The dog and his master perished days after their dramatic rescue of a starving bald eagle that had dropped from the sky before them.
The bald eagle ultimately didn’t survive either.
It was an unusual and sad turn of events unfolding over five days. While Gerald LeBlanc and his pet boxer, Rusty, were relaxing on their Belliveaus Cove doorstep early last Tuesday afternoon the eagle crash landed five feet in front of them, in the back of LeBlanc’s parked truck.
The Chronicle Herald recounted the dramatic rescue in a story last week, ending with the emaciated bald eagle being swiftly delivered to the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Hilden. According to LeBlanc, Rusty played a vital role in the Oct. 16 effort and was as concerned about the animal’s well-being as he was.
An unfortunate sequence of events ensued.
On Wednesday, a day after the rescue, Rusty succumbed to heart failure. On Friday, LeBlanc died the exact same way.
It would appear he died of a broken heart.
“I would say it was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Louise LeBlanc, Gerald’s sister and caregiver. “He wasn’t well and then he loses his best friend. He used to say the dog never disappointed him, that there was nobody like Rusty.
'Life is fragile, very fragile'
“You couldn’t separate them. People here said if you saw Rusty, you saw Gerald. If you saw Gerald, you saw Rusty. I used to watch him take Rusty for a walk in the morning, they’d sit on a bench on the boardwalk and by damn you’d swear they were communicating like best friends.”
She said her brother had been plagued by serious heart and respiratory conditions, including chronic lung disease and pneumonia. But she said Gerald, a talented carpenter, persevered, saw the best in people and held an enduring affection for animals.
“Very caring, he didn’t malign people. Look at the eagle. Some people would have hit him with the back of a shovel and that would be the end of it. That wasn’t Gerald, he’d take in stray dogs and spend hours with Rusty walking along the marshes below Belliveaus Cove.
“He really wanted to feel good but was having a hard time with his diseases.”
Murdo Messer, chairman and co-founder of Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, confirmed that the eagle also died on Monday. He said the animal was so emaciated from starvation that it could not recover. Messer, who handled and treated the eagle, said he didn’t think the bird played any role in the death of the dog or its owner.
“It’s a very sad turn of events and my condolences go out to the LeBlanc family,” said Messer.
As sad as it all is, Louise chooses to see meaning in her loss.
“Life is fragile, very fragile. You enjoy life and he enjoyed life. He enjoyed his dog so much. To me, that was so important to him.”
She thinks of Rusty much the same as his best friend once did.
“We miss the dog as much as we miss Gerald. You know, boxers are super dogs. I don’t think I could have another because this little guy got in my whole heart. He was very sensitive and intuitive but he was also a spoiled rascal.”
Donations can be made to Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Gerald’s memory.