Pet Adoption Story: Russell

Told by: Kellie Ruiz

Our story starts in all the wrong ways: a girl with a lifelong dream of calling a dog her own and a troubled, last-pick-of-the-litter, black puppy not wanting anything to do with humans. I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t want a dog. When my Christmas list item of a dog failed year after year as a child, I even resorted to the Tooth Fairy. But at last, my time finally arrived as a young adult. I eyed this chunky, black fuzz ball on a rescue organization’s site, who was the only pup in the litter not to be adopted.

Upon convincing my parents to embark on a family affair of having a dog and receiving the call of approval for our application, we found ourselves at the foster home packed with dogs running rampant. Before entering the household, I had a surreal moment. I had settled on the name Russell the first time I ever saw his picture on the rescue site and coincidentally, the town’s main road was Russell Road. It also just so happened to be National Puppy Day. It had to be fate, I thought.

And then I saw him. My movie moment was finally here. A slow-motion union of arms and paws into an embrace had to follow. I knelt down to try and grab his attention. He ran to me with his crescent moon eyes and with his pearly whites, he gnawed on my knee, u-turned, stopped for a pee on the hardwood floor, and ran away. In another attempt, I tried to pick him up, but he let out a large puppy roar and writhed out of my arms. Soon after, the little pup tried to dominate an older dog. I felt a little overwhelmed. For years I was waiting for this moment. It did not seem to be fate after all, or so I thought.

The rescuer basically begged my family to take him home. While not the best advice, it certainly was the best decision in my life to do so…it would take time to realize that. Russell in a nutshell in his first year and a half was one filled with immense anxiety, hyperactivity, and incredible leash aggression (with many embarrassing moments on walks). To add to the list, he still showed no interest in human interaction. I remember he used to hang out in other rooms not to be bothered. I walked into the room he was in, and he walked out.

My family and I were finally able to reach out to the right person, that being the late “dog whisperer of Chicago” Curtis Scott. A man who rehabilitated former fighting dogs, described Russell as a dog who needed a blankie, filled with fear and his aggressive reactions manifesting from it. Curtis came over for a day and provided instruction on how to approach all of his issues. Curtis had the gift of not only reading the energy in a dog but people as well. After months and months…and months of hard work and perseverance, Russell and I were reformed in different ways. We learned to communicate with each other. We played dog enrichment games and dress-up for fun little photoshoots (he oddly enjoyed it), loved long walks peacefully passing by dogs, and he soon became a cuddle bug every time I came home from work.

While I have only given you a glimpse of our journey from then until now, I can genuinely say that we are in a place so different from the beginning. Our journey to an undeniable and uncompromising bond was an arduous path, sometimes feeling like I was going in circles and other times pushing past what seemed like a dead end. There were good days and bad days. Ultimately, the good began to outweigh the bad, and we reached a point of never looking back. You can now see us side by side shopping in dog-friendly stores, splashing in the kiddie pool during the summer, going on long urban exploration walks, playing search and rescue games when it’s too cold to go outside during winter time, and hiking. Our adventures have just begun. His favorite game is monkey-in-the-middle and his favorite toy is a frisbee. With Russell turning five January 15th, it’s now time to think of a road trip to the national forests throughout the U.S. My love for Russell Sox Ruiz has no bounds. He is my best friend and absolutely everything to me.

We also had the chance to interview Kellie about the adoption process. Here are her answers.

What qualities were you looking for during the pet adoption process?

I wanted a relaxed, social, and passive dog to fit our lifestyle. If you read our story though, you’ll see we got the complete opposite. However, I am glad my family and I were the ones to rescue Russell because I am not sure many would have been able to handle the whole package of Russell in the beginning.

What do you do to foster a positive relationship with your furry friend?

Time is everything. Their world is based off of what you make it. Russell is a dog with a lot of energy and is very smart. His mind and body need to be nourished. Russell loves his walks and he gets three walks day. We have had a wonderful dog walker that has been with Russell since he was a puppy. Owning a dog is a great responsibility and I can’t imagine leaving Russell without some sort of activity or engagement while I am at work from 9 to 5 p.m. Fortunately, my dad is now retired and they hang out together every day. It is truly a family affair to make sure Russell has a happy life with the energy and mind that he has. As for things we connect on, he loves playing search and rescue with me. I also try and train him to identify his toys. You really see his happiness come out in those moments.

What advice would you give to someone looking to adopt a rescue pet?

Do your research and know adopting is a process. You really need to think about how your lifestyle will fit with a dog. Do not get a high energy dog if you do not have the time to exercise that energy. In addition, each rescue is individual and has their own personal quirks. You should respect their innate traits and celebrate them. Have the patience to learn their language and what best serves them. At least for me, adopting a rescue was a process, but the most fulfilling experience.

What are some of your favorite activities to do with your pet?

One of my favorite things to do is go shopping with Russell. While I am not a big shopper, he seems so fascinated by going inside each store and while he is bit shy, opens up to all the store workers who want to pet him. It is a really sweet sight. I also love taking him down the beach at my neighbor’s lake house when we visit Michigan. He loves putting his nose to the air and walking along the coastline. Russell is very good at recall, so I don’t have to worry about him running off.


  • Great Article and Interview ! Kellie is correct to say that every dog that is for adoption has their traits and a story behind them. A story that at times no one knows and traits that are within because of the dog’s social experience or non social experience. I wish every adoption story was as beautiful as this one.

  • This is awesome! Both Russell and the Ruiz family are lucky to be in each other’s lives. It’s a journey for both sides. With love and patience (especially love) this journey can be very therapeutic benefiting both sides. And in time, you become family. A bond that could never be broken, a friend, and a good listener. Amen to our little buddies, our pals that unconditionally feel for us. As we do them. Happy for you guys. Great story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *