Rhodesian RidgeBack

Hell Raiser Extraordinare

In April 1995, Eve and Robert graduated from team training in Class of 544 at Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc. in San Rafael, California.

Shortly after returning home to Mesa, Arizona with his first guide, Animal Enforcement was busy hunting down an elusive red animal. The animal survived from food scavenged by overturning garbage cans.

Neighborhood cats were being serially destroyed.  Apparently, the creature did not eat any of the cats, it just wanted them to stop moving and fighting him.  Cats that stopped fighting, became motionless, 'played possum', lived to meow about it - after the creature left the scene.

Daily, moms and dads went on safaris, hitting, kicking and throwing rocks at a red creature.  A man with a shot gun, another with a rifle and pistol were frantically tracking the animal to shoot him dead.  Moms and grandmas were seen chasing this dog up or down the street, whacking the unknown with mop and broom handles.  Young adult men were chasing it swinging baseball bats.

School age children were swarming this creature and smothering him with love, hugs and kisses.  The animal loved them.

Animal Enforcement was patrolling the area frequently.

Shortly after Sandy, Robert and Eve returned home from a day trip to Jerome, Arizona, this red dog was being hotly pursured.

A neighbor, across the street from our home on 564 N. Drew St. West, Mesa, Arizona, asked, 'Want me to catch that dog for you?'  Robert said, 'Yes, please!'  Robert quickly provided him a steel link collar and leather leash.  Within minutes this man appeared in Robert's front garden and handed over the leash to a very, very handsome, rust colored, male dog.

He was the strongest, most muscular, (even muscular ears), most rambunctious and most unmanageable 55 lbs one can imagine.  He was about nine months old.

With ease, this muscular dog yanked and pulled Robert where ever the dog decided to go.  When Robert gave him high collar corrections, he lunged at Robert's throat.  Robert high collared him again.  Robert's adrenalin was flowing full force as he hung on to this prized possession.

Robert quickly learned several cardinal rules of the rust colored alpha male 1) you do not lean over me even when feeding me; 2) you do not squeeze or even touch my feet or my paws; 3) you do not pick me up causing one or more of my feet to be off the ground - I must have full control of my extremities at all times.

Attempts to restrain him were physically and mentally exhausting.  Robert fastened his leash onto two connected and fully loaded 4' wide gorilla racks in the garage while he went to prepare the dog some food.  This amazing animal pulled both shelving units over onto himself so when Robert returned with his food in a stainless steel pan the dog was P I S S E D and ready to kill something.  He had no clue that Robert was trying to save him from certain euthanization.

Robert called Animal Enforcement and asked what they would do with him.  An employee said, 'hold him, we will send someone out now, tranquilize him, and put him down'.  Robert hung up the phone.

Robert began a nationwide, exhausive search for expert advice on handling such a dominate dog.

Robert discovered that he must establish absolute pack leader dominance in one hellva 'Come to Allah' showdown with this beautiful canine.

Ready to apply his newly acquired dog handling knowledge, Robert carefully attached a leash to him and unsnapped a couple of short, restraining tie downs.  He lunged at Robert.  Robert's adrenalin kicked in and Robert hung him in the air until he was limp.  Feeling sorry for him, Robert began to lower him to the floor of the garage.  When his back feet came near the floor he struggled for traction and almost had Robert for dinner.  A second round of adrenalin kicked in.  Robert raised him again until he was almost liveless.  Robert lowered him to the floor, sweet talked, kissed him on the lips, and loved on him.  Robert had conquered him and established himself 'alpha' pack leader.  Then, Robert went to work building confidence, trust and a two way loving relationship.  Thereafter, he was able to tuck this dog safely into human / animal packs where ever and when ever Robert chose.  He accepted Robert's decisions as 'The Word of God'.

Having established himself as pack leader, saving him from euthanasia, he well deserved a name and a place in our household pack.

Among the initial thoughts was to name him 'Taz' for Tazmanian Devil.  Robert decided his name should not be an expression of any negative expectations of him.  He named him 'Rusty'.  His reddish color variation looked like inhomogeneous rust.

Prior to Rusty, in unsuccessful match up attempts, a world renowed protection dog trainer, Charlie, introduced Robert to 'Thunder', 'Lightning', 'Flash' and 'Storm'.  None of those highly trained dogs were compatible with Robert's blindness or his guide dog, Eve.

During a protection dog training evaluation of Rusty, a highly wrapped Mexican, bad-guy, burgler, actor, pretended to invade our home busting through the front door.  With one long bound and leap into the air, Rusty took down the 'bad guy' with ease.  Charlie said, 'You have saved yourself $55,000 dollars'.  'You have your protection dog; he is naturally protective;  you are definitely his pack leader; he works out very well with Eve; do not seek training for Rusty; protection training will ruin him; it will make Rusty neurotic.'  'Ohhhhh?'

Rusty was neutered at Mesa Veternarian Hospital.  Thereafter, MVH always placed an orange caution collar on Rusty because 'He's grumpy!'  Gotta love euphemisms!

Rusty loved female dogs.  He was always gentle to Eve.  He understood Eve was the highest canine in pecking order in our household pack of seven dogs.  Rusty loved guide dog puppy-in-training, 'Freida'.  Freida liked Rusty.  Rusty loved Freida's teasing.

Dominate male dogs were a threat to Rusty's womanizing.  He felt he had to establish dominance with competing males.  Rusty considered all female canines in sight as his sole possessions.  He did not intend to share them with another male canine.  Robert's second guide dog, 'Lane' and Rusty, had a major, major showdown over the south end of a north bound female canine.  We only had five females.  With Rusty's tooth hanging straight out the side of his mouth, cost $650.00+ for oral surgery by the dental vet that provides medical care for lions and tigers at the Phoenix Zoo.  We learned Rusty was an intimidator.  He would not actually bite another male canine.

Lane instantly established himself as head of the canine breeder pack under guide dog Eve.  Eve ruled!

Prior to construction of a $38,000 8" concrete block fence - to residential, external wall specifications, Robert anchored a 230' long, plastic coated, multi-stranded, steel cable to deeply set 3' x 6" concrete posts at each end.  Chaining Rusty to the line with a 6' chain, Rusty had 12' x 242' of square footage to run in mature shade.  Rusty, non stop, ran up and down the line with such force that he wore out 3/8" steel Quick Links weekly.  As his nails uprooted all of the grass in this area, Robert made other identical parallel cable lines in fresh grass.  Rusty turned most of our 3/4 acre into a hog pen, destroying all growth even downing fruit trees and highly valued, old grape vines.

When chickens crossed into Rusty's territory they were KIA.  One rooster, in a desperate escape attempt, flew mostly nude straight up into the air, feathers flying like fall leaves in Vermont.  That 'was' an incredibly beautiful chicken.

Prior to ownership of Rusty, Rusty's face and ears had been scarred from bloody cat fights and beatings from adult humans.  After some months of TLC, imperfections on his handsome face healed and were no longer noticed.

Rusty was naturally oily and smelled like a desert javalina (wild pig).  Triple shampoo baths only lasted a couple of days.

Rusty had a heart attack after hours of frantically trying to unperch a cat sitting on the top of the new 8'concrete fence.  In such a high prey frenzy, Robert could not safely release him from his long line.  Rusty seemed to have completely croaked, several times, on Wendy's breakfast nook tile floor but just as if life had been shocked back into him, he would return to full force life, look out fricking cat!  Thereafter, Rusty's heart was, audibly, so bad that vets advised against putting him under to perform medical procedures and advised against wasting money keeping his shots up to date but his shots were continued.

After Rusty's cardiac arrest - when another teasing, cat intruded Rusty's sacred privatesphere - Rusty pulled prostrate Robert completely under a home-made trailer.  Robert let go of his leash after Robert's head whamed into the trailer axle.  Rusty cleared the 8', 8" concrete block fence.  After about five minutes, Rusty returned to Robert with a bloody, scarred face.  The cat must have hitchhiked out of town - never reappeared in Dodge City.

Tall, David Schieltz, graduate student RA (Research Assistant) in Robert's biomolecule, (DNA and other polymers) Biochemistry research lab, at Arizona State University, loved playing figure eight rope with Rusty - slinging Rusty round and round and round, about 3'- 5' off the ground.

Robert's grand children would race Rusty, attempting to cross his steel line at the far end (230' away) before Rusty could hustle down there.  Rusty would run them down butting them like a billy goat, sending them sailing into the irrigation ditch.  They laughed and laughed and laughed and repeated many times.

University Veterinarian Hospital's, Dr. Fleggenheimer, said, (of Rusty) 'that is an extraordinarly interesting breed'.  Gotta love euphemisms!

Rusty's mohawk ridge was more pronounced in his early years.

It is so puzzling that Rusty's tail had been bobbed and his ears had been cut like a doberman.

Rusty's reactions to being left behind when Robert went out of town for a couple of days, was tearing his kennel bedding to shreds, eating blankets and towels, barking and running, nonstop, inexhaustibly round and round the vet's large boarding kennel until he had bloody diaharrea and bloody urine.

Caretakers at the UVH boarding kennels were amazed at the affection Rusty expressed to Robert when Robert and Sandy picked him up.  Rusty forcibly rubbed and rubbed his head on Robert's legs and Robert's 'family jewels' - like a loving cat.  Rusty kissed and kissed Robert's lips.

UVH kennel personnel said they were going to walk Rusty but he did not seem to need walking and we thought it was highly unadvisable.  Gotta love euphemisms!  It took weeks of TLC and medication to get Rusty's stools and bladder infection back to normal.  Thereafter, Robert did not want to leave Rusty behind so Sandy went on vacations by herself, with family, grandkids or friends.

On walks, Rusty bolted hard towards loud moving vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, street cleaning machines, buses, garbage trucks, other animals - basically anything that moved.

Rusty was an air traffic controller going beserko over low flying planes, helicopters and large wing span birds.  He 'stroked out' over hot air balloons / blimps.

Rusty relaxed only during Robert's T-Touch massages while lying in Robert's lap.  Rusty was a loving lap dog but his hard bony butt made one very uncomfortable.

'Rubby' and 'Rubby Dubby' were among Rusty's numerous 'terms of endearment'.  Forcibly, Rubby rubbed his face and head between Robert's legs like a cat.  He would lock his powerful legs and long claws around Robert's legs to prevent Robert from walking away from him.

Rusty raised holy freakin hell every day, 18/7+

Thanksgiving 1995, Rusty, with a body harness, guided Robert around the block.  On North MacDonald Street, Rusty woofed down a whole turkey carcass from an overturned trash can.  Robert yanked and yanked on the breast bone but was unable to retrieve any of it.

Rusty 'punk walked' like a banny rooster, like smerky, jerky, George Fuckin Cheerleader Bush, as if he was convinced he controlled the whole world - 'mission accomplished'???  Robert sang 'Bad to the Bone' to Rusty while walking.  Loudly playing 'Bad to the Bone', 'Born to be Wild' and anti-war rock music cds, stimulated Rusty to the nth degree.

Rusty got car sick so he could not be fed before traveling short distances like day trips up to Payson, Arizona.

A fence construction bidder approached Robert too fast, too eager to shake Robert's hand.  Rusty took that as him being aggressive towards Robert.  Rusty went after him with a vengence.  Fortunately, as usual, Rusty was on short leash and under control.  And, turns out, Rusty's apparent aggression was just his well honed 'art of intimidation'.

Jim Rathbun was afraid of Rusty as were most other adults.

Rusty was extremely high maintenance.  Well, that is implied in this story of his life.

Rusty dug holes to China everywhere.

<Include picture of last hole Rusty dug.>

Robert bathed Rusty with warm water in the shower for over an hour.  'Fresh & Clean' kept him smelling not so bad, for 2-3 days max.

Sandy purchased sun blocking umbrellas for Rusty to complement all the mature tree shade.

Rusty barked incessantly in the absence of a family member.

He did not like any changes in environment - not even new or even freshly washed and dried bedding.  He greatly preferred his old stinky stuff.

Rusty urinated in other dogs faces through chain link fences.  He whizzed in the faces of Bruce and Jane Cummin's dobermans.

Rusty was determined not to leave the old home place in north central Mesa when Robert and Sandy moved to Gilbert, Arizona.  He was not a happy camper.  It took a long time for him to settle in.  He settled only after he whizzed on enough stuff that he could smell himself everywhere within a two mile radius.  His pee smelled horrible.  At home, Robert immediately put a Clorox bleach solution on every piddle.

He loved his 1 1/2 - 2 hour daily walks in Town of Gilbert's Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch beginning at 3:30 - 4:30 am.  Rusty and Robert enjoyed many sunrises sitting under the high ramada in the Riparian Preserve.  When the sun began to light the ponds, ducks began to get busy and noisy.  Robert would have to take Rusty home because he went absolutely 'ape shit'.

Once, at 3:30 am., we encountered a Gilbert policeman in the Riparian Preserve.  He was looking for a 93 year old woman that had walked away from home before midnight.

During our conversation, Rusty went instantly nutso charging after a feral cat suddenly appearing behind the policeman.  The police drew his pistol thinking, at first, that Rusty was coming after him.  He wanted to know if Robert would consider a position training police/military dogs or directing such programs.  Robert said, 'I'm blind sir, shine your flashlight into my eyes and see for yourself.'  He did.  He said, 'I'm not a medical professional but I certainly see you are blind.'

School kids attracted to handsome Rusty, without warning, swamped us to love on him, kissing him all over the face and rubbing his ears.  Rusty soaked all this attention up as field trip school bus drivers and teachers freaked out.

Rusty was highly allergic to regular dog food with cornmeal or other grains.  We fed him potato and whitefish purchased from his vet.

No vet successfully poked a thermometer up Rusty's butt.  Robert rescued them from such endeavors.

Rusty loved to rough play with large figure eight rope toys.  The white fibres were quickly red with Rusty's dental blood.  If you lost control of the play, you could not retrieve the rope toy.  Rusty would shred it.  It was necessary to wear multiple layers of long shirts, thick coat and gloves because Rusty would run at you and leap off your shoulders to force the rope toy from you.

Rusty, on leash, jumped up into a huge, old mulberry tree in Robert and Sandy's front garden - after a cat.  He leaped up, locked his arms around a huge lower branch, higher than I am tall and pulled himself up into the tree.  Robert yanked him down simultaneously with the cat bailing out of the tree top.   Rusty fell out on top of Robert, knocking him to the ground, spinning wheels, after the cat, bloodying Robert's chest with his claws.

With a make shift web harness, Robert attempted teaching Rusty to guide him.  First, befor 4 am, he guided Robert across a trafficless intersection - University and Center.  Awesome guide!

Robert discarded the guide idea when Rusty and JP's male golden retriever got into it at 'The Coffee Shop' on Robeson Street.  We scurried through the shop into the rear patio/gardens.  There Rusty leaped up, grabbed and wolfed down the bagel being served by the tall waiter.  Rusty landed down on the edge of the table, upending the patio table - with umbrella in the center - spilling Robert's hot coffee on Robert's clothing.  The waiter intending to serve at normal height had quickly raised the bagel high over his head.

Adults rerouted to sidewalks on the other side of the road or retreated into their homes when they saw Rusty coming.  Seems Rusty begain to accept his 'Ohh Shiiit!' as one of his many terms of endearment.   Rusty had a wicked grin.  Again, kids swamped Rusty hugging, loving, and kissing him on the face and lips.  'Where can I get a dog like this'.  'I have a pit bull; he has hunards (sic) of ticks on him'.  'My pit bull's rope broke and he ran off'.  'The police shot my dog.' 'I had a lab but he got hit.'  Never, ever share stuff like that with me.

Rusty would not allow his long nails to be trimmed, even when muzzled and heavily tranqualized.

Rusty snapped at Robert when Robert tried to lift him up to a window to startle Robert's mom and dad living in the duplex Robert bought next door.

Day of Rusty's euphanization...
Awakened at 3:30 am as usual.  Leashed and placed gentle leader on Jill.  Approached Rusty's kennel to leash him up for the morning walk.  Rusty had vomited all over his porta-kennel, peed and pooped in it.  Robert leashed and placed a gentle leader on Rusty and hooked his leash on his kennel until Robert soaked up the bloody mess.  Robert took Rusty outside to wait while he took Rusty's soiled porta-kennel outside to spray it off, sanitize and blow it off.  Pictures of the bloodly mess were taken to consult with the vet.

Rusty and Jill took Robert through the SE side gate and into the green belt.  As they were walking east, Rusty fell over curbs.  Robert thought Rusty was surely dying.  Robert tried to persuade Rusty to return home but Rusty insisted on continuing his daily journey.  He was wobbly, bumping into Robert, and sometimes falling away from him momentarily.  He did not know where objects including up curbs and down curbs were.  He was looking first over one shoulder and then the other.  Obviously, he was stone blind.  Rusty thought something was over his eyes or in front of him blocking his vision so he was trying to look around it.  He was bumping into Robert because, among other things, he could not see a thing.  He insisted on walking east with Robert and Jill, up the green belt, and not returning directly home.  Back at home Rusty could no longer walk.

It was getting close to the moment Rusty's biochemical consciousness would leave him.  Robert laid down on the back patio with Rusty, kissed his face, loved on him, and told him good bye and that soon everything will be ok.  Rusty read Robert's 'soul' assuming, void of any evidence that there is such a thing, and tucked his head under Robert's arm and ribcage.

Dr. Sam and his assistant, David arrived before 2:30pm.   Robert told Dr. Sam that he fully expected a 'Custer's Last Stand' so please feel free to muzzle him.  Dr. Sam loved on Rusty for a long time, hugging and calming him.  Dr. Sam asked if we really needed the muzzle.  Robert said, 'yes; I do not expect this to be pretty; above all, I want you and David to protect yourselves'.   David placed the muzzle on Rusty and the action began.  This dog was weak and dying but raised hell one last time.

David gave Rusty a full body lock while Dr. Sam quickly gave Rusty a powerful tranquilizer shot.  Within seconds Rusty was sleeping restfully.  Final tearful goodbyes were said.  Dr. Sam then administered the overdose and Rusty, without a twitch, peacefully passed into unconsciousness.  Robert cried and loved on Rusty until Rusty's body began to cool.  Sympathetic Dr. Sam is never in a hurry during mourning.

Robert carried Rusty out to Dr. Sam's car, placing him into the raised turtle hull and kissed Rusty goodbye.  Dr. Sam sent the sweetest sympathy card with the sweetest, most fitting message.

Dr. Sam Wolf took Rusty to the crematory for private, single cremation.  His ashes returned in an urn, Robert placed beside Puddin's (our black cockapoo's) urn, in Robert's home office.  The ashes of all dogs, seven now, will be buried with Robert in Greenview Cemetery, between Emory and Sulphur Springs, Texas some day, beside Sandy and Sandy's father and mother.

When Robert holds Rusty's urn, he has wonderful rememberances of 'a 100% real dog'.  Warm blood surges through Robert's veins during rememberances of maximum security and protection.  Even if Rusty was merely a most convincing professional performer.

Whole Herd

Robert M. Thomas
Academic Professional Faculty Emeritus
Emeritus College
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona

Improving lives of people with little or no sight!