute we have with him. We are hoping and praying for many more holiday seasons together. We are the fortunate ones to have Rusty in our lives, we love him more than words can say.”


Rusty’s story reminds us of how powerful our community of ARLGP friends and family is. The number of well wishes, gifts and support we received after sharing Rusty’s story was incredibly heartwarming. Because of our community, and our life-saving partnership with FAR, Rusty is living the remainder of his life in a warm and loving home. What more could we ask for?

Psst… You can follow Rusty’s Maine adventures on our Facebook page and see first hand how he loves life in Maine!