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Rescue success story: Hard work, perseverance and one amazing photo save Nico the Dogo Argentino

October 3, 2009 |  1:00 pm

The sheer volume of abandoned, hurt and abused animals in need of rescue can be daunting to animal lovers -- it's difficult to fight for them knowing we can't save them all.  That's why we love guest blogger Janet Kinosian's post about one needy dog named Nico who was saved through the sheer force of will of some determined rescuers.  Here's Nico's story:

Nico When I first saw this photograph I was in tears.

Nico's redemption story begins with this amazing photograph and for anyone who walks the rows inside L.A.'s South Central animal shelter, this emotive image of a sad, suffering dog is repeated everywhere you turn.  But to encounter that suffering captured so compellingly inside one moment, well, you’ll see what became of it.

Nikki Audet of local rescue group The Mutt Scouts  posted the picture in late July on Facebook, hoping that its raw emotion would help save this suffering, sad animal.  To her surprise, the photograph flew like wildfire across the country and caught the attention of a rescuer, Kelly Gibson in San Diego. 

Nico, it turns out, is a 6-year-old Dogo Argentino, a rare and graceful breed from South America, and he is also deaf.  Bruised, malnourished, covered in fleas and sores and cuts, with teeth missing and a large tumor on his back, this magnificent animal had about zero chance of making it out of the shelter alive, unless someone stepped up quickly and with a structured plan.  Nico would need not just good medical care, but also extensive training.

Audet got to work and set up a Fundable page where she raised nearly $2,000 in 48 hours for Nico's care and boarding from hundreds of folks across the U.S.  Since Gibson regularly helps transport dogs as part of her rescue efforts, she had the chops to coordinate 45 people to get Nico to the Humane Society for Hamilton County in Noblesville, Ind., for training and, ultimately, to find his forever home.

The happy ending gets better, because on the day Gibson first met Nico she saw a sweetheart of a brown-and-white pit bull named Jug Head housed next to him, alone, scared and shaking in his cage.  Unable to leave him there to die, Gibson also pulled Jug Head from the shelter.  After Nico spent time recovering from an upper respiratory infection, the two former inmates soon packed their doggie bags and made the trip to Hamilton County by car -- and what appear to be spectacular new lives.

Nico2 Now on days that seem too long, I remember Nico's latest photo -- lying on the grass playing on his back in the sun, loving life -- and it brings me joy.  I also have his original photo, the one that speaks powerful volumes of the essence of the unloved and betrayed, on my desk to help remind me of the real need for animal rescue work and its tireless hours. 

All courtesy of a powerful photograph and the kindness of hundreds of strangers. 

If you want to keep tabs on Nico and Jug Head and their progress, the Humane Society for Hamilton County will post updates weekly.

[Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled rescuer Nikki Audet's last name as Aulet.  We've corrected the error.]

-- Janet Kinosian

Janet has written freelance for the Los Angeles Times, L.A. Times Magazine and L.A. Times Syndicate for 18 years.  In addition to reporting, she's also a media consultant who can be reached at JanetKinosian.com.

Top photo courtesy of Nikki Audet
Bottom photo courtesy of Kelly Gibson

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