Rio, like most dogs, was having a difficult time adjusting to shelter life. He had been living in a loving home for over a decade, and this 10-year-old golden retriever mix was shutting down.
The shelter workers quickly realized that what Rio was going through was not normal.
Ever since he arrived at the Detroit municipal shelter, he wouldn’t eat, shuddered at the slightest human touch or pet, and, even worse, he wouldn’t turn away from the wall.
Rio’s owner left the pup after he suddenly passed away. Rio found himself in a loud kennel, far removed from the only life he’d ever known instead of living out his golden years in comfort.
Rio seemed to be in mourning and would hang his head in the corner hour after hour.
The employees at Detroit Animal Care and Control knew they had to act fast so they called Detroit Dog Rescue (DDR).
“We take on [the shelter’s] tougher medical and mental health cases, so dogs who may be shutting down or suffering from kennel neurosis,” Kristina Millman-Rinaldi, executive director of Detroit Dog Rescue said. “A lot of people don’t realize what intuitive and sensitive creatures dogs are. They sense, like humans, everything that’s happening around them.”
Rio had already earned himself a reputation as “the saddest dog In Detroit.” And, even while he was at DDR, Rio continued spiraling toward depression.
“He was not being reactive to anybody,” Millman-Rinaldi said. “He was just facing a corner, wouldn’t look at anybody, wouldn’t respond to his name and was really having a tough time with losing everything he had ever known.”
Millman-Rinaldi knew that Rio needed to be placed in a foster home quickly to give him some semblance of normalcy. That would be his best chance at survival, so she made a call. DDR field volunteer Ryan Callahan and his wife Tashia, there was no doubt in their mind they had to take Rio in.
“It was the just right dog, right place, right time,” Callahan said. “He needed us, and we were able to provide the one-on-one time he needed.” Despite caring for another DDR foster and their two family dogs at the time, they picked up Rio from the shelter on a snowy night before Valentine’s Day and brought him home.
This was the first time Rio didn’t shirk away.
Callahan’s home office turned into Rio’s very own special room to make him feel comfortable.
Callahan, who works from home, has spent each day with Rio at his feet, and every day Rio relaxes a little bit more. Rio loves to sit on Callahan’s lap, and will even look him in the eyes, relishing his new person.
“I don’t know if it’s becoming more familiar with my wife and me, or learning that he’s still loved, but over the last week, he’s gone from not leaving the corner of the room and howling nonstop to sleeping through the day,” Callahan said. “Every time we walk by him, he wags his tail, and he loves going for walks in the woods with us.”
Callahan’s theory, “I think he just needed a place in someone’s life.”
“My hope is that he doesn’t have to go another day wondering where he is or what is happening around him,” Callahan said. “That his new life — whatever that ends up being — is even better than his last one.”
Callahan and the DDR team are taking their time when it comes to deciding what the dog’s future may hold and are going at Rio’s pace. But hopes are high for the senior pup who only a short time ago wouldn’t lift his head.
“My hopes are that he finds his place, finds his purpose again, and we’re going to help put him back together,” Millman-Rinaldi added. “He has obviously suffered a tremendous loss, but we are going to help make him whole again.”
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