Rio’s whole world unraveled when his owner died. If he understood his owner was dead, he likely grieved in his own way, like we all do when we lose a loved one. He was all by himself, winding up in a cold shelter, away from his comfy home and bed.
The kind staff at the Detroit Animal Care and Control shelter knew this beautiful boy was in trouble. He stared dejectedly at the wall and refused to eat or let anyone touch him.
Rio Was In A Bad Way
The poor dog didn’t know why he was at the shelter, or why he was taken away from the home where he’d lived for so long. Everything was strange, sterile and cold.
Heartbroken, he may have wondered where his owner was, perhaps not understanding this person had passed away and was now out of his life forever.
The Staff Knew Rio Was In Trouble
“We take on [the shelter’s] tougher medical and mental health cases, so dogs who may be shutting down or suffering from kennel neurosis,” DDR executive director Kristina Millman-Rinaldi told The Dodo. “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 the reputation as “the saddest dog in Detroit,” when he was taken in by DDR. And he continued in this vein.
“He was not being reactive to anybody,” said Millman-Rinaldi. “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 a foster home was the best place for Rio to de-stress. It would give him a sense of normalcy and make it easier for him to fight the depression that was engulfing him. While some people may hesitate at caring for a senior dog, she knew just whom to call.
Rio Finds Respite
DDR field volunteer Ryan Callahan and his wife Tashia took the big yellow dog in without question.
“It was 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.”
The Callahans already had their hands full with another DDR foster dog and their two pooches, but on a cold, snowy night just before Valentine’s Day they picked up Rio and brought him home.
Rio Becomes A Brand-New Dog
The couple even set him up with his own special room — in Ryan’s home office.
And since Ryan works from home, it gave Rio the chance he needed to feel like a normal dog again. He became quite the lap dog (even though he was a little bit big) and even began looking into Ryan’s eyes.
If You Understand Dogs, You Know That’s A Big Deal
“I don’t know if it’s becoming more familiar with my wife and I, 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 puts the reason for Rio’s big change down to the fact that he needed to know he meant something to someone.
“I think he just needed a place in someone’s life,” Callahan said. “My hope is that he doesn’t have to go another day wondering where he is or what is happening around him. That his new life — whatever that ends up being — is even better than his last one.”
Rio Is Healing
He’s been through so much. Just a short while ago he wouldn’t look at anyone, and the Callahans and the DDR team are letting him take things at his own pace. But clearly, they want to find a place where Rio feels at home.
“My hopes are that he finds his place, finds his purpose again, and we’re going to help put him back together,” Millman-Rinaldi said. “He has obviously suffered a tremendous loss, but we are going to help make him whole again.”
Featured image by Ryan Callahan via The Dodo