Rusty is an old man. He has arthritis, moves slowly, and falls asleep at 6 p.m. every night. For a while he was living at a facility called Faithful Friends but his caretakers thought he might be better suited for a different home: one full of fellow seniors, people the same age as he is in dog years…
Oh yeah. Rusty is a dog.
Back in November, Brenda Negron (the Executive Director of Rockland Place Retirement Community in Delaware) visited Faithful Friends Animal Society to donate supplies. After learning that she ran a retirement home, Faithful Friends’s Executive Director, Jane Pierantozzi decided that it would be a good idea to introduce Negron to Rusty. Pierantozzi seemed convinced that a retirement home would be the perfect place for the 8-year-old pooch. With nothing to lose, Negron decided to give it a shot and thus began the first of Rusty’s many visits to the community.
The staff and residents quickly fell in love with him.
“It was hard not to,” Negron told Delaware Online.
Once Rusty’s visits became more regular, residents began looking forward to them. They’d give the salivating mutt all sorts of treats, including table scraps which he absolutely adored. Little did Rusty know that he’d soon be treated to these meals far more often.
Two Fridays before Christmas, Rusty did something that shocked Negron. After driving on the icy roads left by a major snowstorm to get to Faithful Friends, she attempted to return Rusty for the night.
Yet, as she walked out the door, Rusty followed her and, in that moment, Negron realized what she needed to do.
“He looked back at us like, ‘What are you doing?'” she recalled. “And I said, ‘This is it. We can’t keep doing this with this dog.’ So now he lives here.”
It didn’t take long for Rusty to adjust. Days after moving to Rockland Place, he’d walk back and forth between two residents and Negron. Georgie Cole and Gene Ring would take turns giving the dogs treats and patting him on the head. Rusty clearly loved the attention, responding with large thumping tail wags, and the residents were happy to give it.
“I think it’s rather enlivening,” Cole said of having Rusty around. “We had dogs on the farm … and he’s rather responsive.”
Soon Rusty will be given free rein over Rockford Place… Well, sort of. The same Wander Guard technology used for the community’s memory patients will be used to keep Rusty from going outside unattended. Doors will automatically close and lock if he gets too close to them. Still, Rusty will be able to explore the inside of the community as much as he wants and he’s free to sleep in any of the residents’ rooms.
Since Rusty’s introduction, the morale among both staff and residents has improved. Staff members jokingly debate over which one of them gets to walk Rusty next and residents have become more social than ever.
“People that don’t usually communicate are communicating with him,” Negron claimed.
While the staff at Faithful Friends miss their precious pooch, they know that they have left him in good hands.
“Rusty has been a gift to us at Faithful Friends,” Pierantozzi said. “And now he is a gift to all the residents at Rockland Place who can benefit from his love.”
Negron feels especially loved by Rusty who rarely strays from her side. As the lovable old boxer moved in close for a lick, she offered him this response: