Russell is a stray dog who has spent his life rummaging through garbage in a car graveyard in Northern Ontario.
The black mixed-breed mutt has traversed the province and ended up in Sarnia, where he’s since found a loving family.
The Sarnia and District Humane Society and the Welland SPCA took in 218 cats and dogs from Northern communities through the Great Canadian Adopt-a-thon in late October.
Russell was one of 111 of the rescued cats and dogs that came to Sarnia.
“They were all barking, but he was docile,” said co-owner Terry Howe, who attended the event at the local shelter and immediately noticed Russell, who was lying down, calm and quietly.
“He looked like he’d had enough,” Howe said.
His partner Kristi Disper said Russell has adjusted wonderfully to their family of six, which includes two cats, Remy and Rosie.
“We always talked about it but the timing wasn’t right,” she said. “He was the perfect addition. He just fits right in.”
Russell’s new life is a far cry from what he came from.
Stray dogs in the north are becoming a crisis, with over-population and adverse living conditions impacting some animals, officials say.
“A lot of the dogs are owned, but their offspring is what is creating the overwhelming number of dogs up there,” said Janet Bredin, shelter coordinator for the North Bay Humane Society.
Bredin has participated in a number of animal rescues into northern communities. Unlike the south, where stray cats are an issue, dogs are the problem in the north, she said.
“If you think of stray dogs running loose, rummaging through garbage, that’s the picture you have to paint.”
Howe and Disper wanted to find out more about where Russell lived.
Through the websites and Facebook postings from different organizations involved in his rescue, they managed to trace Russell back to Big Trout Lake – a secluded community about 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.
Howe learned that Russell lived with a pack of strays in a “car graveyard,” a life that took its toll on the pooch.
Russell’s face was scarred, with cuts and punctures on his ears and lips, Howe said.
“He looked terrible.”
But seeing him now, you’d never know. However, Howe said, Russell still likes to eat garbage.
Disper said that overall the transition has been smooth.
“After talking to other dog owners, they say that rescue dogs adjust better,” said Disper. “We feel like we won the dog lottery!”
And if Russell could talk, he’d probably agree.