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A Rescue Dog & His Heart Girl

As animal lovers, we love and cherish ALL our pets. But certain dogs (and cats) change us – they get under our skin, in our hearts, and our spirits are forever bound. Heart dogs enter our lives in unexpected and wonderful ways. Our time together is often brief, but the impact of our bond is mighty. They live on in our hearts and we see the world differently, more vividly and clearly because of the bond we shared. Rusty Boy was Pat and her daughter, Evi’s, heart dog.

A little girl hugs her rescued pit bull

In 1992, Pat was driving her infant daughter, Evi, to daycare on a back road in rural Florida. She passed a large Pitbull, sitting like a statue alongside the road. He had a collar on so she kept going. She took the same route for the next two days, and on the third day, there he sat again. She pulled her truck over, approached him cautiously; he stared straight ahead and did not move. He had cropped ears and lots of scarring around his head and was wearing a collar, but no tags. It was clear someone had dumped him and he was waiting patiently for them to return. Pat carefully picked him up and placed him in the back of her truck. All the while, he sat perfectly still, staring straight ahead.

Pat’s veterinarian estimated Rusty to be about ten. He was on the thin side, had a bad case of fleas and lots of old scarring around his face. From the start Rusty was elegant, proud, and gentle. Even when Pat fed him for the first time, when he was clearly starving, he ate slowly and didn’t gobble down his food. He was always first and foremost, a gentleman.

Rusty, the rescued pit bull celebrates his heart girl's birthday

Initially, Pat kept Rusty separated from her other dogs as well as Evi. He never showed any interest in the other dogs, but would quietly watch Evi from a far. One day Pat found him peacefully sitting next to her baby swing. From that moment on, they were inseparable and he became her everything. She learned to walk by holding onto his bony spine. When she was a bit older, they played dress up and other games together.

Evi, now an adult, remembers that Rusty was always with her. She thought of him as a person and once told her mom that she could leave because Rusty would take care of her. Both Pat and Evi feel certain that Rusty was born, endured his painful early years, so that he could eventually find his version of heaven and have a child to cherish and raise.

A formerly abandoned rescue dog gives his adoptive sister a kiss

Rusty’s health began to fail when Evi was five. Pat struggled with when to let go; she did not want to put him down prematurely, but also did not want him to suffer. One of her friends hired a pet psychic to meet Rusty. She sat quietly with the now elderly dog and after a few minutes, asked who Evi was. The psychic said that Rusty was in pain, but was not ready to leave because he hadn’t finished raising Evi.

Rusty Boy passed away a few months later after a spectacular, love-filled five years. Pat says he was not the dog to wax poetic about, more of an Atticus Finch with a simple, yet honest depth of character. Although their time together was brief, they loved him dearly and never missed an opportunity to let him know just how much. “Rusty had a huge heart and was truly my daughter’s guardian angel,” Pat remembers fondly.

Rusty, the rescued dog, and his heart girl Evi

Pat says Rusty Boy forever changed the way she viewed Pitbulls and Pit-mixes. She has gone on to rescue many dogs over the years, including many pits, and even a few horses. Some never recover from past trauma, but they are safe and have food, water, and shelter. She loves all creatures and says the best reward of rescuing is that first moment of trust when an animal’s true nature begins to emerge. When not rescuing dogs, Pat runs Broad Meadow Farms, a highly successful and established horse training, boarding, and riding lessons facility in Ocala, FL.

Thanks to Pat and Evi for sharing Rusty’s inspiring story. Thanks also to Elizabeth from The Chronicles of Cardigan for restoring these incredible, heartfelt photos. This is truly one of my favorite rescue stories as it so perfectly embodies everything I love about rescue work and the powerful, healing bond between second chance animals and the people who save them. Please do not adopt an animal if you are unable or unwilling to provide a lifetime of loving and compassionate care. If you are ready for adoption, please consider adopting or fostering a special needs dog because second chances are amazing whether you are on the giving or receiving side.

Rusty is part of The Specials, an award-winning blog series focusing on special needs pet adoption. Senior pets, those with chronic medical issues, behavioral or temperament concerns as well as overlooked or misunderstood breeds like Pits and black cats. If not for the courage and compassion of their adopters, many of these animals might have been euthanized in shelters or died alone and hungry on the streets. You can read more special needs adoption posts here.


  1. The Menagerie Mom
    August 29, 2016 / 6:05 am

    This is such a special story. You can just see in the photos what a gentle soul Rusty was, and how deeply he and Evi loved each other. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story with us.

  2. Mark Muller
    August 29, 2016 / 8:50 am

    that was such a touching story… hugs to pat and evi… and hugs to rusty the bestest friend a little girl can ask for…

  3. Molly and Mackie
    August 29, 2016 / 9:35 am

    What a wonderful story and such beautiful photos of Evi and Rusty♥

  4. Brian
    August 29, 2016 / 10:43 am

    Rusty was such a special boy. Thanks for sharing his life with us.

  5. Marg
    August 29, 2016 / 10:48 am

    That is such a wonderful story. So glad she picked him up and that Evi had the wonderful experience of a dog's love. I bet he was waiting for the people to pick him up. So sad, so glad that Pat found him.

  6. Madi and Mom
    August 29, 2016 / 11:44 am

    Kristin…what an absolutely amazing story of true love of Rusty and his girl Evi.He surely had a gentle and loving face and heart. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story and for writing it with such love and care. Each word chosen perfectly.As for the reno!!! The last day was 8/23/16…woohoo.Hugs madi and mom

  7. Max Paganetti
    August 29, 2016 / 1:19 pm

    Thanks for the share! Love reading your blog:)Kyle

  8. Millie and Walter
    August 29, 2016 / 1:25 pm

    What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it. Those pictures sure show the devotion Evi and Rusty had for each other.

  9. Two French Bulldogs
    August 29, 2016 / 2:06 pm

    What a great story. SweetLily & Edward

  10. Madi and Mom
    August 29, 2016 / 2:29 pm

    Yes indeedy Ruby the flooring was loud but at least there were only 2 installers. Painting the entire interior of the house was worse cause there were 5 men all over the place.

  11. Sketching with Dogs
    August 29, 2016 / 3:54 pm

    What a beautiful story of a beautiful dog. It is terrible how some people can treat animals and yet they still love and trust us. Even though I love my other dogs dearly, I will never forget Bridge, my beloved heart dog.Lynne x

  12. Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat
    August 29, 2016 / 4:05 pm

    Beautiful story … about love and loss … and the amazing heart of a dog most would've overlooked.

  13. Elizabeth Keene
    August 29, 2016 / 4:24 pm

    "She learned to walk by holding onto his bony spine." That line is exquisite, as is this rescue story, and that dog. *sigh* I am so glad you and Rusty's family got to tell it! Thank you!Those photos (the composition of them, not anything I did) are breathtaking. Honored to have been able to shine them up. ♥

  14. Ann Oon
    August 29, 2016 / 4:39 pm

    Very beautifully written Kristen.

  15. Three Chatty Cats
    August 29, 2016 / 4:48 pm

    Tears. Another beautiful rescue story. I've never heard the term heart dog before, but I can certainly see why Rusty Boy was one. What a beautiful and touching rescue story. Thank you for sharing it. And thank you to Pat for saving him and for Evi for loving him. Those pictures are priceless, too.

  16. Yamini MacLean
    August 29, 2016 / 4:55 pm

    Hari OMDang, I can't see the screen again… who put that mist there??!… **sigh**… YAM xx

  17. ♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥
    August 29, 2016 / 6:36 pm

    What a touching and heartwarming story about Rusty and that lovely lady who saved him! Dogs truly can tell when a human is kind and has loving ways. Thank for sharing this story of love.Woos – Ciara and Lightning

  18. Idaho PugRanch
    August 29, 2016 / 6:52 pm

    Oh how we love this story, so very special filled with lovehugsMr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

  19. The Swiss Cats
    August 29, 2016 / 7:00 pm

    What a beautiful and touching story ! Purrs

  20. Dory and the Mama
    August 29, 2016 / 7:45 pm

    What a wonderful and heart touching story of true love!!

  21. Nellie Kowalik
    August 29, 2016 / 8:12 pm

    Mommy had a wet face when she finished reading this story. It was wonderful, thanks yous!KissesNellie

  22. Murphy
    August 29, 2016 / 9:08 pm

    What a wonderful story! We loved it!Your Pals,Murphy & Stanley

  23. tubby3pug
    August 29, 2016 / 10:04 pm

    A beautiful story.

  24. Foley Monster, Pocket and River Song
    August 29, 2016 / 10:47 pm

    That was a story. Rusty was on that street for her family. Never pass by a lonely dog

  25. Foley Monster, Pocket and River Song
    August 30, 2016 / 12:13 am

    That was a story. Rusty was on that street for her family. Never pass by a lonely dog

  26. Groovy Goldendoodles
    August 30, 2016 / 1:24 am

    Such a moving and heartfelt story. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  27. The Island Cats
    August 30, 2016 / 1:37 am

    What a wonderful story! That stop by Pat changed Rusty's and Evi's life forever. Thanks for sharing another great special story with us.

  28. Marty the Manx
    August 30, 2016 / 2:41 am

    This was a special and wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  29. meowmeowmans
    August 30, 2016 / 3:23 am

    Amazing. How could Pat have known that one act would change so many lives? Hers, Rusty's, Evi's, and all who have been touched by this story…

  30. Sweet William The Scot
    August 30, 2016 / 1:04 pm

    This is truly a touch your heart deep story and one that cannot be easily forgotten. Such pure unadulterated love of a dog and child. Thanks Kristin.Sweet William The Scot

  31. Bouncing Bertie
    August 30, 2016 / 5:38 pm

    Oh oh oh that is such a wonderful rescue story. How wrong we often are, to judge by appearances.

  32. Bella Roxy & Macdui
    August 30, 2016 / 8:18 pm

    What a special dog, and special people. So happy they found each other. Rusty certainly enriched their lives.

  33. MWebster
    August 30, 2016 / 11:09 pm

    A beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  34. Daily Dog Tag
    August 31, 2016 / 3:00 pm

    What a beautiful story and wonderful photos! Sounds like Rusty and Evi shared a wonderful bond. I have never met an animal psychic, but I think it would be interesting.

  35. Cathy Armato
    September 2, 2016 / 12:12 am

    Oh man, I should know by now not to read one of your blog posts without tissues! This one is even more special than the other Specials stories! What an incredible rescue story, one for the ages!Love & biscuits,Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  36. Cathy Armato
    September 2, 2016 / 12:14 am

    Oh man, I should know by now not to read one of your blog posts without tissues! This one is even more special than the other Specials stories! What an incredible rescue story, one for the ages!Love & biscuits,Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  37. FiveSibesMom
    October 4, 2016 / 3:44 pm

    What a special story…I sit here with tears and a smile.

  38. Bocci
    December 21, 2016 / 6:55 pm

    Just beautiful…

  39. Cathy Armato
    January 3, 2017 / 4:04 pm

    I just LOVE this story, it's such a heartwarming rescue story. I grew up with my childhood dog Ginny, she will always be my true Heart Dog. These photos are incredible, especially the one with Rusty wearing the crown and Evi gazing at him with such love! Beautiful.Love & Biscuits,Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  40. The Florida Furkids
    January 6, 2017 / 11:39 am

    What a sweet story!!! The Florida Furkids

  41. Bethany Poudrier
    January 7, 2017 / 11:22 am

    So much love to begin my day….the world needs more stories like this one….

  42. A Nelson
    January 10, 2017 / 5:38 pm

    Wonderful story!!

  43. Cathy Armato
    February 1, 2017 / 2:20 pm

    Congratulations on your DWAA award nomination on this post! This is actually one of my favorites, it's a well deserved nomination.

  44. da tabbies o trout towne
    February 1, 2017 / 8:33 pm

    ruby; 984 paws up ….we dunno how we mizzed thiz de furst time a round; we can see why thiz post getted nominated……984 pawz crossed ewe win ~~~ ♥♥♥♥♥

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