If you’re going to be a stray dog, you might want to be one in Oak Brook, Ill.
It’s one of Chicago’s wealthiest suburbs — the kind of place with well-manicured lawns to pee on, porches and gazebos offering some shade, and handouts from humans that might include pork tenderloin, or steak.
At least that was Rusty’s experience.
For four years, Rusty roamed the Forest Glen neighborhood of Oak Brook, keeping a certain distance from its residents, but happily accepting their offers of food.
“I would leave pieces of steak and pork tenderloin at the end of the driveway,” said one Forest Glen resident.
“We thought we were the only people taking care of him,” said another, who fed him steak and bacon.
Harry Peters, president of the Forest Glen Homeowners Association, said Rusty, a chow-sheltie mix, eventually developed some discriminating tastes: “I put a hot dog out there once — I’ll never forget it — and he lifted his leg and peed on it. My neighbor was giving him steak.”
Despite all the handouts, Rusty kept his distance. He’d play with neighborhood dogs, but avoided getting too close to humans. When residents walked their dogs, Rusty would follow behind — again at a distance.
While residents were enjoying his presence, and fattening him up, many of them worried about how he was able to survive the harsh winters, and able to avoid becoming a victim of street traffic.
For four years, any attempts to catch him were in vain, up until 2010 when he was captured in a back yard and turned over to the Hinsdale Humane Society.
There he was treated for a heartworm infestation, and thousands of dollars were donated to help pay for his care. Attempts were made to make him more sociable with humans, so that he could be adopted out to one of the many expressing interest in doing so.
But Rusty, who maintained a preference for living outside, never reached that point, shelter officials told the Chicago Tribune.
Instead he was sent to Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, where he’d have room to roam.
Before taking him to Utah, Jennifer Vlazny, operations manager for the humane society, brought Rusty back to the neighborhood he once roamed for one last visit. Residents petted him and photographed him, and some cried when he left.
After some time at Best Friends, Rusty was adopted by a Kanab resident, Kristine Kowal, a retired school nurse who once lived in the Chicago area.
Kowal made a Facebook page and posted regular updates on it about Rusty, by then renamed Rusty Redd.
Peters, the neighborhood association president, visited Rusty and Kowal in January, while on a business trip to Las Vegas. He mentioned to Kowal then that, if she was to ever come to Chicago for a visit, he’d arrange a gathering so residents could have a reunion with the dog.
That happened this past weekend.
Kowal drove Rusty 1,800 miles from Utah for the reunion.
“I just thought it was something that I needed to do — to take him back, and kind of make it a full circle,” Kowal said.
Residents gathered Sunday in a gazebo in the Forest Glen subdivision, where, for the first time, they were able to pet him.
Vlazny, the Tribune reported, was amazed at his transformation from feral dog to pet.
Rusty seemed to remember the old neighborhood, and residents — even some who had since moved out of state — came to the reunion to see an old friend.
“The closest Rusty would ever get to me was 40 feet,” said Frank Manas, feeding the dog a chunk of mozzarella cheese. His family had moved from Forest Glen to Wisconsin, but returned Sunday to see Rusty.
“We said, if Rusty can come all the way from Utah, we can come from Eau Claire,” said Julie Manas, his wife.
“Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh — I’m petting him!” said Julie Gleason, who used to feed Rusty when he visited the nearby office park where she works.
“It’s a real-life fairy tale.”
(Photo: Julie Gleason weeps as she pets Rusty; by Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
Posted: April 20th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, best friends animal society, bond, bonding, chicago, chow, dog, dogs, food, forest glen, handouts, hinsdale humane society, illinois, kindness, mix, mutt, mutts, neighborhood, oak brook, pets, reunion, rusty, rusty redd, sheltie, steak, stray dog, strays