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

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

Comments () | Archives (14)

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I am choking back tears... what a wonderful story and a powerful reminder of the animals like Nico and Jug Head who so desperately need a little love and a place to call home. I am so thankful the world has people like Kelly and all those who contributed to this rescue.

Such a lovely story. Thanks to all involved to make such a difference in 2 dogs lives. Just one question this shelter do they not know how to look after animals or why was Nico and his friend is such bad shape?

Such a lovely story. Thanks to all involved to make such a difference in 2 dogs lives. Just one question this shelter do they not know how to look after animals or why was Nico and his friend is such bad shape?

What a GREAT story! Thank you Nikki Aulet, thank you Kelly Gibson and everyone who made this possible.
God bless you Nico & Jug Head and all the animals lovers out there ... somewhere...
Do keep me posted.
Thank you!

Thank you.

I wish Nico and his family a long, happy life.

This makes me so happy. I saw this photo at the same time we learned about our puppy Sarka (we adopted a month ago), who Nikki and The Mutt Scouts also rescued (along with her 6 siblings and mother). The transformation is incredible. These people are miracle workers. Thanks for this post, and to Lyndsey and the other bloggers for bringing us these stories!

I gave $ when it was about $120-posted on my FACEBOOK and watched the money come roaring in from everywhere!! I am crying right now. I rescued my red listed o Valentine's Day this year. We have some many more. This is one of MANY success story. I'd like to thank the FACEBOOK RESCUE NETWORK which is HUGE!!!!

Just look at that poor dog's face and the way he's huddled against the wall, that's just pitiful, heart-breaking. I wish I could bring them all home with me. So sad, just so, so sad.

It's quite simple-the shelters are overwhelmed. I have two of these wonderful rescues, and to keep them as safe members of society, I have to vigilantly commit time, energy, and money. It shouldn't be "a right" to breed these animals for some lame $100 "breeder fee"--when we are in a crisis. The machismo & people determined to allow for "nature" and not spay and neuter are costing the rest of us our tax dollars and our hearts. Do the math, factor what each litter will cost if they make it to the pound in vet fees, food, housing...and fine people that amount. It should be $1000s in fines. These are lovely pets, but truly need extra-special care, and are potentially dangerous if breeded and then sold to uneducated or lazy households not vigilant about their special needs. STOP ALLOWING FOR THE BREEDING OF THESE BREEDS!

What a fantastic story...thank you for publishing, and a BIG hug and thank you to everyone that helped save Nico and Jug Head!

Such a great story....I'm so happy that these dogs were found by such a great person and were able to go to great homes. It reminds me though that there are hundreds more that aren't so lucky and that we must do all that we can to help and protect these wonderful animals.

wat a sad story but a great ending x it warms my heart to c there are good people out the who cares and is willing 2 help

Always remember THE STARFISH STORY, and saving one pet at a time is okay. The longest journey begins with the first step. Kudos to these exceptional people that saw the need, and acted on it. Charity, mercy & compassion is their hallmark. Truly doing God's work! Blessings will always be theirs in return.

I have seen this pic of him sitting in the kennel on Facebook being passed off on as a dog named Abel. I hate to think that someone is soliciting donations under false pretenses in the rescue circles on FB......sigh.....


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