Clyde Beal: A dog who united the entire airport
January 17, 2010 @ 12:00 AM
This is a story about a reclusive dog who discovered a small group of compassionate caregivers, won their hearts, and then just disappeared. Where he came from, no one really knows. And for that matter, no one really knew where he went. But it was those years after he arrived and before he vanished that created a relationship still being talked about years later. While this may be a story about a special dog, it shows how people can often unite together for a common cause, and develop friendships which otherwise might have never been.
"We named him Rusty because of his reddish-brown colored hair," said Dee Callicoat. "He just showed up one day at the airport during the spring of 1990. We started feeding him, so he just stayed"
Callicoat is one of several pilots who frequents the Chesapeake, OH Airport where Rusty became an icon for 14 years. It was during those years that Rusty won the hearts of each and every one of them.
Imagine a 60-pound dog of no particular breed, with a tail that wagged constantly. He had no tolerance for kids, loved chocolate, biscuits and gravy, and table scraps of all shapes and sizes. Wouldn't sleep inside, and could recognize you on arrival simply by the car you drove. He considered the airport his and chased every dog away who made the mistake of wandering on the property. He barked at strangers, and was credited as being one great watchdog when the sun went down. Rusty lacked the social skills to share airport property with other dogs, an attitude that lead to his first close encounter with the angel of death.
"A few years after he arrived, someone called the airport office to report a pack of dogs had attacked Rusty while he attempted to run them off the property. Looking around the airport, Rusty was discovered in a group of trees east of the runway," said Callicoat. "He was taken to a local veterinarian who didn't offer much hope."
But Rusty proved to be no ordinary dog. For two weeks, his extended family came to feed and exercise him on a daily basis at the vet's office. Seven hundred dollars later, Rusty was ready to take charge of his airport property patrols once again. A fund was established to pay his medical expenses which became so successful, that several weeks of dog food were purchased after the bill was paid.
For a while, life appeared normal once again for the Chesapeake airport guard dog. His independent lifestyle returned, and he still continued to rid the property of other dogs. All the while, he continued to make friends with virtually everyone associated with the airport. He was never known to bite anyone. Of course, those who didn't know Rusty were never too sure if he would or wouldn't.
Rusty even had his own dog bowl, a utensil that was seldom used. Seems that he preferred eating hamburgers that were supplied on a regular basis. In fact, he was given so much to eat at times, that he would be seen digging a hole to hide leftovers.
Over the years, Rusty continued winning the hearts and admiration of those who were regulars at the airport. He was known to sleep under fallen snow, in the rain or anywhere he selected. Anywhere but inside, that was out of the question. As close as he would ever get to creature comforts was an occasional nap just inside the hangar doors on an old piece of rug. That was only a few winks between rounds.
Then came the day of the automobile accident; an encounter that resulted in the amputation of his right rear hip. One member of the parachute club was a veterinarian who took Rusty under his care at no charge. Age, and the loss of his right hip, took its toll on the airport mascot. He still continued to spread his friendship around the airport. It was just spread a little slower now.
During the first few weeks of June 2004, it became apparent to all who knew Rusty that something was wrong. His spirit seemed less enthusiastic, his energy level was down as well as his appetite. The hamburgers he loved would now only be eaten if broken up into small pieces. And the regular rounds he made at the airport became nonexistent.
On the morning of June the 20th, 2004, Rusty had vanished without so much as a single clue. Several searches were organized on airport property from the river banks and across the highway without a trace. To this day, the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Rusty is as close to being solved as it was over five years ago.
A special airport collection was taken up by airport manager Marie Phillips for one final expense: A headstone with simple words for a dog who touched the hearts of those who knew him. It simply reads: "RUSTY, Big Dog -- Off Duty."