Dog’s Love of the Ocean Helps Adopter Heal

When Sophia lost her mom to cancer, Rusty was the four-legged best friend who helped her surf through grief.

Sophia + Rusty

When Sophia’s mother passed away from cancer, the love of a little surfing puppy helped her heal, and became the last story she and her mother shared.

"I would sit on her bed talking to her, telling her stories like I always did. I told her about the little red dog I had seen at the rescue."

It was June of 2015 when my beloved dog Brian passed away at nearly 14 years old. I still remember the day I rescued him years ago: the little Miniature Pinscher (min pin) nobody wanted. My husband and I cherished the time we had with Brian, and wanted to share that love with another baby in need of rescue. We checked the shelters and found a little red puppy that wasn’t yet available for adoption. At the same time, also I learned that my mother was keeping a horrible secret: she was dying from cancer. All of a sudden, I found myself living at the hospital, caring for her as her health was rapidly failing.

Surfing Dog

One day, the doctors told me that my mama would not be coming home. I was in shock and in such despair. I would sit on her bed talking to her, telling her stories like I always did. I told her about the little red dog I had seen at the rescue. I told her when she got better, we would go and adopt him.

Surfing Dog

At the same time, my husband had been secretly working hard to adopt Rusty, but there was a waiting period. Finally, there was a first-come-first-serve raffle and my husband stood in line for four hours to win the right to adopt Rusty! Then he called me at the hospital and asked me to come outside for a minute. To my surprise, I saw the most beautiful tiny red min pin prancing like a pony on the grass. My heart filled with joy and excitement, and I rushed back to the hospital room to tell my mother all about him. We made plans for her to meet him, and we laughed and hugged. We were so happy that day, it was like old times. Later that night, my mother passed away and I lost my best friend. I had shared my last story with her.

Surfing Dog

With my world turned upside down, I had a little red dog who needed me. A baby to cuddle, to love, to help heal after such loss. Rusty was so full of life, so happy, that he made me happy. When I would go into a deep sadness, he would bring me out of it just by looking at me with his beautiful green eyes. I took him to the beach and saw him watching the surfers, going in the water, so we set him on the board and he was a natural. We went to the beach every day I could. We practiced surfing, and made new friends. We had a beautiful summer and decided to enter a surf competition. To my surprise, Rusty took third place! And for three years now he has been surfing up a storm. I have made so many new friends because of Rusty.

Rusty has learned to skateboard, has had interviews, appeared on TV, and participated in charity events. So you see, with Rusty I’m not lonely anymore. Rusty has pushed me forward to keep on enjoying life.

Each year, Petco Love invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Sophia won OC Animal Care in California a 2018 Holiday Wishes award.