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A 10-year-old dog, named Rio, was all alone after his owner suddenly passed away. He went from being in a loving, calm home to being in a chaotic shelter. His whole world was flipped upside down.
Rio was brought to the Detroit Animal Care and Control shelter. It was immediate that the staff knew something was very wrong. Rio refused to eat, he wouldn’t let anyone touch him and he would stand there, facing a wall and not move.
Rio couldn’t understand what he was doing there. He wondered over and over… Why was I taken from my home? Where’s my owner? Why is it so loud and scary in here? When can I go home? The poor dog was confused and heartbroken.
The staff saw that Rio was clearly depressed like he was in mourning. He would just hang his head down while facing the wall. Something had to be done quickly! The staff sought out help from Detroit Dog Rescue (DDR).
“We take on [the shelter’s] tougher medical and mental health cases, so dogs who may be shutting down or suffering from kennel neurosis,” Kristina Millman-Rinaldi, executive director of Detroit Dog Rescue, 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.”
By the time Rio arrived at DDR, he had gotten worse. He wouldn’t even turn away from the wall when his name was called. Kristina knew the only way to help Rio was to place him in a loving foster home where he could receive special attention. Maybe there he could begin to heal.
Kristina contacted a volunteer named Ryan Callahan. After hearing Rio’s story, Ryan and his wife, Tashia, agreed to take Rio in.
“It was just the right dog, right place, right time,” Ryan said. “He needed us, and we were able to provide the one-on-one time he needed.”
Immediately, after moving into the Callahan’s home, Rio began to improve. Rio no longer shook when Ryan or Tashia tried to touch him. To make him feel safe and comfy, they made him his own spot in Ryan’s office. When Ryan worked from home, he and Rio could spend precious one-on-one time together.
In a week, Rio had made a drastic change. He began to lie on Ryan’s feet and gaze up at him with loving eyes, almost thanking Ryan for being his friend.
“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,” Ryan said. “Every time we walk by him, he wags his tail, and he loves going for walks in the woods with us.”
Rio has had it rough so both the Callahans and Detroit Dog Rescue are taking it slow with his future placement.
“My hope is that he doesn’t have to go another day wondering where he is or what is happening around him,” Ryan said. “That his new life — whatever that ends up being — is even better than his last one.”
DDR and the Callahan family are working hard to make a heartbroken dog feel love again.