Rusty the Comfort Dog
Today’s post is written by Onaona Guay, a processing archivist in College Park.
Among the handmade ephemera of the September 11 Recovery Program records are a few professionally made items. One of these items is an autographed photographic portrait of Rusty. Following the September 11 attacks, many individuals volunteered their time and skills to the Red Cross, and Rusty was no exception. Well, perhaps Rusty was a bit of an exception in that Rusty was a therapy dog. A direct descendant of Lassie, Rusty paved his own way to fame by serving as a 9-11 Comfort Dog. After the attacks, Rusty sat with survivors, family members, rescue workers and even search dogs, providing comfort, respite and a fur coat to cry or nuzzle into.
Therapy dogs, or comfort dogs, assist as part of a therapy team that helps break the isolation often felt by victims of a crisis or trauma. Disaster victims often find reassurance in the friendly and supportive presence of these kind dogs. As a certified therapy dog, Rusty visited hospitals, libraries, schools and nursing homes with his owner and handler, Carl Maier, offering companionship and affection. Following the 9-11 attacks, Rusty joined the Red Cross to offer his skills and services, and became an official mascot of the Red Cross. Rusty is also a recipient of the Canine Good Citizen Award and a member of the Animal Hall of Fame.
The September 11 Recovery Program received this photographic portrait of Rusty, autographed with a stamped image of his paw print, from Akin-Fowler Studio, Rusty’s exclusive photographers. Akin-Fowler photographs of Rusty were also used to create American Red Cross Pet First Aid pins. The Red Cross also received a copy of “The Collie of Castle Hill,” by Christine Reilly Carter, which presents the childhood story of Carl Maier and his first collie, Lucky, who saved young Carl from drowning. The book is autographed by Maier, Rusty and Lucky.