Rescue Dog Becomes ‘Everyday Gift’ for Boy in Need

Teenager with rare disease adopts dog from Alberta hoarding case

kommador A dog can make a house a home, but over 200 dogs in one home can be a nightmare. Rupert, a komondor sheep dog mix, found himself in this situation at a house in Milk River, Alberta, Canada.

Rupert was missing part of his leg. It’s not clear what happened, but it caused him a great deal of pain.

His owner realized she had more dogs than she could care for and called the Alberta SPCA. The SPCA and Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society teamed up to take in 60 dogs in December 2014.

Surrendered dogs lead to investigation

Based on the conditions of the dogs she surrendered, authorities obtained a warrant to save the rest of the dogs in January 2015. They assumed they would be saving about 50 dogs. They were shocked to see 145 dogs still on the property.

“It was a sea of dogs. They were all chained or in pens. There was not a food bowl or water dish to be seen,” said Deanna Thompson, executive director at AARCS.

The dogs were huskies, malamutes, Irish wolfhounds, komondors, sheep dogs and mixed breeds. All the dogs were in appalling condition, with no shelter in sight.

“It was so cold. Alberta in the middle of winter can get to -30 degrees Celsius,” Deanna said. “How they survived is beyond me.”

A new leash on life

But the resilient dogs survived and went to AARCS to receive medical care. About a dozen other local animal welfare agencies and numerous foster families stepped up to give each dog a warm place to sleep.

PetSmart Charities® of Canada helped AARCS with an $18,000 Emergency Relief grant to assist with medical treatment, spay/neuter surgeries, vaccinations, microchips and food. It’s the organization’s largest Emergency Relief grant to date.

“Every single one of the dogs had issues, and every single one needed to be spayed or neutered. It wasn’t in the budget, but our job is to care for these pets. PetSmart Charities of Canada really came through for us to be able to cover those expenses,” Deanna said.

Hope for Rupert

Because Rupert was so malnourished, he couldn’t walk by himself. AARCS volunteers had to use a sling to help him move around.

When he gained enough weight, he had surgery to remove his troublesome leg so he could learn to walk properly. He went to a foster home in Calgary, Alberta, so he could recover.

“He’s a pretty funny guy actually. He was scared when he came in, but once he realized people cared for him, he just melted,” Deanna said. “It didn’t take him long to trust people.”

Rupert was doing well with his dedicated foster mom, Leita, but he had terrible anxiety at night. So, she slept on the kitchen floor with him every night he stayed with her.

Dogs heal over time

Over the following months, the families who were fostering Rupert’s housemates reported that the dogs were making complete turnarounds, bringing joy to Deanna and her team. Some dogs were ready for adoption more quickly than others. AACRS is still working with some of the dogs who have medical issues.

boy and dog on couchWhile the dogs began to blossom in their new lives, the community struggled with the memory of the hoarding situation.

“This was the worst case of neglect that we’ve ever seen. When you’re dealing with these types of numbers — 206 dogs — and the conditions they were in, it was the most shocking,“ Deanna said.

The local news coverage of the case focused on Rupert, who quickly became the face of the rescue. Many families wanted to adopt him, but one family stood out.

Family falls for Rupert from afar

Dalton Buyar is a 17-year-old boy who has had to spend the majority of the past 4 years in his home. Dalton suffers from severe aplastic anemia, a rare disease that prevents his body from creating new blood cells. Even a small bruise can cause him to go to the hospital.

The family had 2 dogs: a Labrador named Max and a mastiff named Schmichael.

One day, Dalton’s mother, Wendy, saw Rupert’s picture on the news. She and her family had no intentions of adopting another dog. But when they heard Rupert’s story, it reminded them of Dalton’s.

“Rupert was chained to a tree and wasn’t able to live the life of a dog. He had to adjust to something less than a good life,” Wendy said. “Dalton has had a similar last 4 years. He’s sort of been caged in a house. He can’t be a normal teenager. For us, it seemed perfect.”

Rupert finds his family on “weirdly perfect” day

Wendy contacted AARCS and got in touch with foster mom Leita. Many others had the same idea, but Wendy was persistent. She explained Dalton’s situation.

A couple of weeks later, the Buyars learned they could adopt Rupert — as long as everything went well during the meet and greet with the family’s other dogs.

The only problem: Max doesn’t like the car, and Rupert’s foster home was 2 hours away from the Buyars in Lacombe, Alberta. Because the family made such an impression on Leita, she agreed to drive Rupert to the Buyars’ house for the visit.

Wendy was concerned that high-energy Max might overwhelm Rupert. Max also doesn’t like to share his toys. But that day, he brought his ball to Rupert and tried to play with him.

boy and dog sleep on floorDalton fell in love, and right away he was on his hands and knees hugging Rupert.

“That day was weirdly perfect,” Wendy said.

Dalton wanted Rupert to be “his” dog, so he paid the adoption fee with his own money. He also promised to pay for food, pet insurance and veterinary bills.

 “We went through the financial responsibility with him completely. But he wouldn’t back down. He wanted to do everything for Rupert,” Wendy said.

Dalton’s daily gift

Rupert has been in his new home for about 3 months, and the Buyars are working on calming Rupert’s nighttime anxiety.

He now has a comfort blanket that smells like Dalton, scented peace and calming oils and a thunder shirt. “We want him to be comfortable but not reliant on us.”

And with that, Dalton finally has his “everyday gift.” Before Rupert, Dalton wasn’t always able to go out of the house and be with his friends. Now, he gets to wake up to Rupert every day.

“It’s overwhelming because it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever had deal with, seeing what my son has had to endure these past 4 years,” Wendy said. “He’s very closed with people because he’s afraid he will hurt them if and when he passes away. Rupert is his amazing, everyday gift.”


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