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Story of Neglected Guard Dog Inspires Local Policy Changes

Rula, a 4-year-old Shepsky — or a German Shepherd-Husky mix — spent three years living outdoors in Brentwood, California. She was used as a guard dog and was tied to a 10-foot pulley. As The Mercury News reports, the lively pup eagerly paced her double-fenced yard, her tail wagging excitedly during rare human interactions.

After a passionate social media campaign and on-site protests in East Contra Costa County, Rula has been liberated from her desolate yard conditions. Now in San Ramon, she enjoys both indoor and outdoor living on a spacious one-acre lot. Her joy is unlimited here as she freely frolics with her new pal, a young Golden Retriever named Teddie.

Carolynn Steen, founder of Rhodie’s Rescue, played a crucial role in pairing Rula with her new family in December. She says, “It’s just a perfect home.” Continuing, she adds, “It’s kind of one of those rags-to-riches stories.”

Truly, Rula’s life now is a far cry from her past conditions.

Guard dog’s role in transforming animal welfare rules

The playful pup swiftly became the poster dog for ongoing efforts to transform local pet care laws. Her case was presented to the Brentwood City Council last fall during a session with council members and animal control authorities.

Steen said, “Here’s this dog — very social and friendly — that was tied up, living a sad life and living outdoors, and now she’s in this fabulous home.” Steen also pointed out Rula will now have access to several miles of hiking trails at the family’s two other residences. One is located on the Upper Truckee River in Lake Tahoe, and the other is situated on the Napa River in Vallejo.

The path to this doggy haven was, however, quite challenging. Rula’s ordeal came to the attention of pet enthusiasts last summer when her story was shared on NextDoor. Over the course of eight weeks, the posts gained popularity on animal rescue platforms, leading residents to engage actively and alert the authorities.

Nonetheless, Contra Costa County’s animal control officers claimed the owner hadn’t broken any laws. They did recommend he install a shade structure — a suggestion he complied with, according to their statement.

Many residents attempted to persuade the dog’s owner to surrender the pet. However, it took weeks for him to agree, shared Celeste Smith, who successfully persuaded him to release the dog.

Earlier that summer, Smith found Rula and composed a letter to the owner, offering dog treats, toys, and a bed. In her letter, she employed rational arguments to convey the seriousness of Rula’s situation. Smith noted, “He did the right thing in the end.”

Challenges in dog adoption efforts presented to Brentwood city officials

Smith acted as Rula’s foster parent for several months. However, the youthful dog’s vibrant energy proved too much for her two Greyhounds. She then reached out to Rhodie’s Rescue to secure a good home for Rula. Even with many adoption events and social media postings, it was only at the end of December that she found an appropriate owner for the pup.

Steen indicated that the shortage of affordable spaying and neutering services had further complicated the situation. Saying, “The shelter, the rescues are just flooded with dogs right now.”

Meanwhile, the Vice Mayor of Brentwood, Susannah Meyer, addressed the City Council about outdoor animal welfare after receiving feedback from local residents. She is eager to explore if the city can suggest alterations to county regulations to safeguard domestic pets.

Furthermore, she emphasized Rula was not a true guard dog. If any visitor approached, the animal would only whine, wag her tail, and act friendly.

Beth Ward, Director of Animal Services in Contra Costa County, informed the council there were plans underway to revise certain regulations. These pertained to maintaining animals outside in harsh weather, mandating the provision of shade and cool water, and offering clear instructions regarding tethering.

Rescued dog welcomed into forever family

Denise Pinto expressed her delight over finding and adopting Rula, her new furry friend. What’s more, the pup seems to be settling well in her new environment.

Previously, Pinto only owned Golden Retrievers but learned about Rhodie’s Rescue through a nearby horse boarding center. She also stumbled upon posts about the needy dog on social media. “I thought this could be cool for Teddie, to have a friend that he can play with,” she said.

Upon meeting Rula with her dog Teddie, Pinto noticed the two hit it off right away. “The two play exactly the same way, so they are bonded; it’s adorable,” she stated. Adding that when she “first brought Rula home, she got out of the car and ran seven laps around the whole property.”

Rula can now freely explore the Pintos’ property, even having her own doggie door for convenience. The rescue pup also enjoys a comfortable indoor sleeping arrangement which includes a memory foam sheepskin bed. Initially, Rula didn’t understand the concept of a toy, but now she is absolutely smitten with a pink-and-purple plush unicorn.

Pinto describes Rula as a “lovely, lovely dog.” She found it pleasantly surprising to discover that Rula exhibits virtually no behavioral problems and seldom barks. As such, Pinto expressed her appreciation saying, “I think that it’s just amazing that everyone cared enough to get her out of that situation.”


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