Redemption for abused pit bull terrier mix dog

Abused pit bull terrier mix comes to the Sanctuary in need of critical dental care and help healing his broken heart. He is doing much better now.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Rugby the pit bull terrier mix dog radiates love. You can feel it when he stares up adoringly at you, melting your heart with his soft chestnut-brown eyes. And you can see it when he wiggles and wags his whole body until he’s either wrapped up tightly in your arms or sitting in your lap. Human touch seems to reassure Rugby that everything is all right. And, after what he’s been through, the gentle dog deserves a lifetime of love and reassurance.

Before he came to Best Friends, Rugby had hit rock bottom. He’d found temporary safety at a city shelter after a short stint as a stray, but the shelter didn’t have the resources to provide the medical care or TLC that he so desperately needed.

Rugby the once-abused dog radiating love at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Abused dog in need of hope, critical care

Before he could have a fighting chance at finding a loving home, Rugby needed critical dental care. He had a mouthful of chipped and broken teeth — possibly the result of severe abuse. Although it was difficult for Rugby to eat, the poor dog suffered more than just physical pain. Someone had betrayed his trust, taken advantage of his gentle nature and left him broken and alone.

What Rugby needed was restoration for both his body and his spirit. He needed to regain hope, a will to live and a reason to trust in people again. The caring shelter staff looked in Rugby’s eyes and saw that he was struggling with what had happened to him. So they helped him get to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, where he would have all the time he needed to heal his wounds and become whole again.

Ending pain and overcoming fear

Once he arrived at Best Friends, the first order of business was ending Rugby’s physical pain. The cracked and broken teeth had to go right away. After dental surgery at the Best Friends Animal Clinic, Rugby doesn’t have any teeth to speak of — only tiny nubbins. But he’s feeling so much better these days. Now he can eat just fine, and he no longer winces in pain when someone touches his mouth or face.

As Rugby’s body got stronger, his heart followed suit. Though his life experiences had left him afraid of people, Rugby saw that folks at the Sanctuary genuinely cared about him. They gave him lots of gentle scratches behind his big pointy ears, and on his backside. They slowly built a bond with him by teaching him to respond to basic cues (sit, stay, wait and come) and showing him that toys are fun (especially squeaky toys, which are his favorites). But most important of all, Rugby’s caregivers remind him every day that people are kind, and that he is safe and loved.

Brave survivor dog full of love

At five years old, Rugby is a brave survivor who has seen enough of the world to be wise beyond his years. But now that he’s happy and healthy again, he’s able to let his guard down and make up for the years when he couldn’t show his silly side.

“He’s the goofiest dog you can ever meet,” says Dogtown caregiver Erin Schmitz. “If you don't play with him when he wants you to, he will chase his tail to get your attention,” she explains. “And when he’s greeting Sanctuary tours, he’ll dash right out of the building into the crowd, and slide on the ground for belly rubs and pets.”

In fact, Rugby has been so great with every volunteer he meets that it’s hard to imagine the rough life he once lived. But, as he stares at people in quiet adoration, or when he drapes his leg over someone’s arm and leans in for a soft nudge or a kiss, it’s clear that his pain is in the past, and that love has prevailed.

Goofy dog Rugby playing in the snow

Show your love for animals — here’s how:

  • Looking for a holiday gift that gives back? The Symbolic Gift Ideas page is the perfect place to find a truly meaningful gift for those who are most special to you.
  • Learn all about Dogtown at Best Friends, where dogs are kings (and queens).

Photos by Kurt Budde


Caring for Pets