At first glance, Rexy is a normal American dog. He loves people, ear scratches and his favorite dog bed. But Rexy’s story is one of survival, and, as his owner puts it, “love, determination and commitment.”
Rexy’s journey started in Romania. After Traian, a caretaker at APAI Shelter in Ineu, Romania, rescued Rexy from someone trying to strangle him with a hay bale string, Rexy cowered in a dark kennel by himself for months before Eva Gallant, 57, traveled to the country to help with construction at the shelter.
Gallant is from Germany and moved to the United States 30 years ago, but the war in Ukraine touched her heart. Her love for dogs and a desire to help with the war led her to the shelter, which is expanding to make room for dogs displaced by the war as they encourage adoptions of Romanian dogs.
“I was starting to really get depressed thinking ‘Can this really happen?’ I sat here. I thought, ‘What can I do?’” Gallant said.
She came across an organization asking for volunteers to help build a shelter, and Gallant decided to go. She said her husband was comfortable with her being in an adjacent country to the war, and Gallant wanted to help in any way she could. She was in Romania from April 13 to May 6 putting her artisan skills to use.
Gallant owns Y-Knot-Creations, which she runs out of her house. She offers decorative painting, faux finishes and plaster work. Her home showcases the work she can do, which spans from her rock fireplace and tree-trunk columns — both made from concrete — to intricate mural work. Her work is a mix of art and carpentry, and she was able to contribute to the shelter by doing plaster work.
Nowhere along the way of planning the trip did Gallant think she would bring another dog home. She and her husband Ted already owned two rescue dogs — Spook and Casper. But then she met Rexy, who was hiding in a make-shift dog house in a room by himself.
“Here’s this guy in this dirty box. And we take him out, and he is screaming with fear. We carry him just right outside the room into the grass. He couldn’t even stand. He just toppled, and he was so frightened. And basically I made it my endeavor just to lay with him,” Gallant said.
She laid next to Rexy in the grass for the next five days until he gradually became more comfortable, and Gallant was able to put a harness on Rexy. “I was told I was the only one who could handle this dog,” Gallant said. “Now I have this little guy who came from hell, and it was literally like someone was just cutting out my heart, and the only way that heart would grow back was if I took him on.”
The process for getting Rexy to Rapid City started. Gallant had to go back to the states before bringing Rexy home. Before she left Romania, she arranged for Rexy to be neutered and receive whatever shots he needed and began to plan for her travel back to Romania to pick him up. “It’s not an easy undertaking,” she said.
The options for airlines that will take dogs that are not service animals is limited, Gallant said. The weather also limited options. “Between May and September, due to temperature concerns, a lot of airlines will restrict where they transport dogs to,” she said.
Gallant flew to Romania and hired a driver to take her and Rexy to Munich, Germany by way of Hungary and Austria. Once in Germany, they stayed at an Airbnb for two nights to decompress. Gallant ordered a kennel off of Amazon and rented a station wagon to drive from Munich to Frankfurt. The two stayed at a hotel near the airport and began their journey home by air with all of Rexy’s documents proving he was legal to travel. “Nobody even checked them,” Gallant said. “But we had everything in place because legally I just didn’t want to run into any problems and adhered to what is proper.”
Once in Minneapolis, the pair stayed at another hotel and drove nine hours to Rapid City, stopping once. “This was this major enterprise, and he was just a total lamb. I couldn’t believe it,” Gallant said. “He did his part.”
Rexy has now integrated into the family. He has a favorite dog bed in the house, which used to belong to his new dog-brother Casper. Gallant hadn’t planned on taking Rexy to the dog park right away, but it didn’t take long for him to want to go with the other dogs. After a few days, he would follow without a leash. He still struggles a little with house training, but Gallant said that’s improving.
“There’s just this profound gratitude about him. Love conquers everything. That’s actually how I would like to, in a nutshell, describe our story. It’s a story of love, determination, and commitment,” Gallant said. “He’s there for the long haul. He’s never going to go in a shelter again if I can help it.”