Turning Something Small into Something Big

By Judy Layne

Some of the smallest beings have the biggest impact on our lives. Rusty, an itty-bitty SPCA alumni, is a shining example of this. Here’s his story.

Adorable 2-year-old Rusty was surrendered to the Cape Breton SPCA in October 2022 when his owner could no longer care for him. Sweet but timid, Rusty waited for just the right family to adopt him. Enter Sydney and her two roommates, Allison and Jamie. All three were 3rd-year students at the Atlantic Veterinary College in PEI! Was this Rusty’s perfect match??

Sydney related, “I was looking for a furry companion when I saw Rusty on the SPCA adoption page. It was definitely love at first sight. I just knew I had to have him and that he was meant to be with me, which surprised me because I never had a guinea pig before. I wanted to give the little guy a special home where I could help him slowly become more socialized and comfortable with people and pets.”

On November 5th, Rusty headed off to his fur-ever home. Along with his adoptive mom Sydney, he acquired two loving aunties – Allison and Jamie, feline sister Bella and canine sister Rosie.

It didn’t take long for Rusty to become an integral part of this special family. “He has brought so much fun and joy to my life; I love him with every ounce of my body” exclaimed Sydney. “He adores snuggling and makes happy little chirping sounds when you rub his belly. He has definitely helped reduce stress associated with our studies.”

Allison chuckled “Rusty is a pretty sedentary guy. His main hobbies include cuddling with friends and munching on lettuce. But when Sydney bought him a tent, I saw Rusty sprint for the first time ever! He loves his tent so much, he races to get under it and relax.”

Rusty definitely has an adventurous spirit. Sydney reported “He has been to the beach, Victoria Park and tulip fields – always with proper supervision, of course. He likes car rides and always has access to hay and water when he’s travelling. He only goes outside when the temperature is appropriate and has a tent to block hot sun.”

And while Rusty is obviously a big hit at home, his impact doesn’t stop there. Sydney shared “I’ve been able to spread a lot of positivity about Rusty’s adventures to people he meets and through social media. His Instagram and TikTok posts make everyone smile. Hopefully, they will show people that ‘pocket pets’ benefit from enrichment just as much as dogs and cats; they don’t just have to live in a cage all day. They will also hopefully encourage people to adopt a small animal, since I know there are always deserving small pets at the SPCA that need homes.”

Incredibly, with his fur-mom’s help, Rusty will soon have his own book! Sydney explained “I created a fun rhyming picture book called Rusty Sits, to teach kids new words and learn about small animals. Rusty will be sitting on his mini vegan-leather small-animal couch, selling his book at the Charlottetown outdoor market this summer. We will donate a percentage of proceeds to the SPCA; we want to give back for all the amazing work they do.” To pre-order Rusty Sits, click here.

Some veterinarians-to-be are also indebted to Rusty. He has visited multiple clinical rotations to help spread some sunshine on stressful days at the hospital. “He’s such a happy little guy and loves to be held by everyone in the AVC community,” said Allison.

Rusty couldn’t have asked for a better family. All three roommates have been animal lovers their whole life. Sydney stated, “I got my love of animals from seeing my mom so passionate about helping animals in need.” Allison said “I’ve loved animals ever since I can remember. Getting a puppy on my twelfth birthday was one of the best days of my life.” Jamie shared “In January, my fiancé and I fell in love with and adopted our rescue dog Rosie when she was a patient at AVC.”

Volunteering at local shelters helped to grow the roommates’ desire to be veterinarians. Sydney said, “I love working with people from different backgrounds that were all drawn to this profession because of their common love of animals. Allison related, “I love teamwork and problem-solving. It’s rewarding to find answers that give pet owners clarity and peace. Jamie exclaimed, “Volunteering made me realize I needed to do more. I completely switched my career path, applied to AVC and am now less than a year from being a veterinarian!”

The three roommates are now immersed in their rigorous fourth-year clinical rotations. Sydney commented, “It’s going well and it’s a nice change to go from classroom-based learning to hands-on learning working in the hospital with clients and their pets. It can be tough being so passionate about helping animals and clients; it’s easy to get compassion fatigue and burnout, and that’s a big struggle in veterinary medicine following the pandemic. We definitely need more people – veterinarians and vet techs alike – to meet the huge demand.”

All three students agree that jobs in the animal welfare field can definitely be stressful but so rewarding. They said, “There’s something extraordinary about the human-animal bond that people develop with pets, and we get to meet amazing clients whose pets are their children. We get to help sick animals feel better and help owners provide the best care they can for their pets.”

Sydney shared, “Our program is very demanding. I honestly wouldn’t have survived this far without my amazing roommates, their pets, and Rusty! We have such a special bond with our pets and they truly improve our mental well-being with the joy, laughs and unconditional love they bring to our lives.”

And the students’ final thoughts? “We want to encourage people that have a passion for animals to pursue a career in animal welfare. Speaking for those that have no voice is a wonderful gift.”


Thinking about adopting a little critter?

Did you know that the SPCA often has adorable small animals that need loving families? From rabbits to rats, bearded dragons to mice, and even roosters – there could be a cute little critter that’s just right for you! These pint-sized pets, like their bigger shelter buddies, came to the SPCA through no fault of their own and are equally deserving of love and happiness.

Small animals should never be thought of as ‘starter pets,’ easy to care for, or inexpensive. Every animal has their own unique requirements.

You need to learn what to feed them, how much exercise and attention they need, what type of enclosure they need, how to live with and care for them. You need to be sure that the animal fits well with your lifestyle and budget and that you can make the long-term commitment that comes with adopting a companion animal – even a very small one! The SPCA can provide you with the information you need to ensure that your pint-sized pet will have a safe, happy, and healthy life.

Click here to check out these little critters available for adoption. Your new companion may be just a click away!

Click here to pre-order Rusty Sits where a portion of the proceeds is donated to the SPCA to help critters just like Rusty.


Judy Layne

Judy is a dedicated volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA and proud adoptive fur-mama to Linc. She is committed to speaking for animals who cannot speak for themselves.