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Winnipeggers share stories after death of Rusty, beloved St. Boniface hospital therapy dog

Rusty the dog. St. Boniface Hospital Foundation / Twitter

One of Winnipeg’s best boys has passed away.

Rusty, St. Boniface Hospital’s companionable canine, died Wednesday of cancer at the age of 17, one day after his Feb. 17 birthday.

The soft, red-furred pooch, who always sported a pair of Buddy Holly glasses, clocked more than 2,000 volunteer hours at the hospital in the past decade, comforting staff, patients and volunteers alike.

In a final farewell Facebook post, Rusty’s owner George Ames spoke for Rusty and said his cancer spread quickly and suddenly, and there was nothing veterinarians could do.

“They tried to help me as best they could but the nice vet here in Arizona said there was no hope for me. But the pain killers worked great until it was time for me to go.

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“Whenever you see a photo of me, or even think about me, please remember our friendship. Plus, know that I am pulling for you to live a happy and honourable life.”

Rusty retired in November of last year.

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Winnipeggers reacted with bittersweet memories of the dog that made them feel better during some scary situations.

“I had my encounter with Rusty in late May 2019,” a man named Mike told CJOB.

“I had been visiting a good friend of mine at Grace Hospital and after learning from him that he was not doing well with his cancer I left shortly after. Dejected, sad, upset and with tears at the ready, I walked off the elevator and immediately saw Rusty.

READ MORE: Beloved therapy dog retiring from St. Boniface Hospital after near decade of service

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I almost walked by, but he seemed to call out to me offering a smile. I stopped and asked the owner if I might pet him. “Not only pet him but you can give him a treat!” he replied.

“My worries and sadness evaporated. My tears receded and I left 20 minutes later feeling so much better. Such was his power and love.”

“My first encounter with Rusty was at St. B while I was a patient back in May of 2018,” said Angela.

“Rusty had this keen sense of knowing when someone needed some much-needed attention or doggy love. I watched Rusty bring laughter and smiles to many patients and visitors. To me, he brought a sense of calm and peace while I impatiently waited for my discharge. Rest well Rusty, rest well.”

“Without fail, Rusty was always able to bring a smile to my face,” said Kristjan Jon.

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“I was particularly grateful for having him there to help me after some really tough shifts in the ER. He had such a warm soul and made a profound impact on the lives of so many. Thank you so much Rusty … rest in peace little buddy.”

Another Manitoban who experienced Rusty’s positivity, Brant, wrote that he first met Rusty during a long hospital stay.

“After our twins were born prematurely, we spent many months at the hospital. I always looked for him when we left the NICU for the day, and was excited for the days when Rusty was there. That lovable face managed to wash away whatever I was feeling.

“I’m sorry for Rusty’s family, and the countless people he touched over the years.”

“The loss of a friend like Rusty is large,” said Vince Barletta, President and CEO, St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.

“All of the visiting, wide-grinned smiles, and tail wags Rusty gave throughout the years meant so much to so many. Our donors are thankful to Rusty, as are we. He was, and will remain, a gift.”

The dog’s owner, Ames, told 680 CJOB he’s very proud of what Rusty accomplished.

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“It’s still pretty raw, but we’ll get through this,” he said.

“He had that beautiful face, that quiet demeanour that people were drawn to.

“Rusty was a special dog. He, like the rest of us, was a mixed breed… Rusty came from an unknown background, and maybe it was that humble beginning that made him give out love.”

Do you have a memory of Rusty you’d like to share? Email it to elisha.dacey@globalnews.ca.