Pictured: Pictured: Emilee Spear the founder and director of Rusty’s Angels Sanctuary, with some of the senior dogs that are in her care.

Photos courtesy of Tara Alatorre/Staff
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Rusty’s Angels senior dog sanctuary wins ‘Do Good, Do Beautiful’ national grant contest


Tara Alatorre
NEW RIVER – Local resident, Emilee Spear, was awarded a $15,000 grant from Alba Botanica’s “Do Good, Do Beautiful” national campaign, which recognizes women who have founded non-profit organizations with stated missions in environmental sustainability, animal rights and female empowerment.

Spear is the director and founder of Rusty’s Sanctuary, which is a five-acre sanctuary backed against state trust land in New River that rescues dogs over 10-years-old, and provides them a comfortable, permanent, loving home until the end of their lives.  In some cases, if the dogs are deemed fit for the transition, they are adopted out, after an arduous application and inspection process.

“We’re so inspired by women like Emilee who chose a career and mission to do beautiful every day,” said Sarah Galusha, Senior Director of Marketing for the Alba Botanica brand.

Spear was one of two women who was flown out to New York and awarded $15,000 to sustain or expand their organizations’ mission; there were a pool of five finalists.

“Alba Botanica brand DNA has always been rooted in this idea of doing beautiful – for the environment, for animals, and most importantly, by helping women Do Beautiful for themselves and it makes us proud that we can contribute to help Emilee and Rusty’s Angels,” Galusha said.

It is hard not to feel happy for Rusty’s Angels, especially when you visit Spear at the rescue, which is also Spear’s home, an undeniable indicator that she is a workaholic and completely dedicated to her mission, and more importantly the dogs.

Spear had been working with rescues as a vet tech and had always wanted to open her own rescue.

“This had always been a dream, but there was never enough time or money, and then I just woke up one day and thought, what am I waiting for?” Spear said while telling me how she started the organization. “I started a Go Fund Me account and that’s how we started.”

You can’t help but smile while you’re there. The meandering bumpy dirt road that leads you to the tiny green houses dotting the property, which are all themed and decorated for the dogs, the sound of the wind chimes in a big shade tree and Spear’s warm genuine smile, it all draws you in.  But mostly, the big hook, that will make you fall in love with this place and its mission, is all the happy, furry gray muzzles and the wagging tails that greet you at Rusty’s Angels.

“We were honored to be picked for the top 5, there were about 250 applicants,” Spear said, while giving me a tour of Rusty’s Angels.  “It was all up to the votes after that, and we won, so how cool is that!”

The grant will cover about half of Rusty’s Angels projected veterinarian expenses.

“This grant is just huge for us.”

But as the director of a rescue that cares for aging dogs, Spear knows all to well there will always be more bills and health issues that come up, so she can never be done fundraising.

“It is really all thanks to our supporters, they are the one that made this happen,” said Spear.

Rusty’s Angels has six little houses that dot the sprawling property, each house has climate control and is retrofitted to fit a few kennels comfortably inside, which still allows for enough room for volunteers or employees to play with the dogs in the house during the extreme heat months.

Each house is themed and decorated with adorable loving touches that really give it a feeling of home for the dogs.  Large fenced outside areas with shade surround each small house so there is plenty of room for the dogs to play. 

“The goal here is to take away all the stress factors,” Spear says while showing me each small house.

It truly is a good retirement for Rusty’s Angels, and Spear accommodates not only to their many health issues, but she also caters to their personality and behavior issues, so every dog can live their best life.

Take Aston for instance, she doesn't like socializing with other dogs very much, except her dog "husband" Bruno.  So Aston gets her own home named, "Aston's Garage," where she can socialize with Bruno, but is not forced to play or get along with any other dogs at the sanctuary.

In the four and a half years that Spear has operated the organization she has rescued 135 dogs and adopted out 78, which averages to about two adoptions a month. Once a dog at Rusty’s Angels passes, Spear dedicates a windchime to the dog and hangs it in the memory tree that towers over her home in the front yard.

“On Christmas Day, my mom and I spread their ashes from that whole year around the base of the tree,” she says.  “So, this is their final resting place.”

If you would like to donate to Rusty’s Angels or find out more about the organization visit rustysangelssanctuary.org.