“I got him right after losing my 13 year old dog, and during a hard depressing time. He saved my life. He gave me a reason to get back out in the world and laugh.” - Kristy McIntosh Graham
When you look at The Mountain’s My Favorite Breed T-Shirt what do you see?
Most see an incredibly vibrant heart-lifting reflection of their own pups' goofy spirit. They see an artist’s rendition of a dog’s innocent nature combined with an important message to cherish the less fortunate ones.
For Kristy McIntosh Graham, that important message is a reality, and that dog isn’t just the spirit of all rescue dogs, but a real life portrait of her own pup Rafa!
Meet Rafa, the real life Russo Rescue dog!
“My dear friend, Merrily, actually commissioned the painting of him from Dean Russo a year ago as a gift, and the next thing I knew...it showed up in the Rescue Collection and I was floored, but crazy excited!"
In 2011, after losing her 13 year-old pit bull, Tucker, Kristy thought it might be time to let another pup into her life. She made her way to the Aguora Hills Shelter in Los Angeles, where she saw a half-feral 12-week-old being kept in a cage all alone. As many of the #MountainTribe know, puppies are a handful in general, but taking on a feral rescue puppy? Well...go big, or go home, they say, and, bless Kristy’s heart, she went big.
“He was CRAZY and that’s when I discovered LARPBO (the Los Angeles Responsible Pit Bull Owners)...finding LARPBO saved us.”
Rafa was good with people and other dogs, but being stuck in a cage by himself during those formative first weeks meant he had never learned to control his bite. It was an issue, but Kristy began to train him with LARPBO, and 2 years later, before Rafa’s 3rd birthday, he received the Canine Good Citizen award.
He also started attending LARPBO events as a demo dog, showing off tricks, and meeting kids.
Kristy set up a Facebook Fan Page for Rafa, so he could be a voice for the often mis-understood breed. He was a shinning example how responsible ownership can make a huge impact. He was even featured on the cover of American Dog Magazine.
Rafa also competes in dock diving, a sport where dogs leap off docks after toys and they are measured for distance. Fetching toys is a favorite pastime of Rafa’s.
“When I got him I named him after Rafa Nadel the tennis player. Little did I know he would develop an absolute obsession with tennis balls. He will not chase one. You MUST throw two. He brings both back at the same time.”
Did we mention this dog was once half-feral? If we hadn’t mentioned that, you could never tell, and that’s the power of patience, training, and LOVE.
“I got him right after losing my 13 year old dog, and during a hard depressing time. He saved my life. He gave me a reason to get back out in the world and laugh.”
That’s the power of rescuing.
Dean Russo's Portrait of Rafa as tattooed on Kristy McIntosh Graham.
Do you have a rescue love story? Tell us about it in the comments!
Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and/or Pinterest for more awesome content and events you won't want to miss, like this month’s Pet Photo Contest we’re hosting on facebook. Learn more here.