Dog’s owner dies and he won’t make eye contact with anyone – until he meets this man

When your whole life falls apart, the only thing you have is the support of your loved ones. But if there’s no one to catch you when you fall, what do you do?

Rio, a 10-year-old golden retriever mix, ended up in that situation when his life was suddenly turned upside down.

The senior dog was separated from everything he had ever known when his owner passed away.

From having a safe home and a beloved owner, Rio was suddenly on his own in an animal shelter with complete strangers.

When Rio’s owner passed away, the dog was taken in at Detroit Animal Care and Control. But as soon as Rio arrived, the staff realized that something wasn’t right.

The depressed dog refused to eat, wouldn’t let anyone touch him and just sat in a corner staring at the wall.


An unfamiliar new world

After spending 10 years with his owner, Rio was confused and heartbroken.

He couldn’t understand why everything he had ever known had suddenly been was taken from him. Now, he was just one dog in a crowd of many in a scary and unfamiliar shelter.

Rio hung his head low and seemed like he just wanted to give up on life.

The staff knew they had to do something quickly, so they contacted Detroit Dog Rescue.

“We take on [the shelter’s] tougher medical and mental health cases, so dogs who may be shutting down or suffering from kennel neurosis,” Kristina Millman-Rinaldi, head of Detroit Dog Rescue told The Dodo. “A lot of people don’t realize what intuitive and sensitive creatures dogs are. They sense, like humans, everything that’s happening around them.”


Despite the fact that Rio was transferred to the Detroit Dog Rescue Center, his condition continued to worsen.

Rio had completely lost his will to live, he wouldn’t answer when anyone called his name, he wouldn’t look anyone in the eye and he just sat in a corner looking at the wall all day.

Kristina at DDR knew that the only way to help Rio was to place him in a safe, loving foster home.

She hoped that a foster home would give the Rio a sense of normalcy.

After a few conversations, she contacted a volunteer named Ryan Callahan and his wife, Tashia. She told them Rio’s story and without hesitation, they decided to take in Rio.

Even though the couple had two dogs of their own and another foster dog, they decided to care for Rio.


A foster home and a new beginning

“It was just right dog, right place, right time,” Ryan said.

When Rio entered the Callahan’s home, he immediately started showing signs of improvement.

For the first time in a long time, Rio didn’t wince away from being touched by humans. It was almost as if he could tell that Ryan and Tashia were there to help.

To make sure the 10-year-old dog felt comfortable, the couple set up a space for Rio in Ryan’s home office.

During the first week, Ryan worked from home so he could bond with Rio and help him feel safe in his new environment. It didn’t take long before Rio lay safely at Ryan’s feet and jumped up in his lap with eyes filled with joy and gratitude.


“Every time we walk by him, he wags his tail, and he loves going for walks in the woods with us,” Ryan said.

Rio has gone through a lot, so DDR and the Callahans want to make sure the still mourning dog is ready before he moves into a forever home.

In the meantime, the Callahans have definitely helped make Rio feel better!

“My hope is… that his new life — whatever that ends up being — is even better than his last one.”


At a time when many animals are treated badly and are left to meet their own fate, it’s heartwarming to read about real heroes out there who devote much of their lives to helping troubled animals.

Please share this article and leave a comment if you also want to let people know about the effort to make Rio smile again!