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Frank Gray

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Jack Newkirk will soon have to give up Dusty, a dog that was abandoned years ago in rural Whitley County.

New home needed for abandoned dog Dusty

The story of Dusty the abandoned dog, which appeared to have a happy ending, has taken a sudden turn, possibly for the worse.

We first wrote about the dog about four years ago. The story was that one night someone with a car with a loud muffler stopped near the rural Whitley County home of June Rawleigh and then took off. Rawleigh’s husband looked outside to see what was going on. He didn’t get a good look at the car, but he did see what the driver left behind – a dog, a big one, a German shepherd or a shepherd mix.

It wasn’t uncommon. People regularly dump dogs around Rawleigh’s home, and they usually disappear before too long. Coyotes might eat them, or people shoot them. Rural residents frequently shoot strays.

This dog, though, was different. It would wander up and down the road near Rawleigh’s house, but it always returned to the spot where he was dropped off. The dog would sleep under a tree and occasionally walk out to the road and look back and forth as though he was waiting for his owner to come back and pick him up.

Sometimes, when he didn’t know Rawleigh was watching, the dog would play, jumping up and down.

Rawleigh started leaving food for the dog, hoping she could eventually catch it and take it to a no-kill shelter somewhere, but the dog was wary.

For six months the dog stood its vigil, waiting for its owner, who would never show up, occasionally chasing trucks with loud mufflers.

Finally, after months of trying, residents were able to catch the dog, which by then was quite mangy, by luring it into an enclosed area and pulling the gate closed.

As big as the dog was, though, it was passive. When anyone approached with a collar, though, the dog would shake and drop its head in fear.

Finally, though, one neighbor managed to get a collar on the dog and attach a leash, and the dog transformed instantly. It became excited, started wagging its tail, and jumped in the car when the door was opened and happily went for a trip, though it was to the vet.

The veterinarian discovered the dog had problems. Its body was loaded with buckshot, but it was healing.

Meanwhile, the dog turned out to be smart, obeying commands, sitting when told to, and behaving when on a leash.

Meanwhile, people were lining up, asking to adopt the dog. Eventually the dog was adopted by a retired man who lived in a semi-rural area, who described the dog as the smartest animal he’d ever seen.

That was about four years ago, but the dog’s owner has experienced some unexpected health problems and is going to have to go into assisted living.

And he can’t take the dog with him.

According to the man’s daughter, he is beside himself, worrying about what will happen to the dog. He wants to find it a new home.

There are people out there who would be willing to take the dog, the man says. Several had asked to adopt the dog when he was finally corralled, but the owner has no idea who they might be.

Whatever happens, a new home has to be found for the dog fast, because the owner will be going into assisted living in a matter of days – leaving behind a distraught owner and likely, a distraught dog.

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.