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Gus: The shepherd who needed an angel

by Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Just last year, “America’s Rescue Dog of the Year” Gus was stray in Georgia.

This year, he is right at home on 10 acres of Colorado country, with a 1,600 pound Belgian Morgan Cross horse named “Toy,” “Toothless Nookie” the boss cat and her companions, a feral and a found cat, and of course, David and Ellen Stone who adopted him.

One can tell by his four-legged prance, his spirited tail wag, and the way he nuzzles into Ellen, he’s happy where he is these days.

It wasn’t too long ago, the sable German shepherd male was roaming aimlessly until taken to a Columbus, Ga. shelter where time meant life or death.

A volunteer for the American German Shepherd Rescue Association Mary Leverett went to Gus and searched for what she thought was a nice home for the animal.

But shortly after being placed, the dog’s owner called Leverett and said she would be moving and would return the dog to the pound that day. The pound was full, however, and any dog admitted would immediately be euthanized, rescuers were told.

A cross-country network of dedicated dog lovers kicked into emergency mode.

Gus became the topic of countless e-mails, then lickety-split, transportation and a temporary home was arranged for him ” if only they could locate him.

The former owner never dropped the dog off to the pound, so Leverett went looking.

The owner had already moved from her old home, but instinctually, the volunteer

went there to check. Sure enough, Gus had been left in the dark and empty home, tied to a door knob by a rope not even long enough for him to lie down.

Leverett had been in contact with Connie Williams of the network’s Central Colorado region, who had arranged for long distance truck driver Tom Beard to give Gus a ride with six other rescued dogs and two cats. Gus was taken to Atlanta for the rendezvous.

Upon being dropped off in Colorado to William’s temporary home, Gus remained attached to Beard who had already become a close companion. “Connie, I’m so glad he got there safely,” reads an e-mail from a rescue correspondent. “And you were right that he would bond with Tom!! This guy really just wants someone to be HIS person, even more than most German shepherds! Thank you to you and Tom soooooooo much.”

Enter the Stones of Gore Pass, who had been searching for a dog, thinking a Labrador was in their future.

But then Ellen stumbled on Gus’s photo on http://www.petfinder.com.

“I saw his picture, and saw his eyes. They just said, ‘hi, I’m your dog,” said Ellen, whose family treasured the company of a German shepherd named Duchess when she was a young girl.

Husband David was affably convinced. The couple drove to Buena Vista to meet Gus, who had severe separation anxiety from being left too many times. Gus warmed to David, who gave him a walk and grew to love him. Gus had found home.

Later, Connie nominated Gus for “Rescue Dog of the Year,” a title officially awarded on Oct. 17 at The American German Shepherd Dog Association, Inc. national show in Fort Collins, Colo. The Stones attended the ceremony and learned of two other shepherds who received hero awards.

When still a stray, the shepherd since named “Hero” rescued a woman from a car wreck by dragging her 139 feet up a steep embankment, then stayed with her until help arrived. The injured woman awoke at the scene to Hero licking her face.

Another dog named “Fritz”, known around the Army medical hospital as having a magnetic personality, kept trying to gain attention from a man who wanted nothing to do with the canine. Finally the man broke down and hugged the dog while sobbing. It was learned that the man had been a dog handler during the Vietnam War and had been forced to leave his German shepherd over there, even though the dog had once saved his life. Since then, Fritz was the first German shepherd he’d allowed himself to contact, and with his companionship, was able to finally say “good bye” to his abandoned friend from years past.

From looking at him, it doesn’t seem like the title “Rescue Dog of the Year” has gone too far to Gus’s head, even though his photo marks October in the dog club’s 2008 calendar. He looks up at Ellen with kind eyes as he rests dutifully in her office. Ellen comments it’s hard to believe this breed is the third most likely in the U.S. to be abandoned and not adopted, the reason why rescue organizations such as http://www.agsra.com specific to German shepherds were founded.

“It feels like he always was meant to be our dog,” Ellen said. “I sit and cry when I see him with my husband, he’d do anything for you. When I come home and let him out of the kennel, he’s beyond delight and then he goes and plays with the horse in the pasture, then we all go inside and he sniffs noses and butts with every cat . . . and all is right with the world.”

“Tonya Bina can be reached at (970) 887-3334 ext 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.


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