By Julia Williams
I love Facebook. As a writer who works from home, my days are solitary by design. Facebook allows me to instantly connect with others across the globe, which helps me to feel not quite so alone as I type away. No matter what time it is when I take my “Facebook break,” there’s always something interesting to read.
Recently, I learned about a deaf dog named Nico, and his story is so touching that I wanted to share it with you. Nico’s story is about many different things – rescue, redemption, Facebook, the kindness of strangers, and above all, why we should never “judge a book by its cover.”
Nico is a white Dogo Argentino, a rare breed from South America said to be loyal, playful, athletic, affectionate and intelligent. Not much is known about the first years of Nico’s life, but he ended up in the South Los Angeles animal shelter, which is where his heartfelt tale begins. Nico’s malnourished body was covered in fleas and riddled with sores, cuts, bruises and scars. Nico had a large tumor on his back, his teeth were chiseled and his ears appeared to have been cropped with kitchen shears. The shelter described Nico as a biter and dangerously aggressive. Who in their right mind would adopt this poor, sad mess of a dog?
The Photo That Saved Nico’s Life
The shelter would almost certainly have been where Nico’s life story ended, were it not for one incredible photograph that evoked Nico’s pain in a way that mere words cannot begin to describe. The candid photo, taken by Nikki Audet of local rescue group Mutt Scouts, showed Nico leaning against the kennel wall, his head bowed and his face clearly conveying grief, loneliness and defeat.
In an effort to help save Nico, Nikki posted the photo on Facebook in July of 2009, where it quickly went viral and was shared by legions of animal lovers. One of the many who were deeply affected by Nico’s picture was Kelly Gibson of San Diego. Kelly operates a small rescue from her home, Puggles and Pitties, which rehomes dogs or transports them to other rescue facilities that can adopt them out.
“So much emotion was conveyed in that picture,” said Kelly. “He looked so defeated and had totally given up on life.” Kelly traveled to L.A. intending to adopt Nico so he could be euthanized with dignity, but when she looked into his eyes she knew instantly that the shelter was wrong about him. Nico gently took her cookies and gave her soft kisses in return, and Kelly decided then that Nico deserved a second chance at life.
Kelly took Nico out of the shelter and placed him in veterinary care while she devised a plan to find him a forever home. Nikki created a fundable page on Facebook for Nico and raised nearly $2,000 in 48 hours from kind strangers who were moved by Nico’s plight. Kelly had previously worked with a director at the Humane Society for Hamilton County in Noblesville, Indiana and together, they coordinated a cross-country road trip. It took several weeks and 45 different people to transport Nico from California to Indiana. Once there, he began training and rehabilitation so he could be adopted.
Nico Gets a New “Leash” on Life
In November of 2009, Nico the hard-luck dog was adopted by Bridget Swan and Melissa Garris, and his fortune changed considerably. The sweet dog loves to snuggle, and enjoys balls, baths, being a couch potato, and playing with his sister Brisby, a pit bull mix who is also deaf. Bridget describes Nico as a “majestic, adorable, gentle and loving companion.”
Deena Hitchens Crouch, a board member with the Humane Society for Hamilton County, agrees. “After meeting Nico, people couldn't believe how gentle and sweet he was, especially after what he had experienced.” Despite being mistreated and physically scarred for life, Bridget said Nico has “forgiven man for everything that has happened to him.”
Nico’s story is a testament to the amazing ability of animals to forgive. Nico is also an inspiration to many, who see him as a shining example of why potential adopters need to look beyond the exterior when searching for the perfect pet. Instead of passing by that rough-around-the-edges dog, look into his eyes where his true nature will be revealed. Nico was lucky that Kelly could see past his unseemly appearance. Now, the dejected dog captured so eloquently in Nikki Audet’s photo is a handsome, proud boy who loves life, humans, other dogs and even cats.
If you’d like to know more about Nico, you can ask to be his friend on Facebook (he has nearly 1600 friends now!) where he writes regularly about his wonderful new life. Bridget and Melissa have also made a lovely YouTube video of Nico’s story, which you can watch here.
Top photo by Deena Crouch
Bottom photo by Nikki Audet
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