10 Photos, 10 Quotes From PETA Fieldworkers, and Nearly 10 Years Later: Finally, ‘Rusty Is Free!’

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4 min read

After more than 10 years spent outside 24/7 in isolation, anyone would reserve the right to be a little rusty at the whole living-the-good-life thing. But when PETA’s Community Animal Project (CAP) was finally given custody of this longtime fieldworker favorite, he was quick to prove that he has no qualms about enjoying “retirement bliss.”

The first time one of my coworkers met Rusty, they noted that he was “chained in a pen.” During that visit, the fieldworker urged Rusty’s owner to let PETA give the sweet-natured Lab mix a chance at adoption into a safe home where he’d be showered with love and affection. But she declined—and it wouldn’t be the last time. My fellow CAP workers and I spent nearly 10 years visiting Rusty, making sure he had fresh water to drink during the sweltering summer and insulating straw bedding during the freezing winter. Each time we took notes about our visits, we couldn’t help but highlight how cheerful and eager the aging dog always seemed to be, as I detailed in the note below from my first time meeting him:

Lab mix Rusty getting a hug from a PETA fieldworker
“[Rusty] is as sweet as ever.”

“Sweet” and other adoring adjectives are all over Rusty’s case sheet, as in this note from my coworker Hollie …

Rusty getting some love from a PETA fieldworker
“Holy goodness Rusty is a wonderful little fella.”

… or these mini love letters from Ashley, another PETA fieldworker:

Close-up of Rusty with a PETA fieldworker
“Love, love, love this sweet boy.”
Since-rescued lab mix Rusty in his old back yard
“Sweet as ever.”
Lab mix Rusty with PETA Senior VP Daphna Nachminovitch
“This boy [is] sweet as ever and [Senior Vice President of PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department Daphna Nachminovitch] is now a member of the [Rusty] fan club.”

But our write-ups about Rusty weren’t always jovial, like this inclusion from Ashley, written after one visit on a miserably hot day in July:

Since-rescued dog Rusty and his old back yard
“[Rusty] was so hot and was lying in the hole he dug under his [doghouse].”

This note was written after CAP’s 12th time visiting the resilient Rusty, when fieldworkers were again denied permission to find the deserving dude a loving home indoors:

Rusty hops up to get some affection from a fieldworker
“[Rusty,] sweet as could be and starved for attention as always.”

But fieldworkers took a page from Rusty’s book—he wasn’t giving up, and neither were we. Our shared hardiness paid off. One day last month, Chris—the first PETA fieldworker to meet Rusty—received the life-changing call we had all hoped for and wrote:

Now-adoptable lab mix Rusty
“[Rusty’s owner] stated she doesn’t want [Rusty] to suffer or be out in the heat anymore.”

After roughly a dozen dangerously scorching summers, Rusty’s owner was finally taking a page from our book, as Chris noted:

Rusty with PETA fieldworker
“[Rusty’s owner] called me requesting we pick up [the dog] for surrender.”

Chris wasted no time in picking up Rusty, and the now-adoptable dog wasted no time in making up for lost time.

Rusty, now rescued, playing in a field
“Rusty is free! [And he is living it up] in retirement bliss. 😊”

Although Rusty is roughly 12 years old, the finally free dog is still quite spunky and spry, his foster guardian reports. But like any senior dude, he also loves a good couch nap sesh. Like most of the dogs my coworkers and I visit, Rusty has heartworm disease, for which he’s currently receiving treatment, courtesy of PETA. After more than a decade of being deprived of the good life that every dog deserves, Rusty isn’t wild about spending his twilight years with any feline friends. He’d be happiest soaking up all the attention of a loving family for the rest of his life.

Rusty, an adoptable senior dog rescued by PETA
Will you be the one to “love, love, love this sweet boy,” too?

E-mail [email protected] to learn more.

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