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Frank Gray

Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Jack Newkirk and Dusty at their rural Allen County home.

Once-dumped dog is now thriving

An X-ray image shows the numerous pellets that Dusty III still carries inside his body from being shot twice with a shotgun before he came to live with Jack Newkirk.

It has been almost four years since a car with a bad muffler stopped near June Rawleigh's house in southeast Whitley County, dumped a dog and roared off.

It was a common occurrence, Rawleigh said at the time, and the animals usually disappeared before long, perhaps starving or being eaten by coyotes.

But the German shepherd or shepherd mix dumped in March 2009 was different. He stayed exactly where his owner dropped him off, sleeping under a tree on the edge of the road.

Rawleigh began to leave food for the dog, but he was wary of humans. Still, he always returned to the same spot to sleep. Occasionally he would walk into the road and glance up and down as if he were waiting for his owner to return.

This went on for months – seven months, in all – before Rawleigh managed to corner him on her fenced property, and it was a few days after that before a friend managed to slip a collar onto the dog and get him to a veterinarian.

It turned out the dog had lived a hard life during those seven months. He had been shot twice, judging from the buckshot in his body, but he was otherwise healthy. But then came the process of getting him a proper home.

We never followed up on that dog, but it turns out he went to a man named Jack Newkirk, who lives in rural Allen County.

Newkirk was one of several people who expressed an interest in the dog, and he was visited several times before the dog was turned over to him. He didn't know that several other people were also under consideration and were visited several times.

I never knew who had gotten the dog until Newkirk called last week wanting to know how to get hold of Rawleigh. He wondered whether she would like to visit the dog and see what has become of him.

Indeed, the dog has turned into something special as far as Newkirk is concerned.

The day Newkirk got the dog, he laid down on the floor beside him and talked to him quietly and touched his head. Suddenly, he said, the dog – named Dusty III – lurched onto his back and stuck his legs in the air, wanting his belly rubbed.

It has been a great relationship ever since.

"That dog is the smartest dog I've ever had in my life," he said. He never barks, except when someone approaches the house. "This is his house and his yard."

And he's playful, too, Newkirk said. "He's different than any dog I've ever had in my life," he said.

Newkirk still has the X-rays that show all the buckshot that remains in his body today, but it doesn't seem to bother Dusty.

And he's smart. If he does something Newkirk doesn't approve of, "I say 'uhh,' and he stops."

Newkirk knew that Rawleigh would love to see the dog she helped rescue. She has had some health problems, but she plans to visit, probably later this year.

Meanwhile, Newkirk said, the dog seems to have a better memory than him, and – as was noted when the dog was first corralled – he seems to be smarter than the people who dumped him off in the country four years ago.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.