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Update: Nico, the deaf shelter dog whose photo inspired online rescue community, has a new home in Indiana

Last year, guest blogger Janet Kinosian shared the story of Nico, a shelter dog who was rescued through the efforts of Southern California rescuers and a community of animal-loving Facebook users. Since then, Nico's story has gotten even better; here, Kinosian fills us in on what's been going on in the life of this hard-luck dog who became one of the luckiest couch potatoes in Indiana.

Nico9 Nico8

Remember Nico, the defeated deaf white Dogo Argentino at South Los Angeles animal shelter -- who moved so many people with the sad photo of him first posted on Facebook? Nico, the forlorn animal who evoked the agony and utter defeat so many discarded animals must experience? Well, it's a joy to update you on Nico's life.

Just look at these two photos side by side: Can this possibly be the same animal?

Photos like the one on the left aren't anything new on the Web: Tens of thousands flood Facebook alone on a daily basis. What was different about Nico's photo, though, was what it captured: the loneliness of an animal that lay against the shelter's wall full of sadness, seeming to have lost all hope. That only spurred on Southern California rescuers.

And that's where the photo on the right comes in.

Things have worked out well for Nico SwanGarris. That's his new name and he lives now with his two moms and new sister, Brisby, a pit bull mix who is also deaf and white, in Indiana. He still loves balls, baths and life as a major couch potato, says Bridget Swan, who, with her partner Melissa, adopted Nico in November 2009.


Last August, Southern California animal rescuer Nikki Audet first posted Nico's photo on Facebook, and Kelley Gibson, a rescuer and animal transporter based in a San Diego, helped get him to the Hamilton County Humane Society in Indianapolis. Nico likely didn't know how lucky a hand he'd been dealt.

He quickly went through training to help him with issues resulting from his deafness and teach him how to navigate in a world of sound. His bumps and nicks and battle scars were attended to. He was happy and safe when Bridget and Melissa decided they wanted to adopt a dog, and Bridget's friend said she should see this dog at the local humane society.

Swan remembers that, at first, the animal agency was a bit wary of her adopting Nico. She didn't understand why until she was clued in by shelter staff that Nico was a bit of a celebrity and they wanted to make sure she was adopting him for the right reasons.

These days Nico walks in parades with his new moms, “loves to sit up close on your feet so he knows when you are walking away,” says Swan, and “in general is 100% low-key. He'll get a wild hair in him once in a while, but he's a mellow guy, and he deserves it after all he went through back then. He just loves people -- despite whatever was done to him -- and gives lots of kisses. He's very generous and free with his kisses. He's just so dependent on us, and he likes to hang with you 24/7.”


Nico has had one setback: A cancerous tumor was discovered and removed shortly after his adoption. Recently, Swan and Garris learned that the cancer has returned, but they remain optimistic about his future. "We are attempting a holistic approach so that we can hopefully avoid an ear amputation," Swan says. "We know that he will beat this just like all the other terrible things he has put up with in the past. He is a loving fighter and is strong."

According to Swan, finding toys for Nico can be a bit of a problem, as he loves and chews up Kongs, bones and anything he can wrap his canines around. He also has hundreds of fans on Facebook who hear about his daily happenings and send him messages of love and support.

Asked what Nico might say now that he's safe and sound, Swan replies: “The main message is this: Just because it's a cute small dog or puppy doesn't mean it'll be your best companion. Go for the downtrodden, defeated dogs, look at the underdog, because they will give you all their love and gratitude and forever be grateful you literally saved their life.”

So this soulful, special dog, once full of sadness, now lives out the good life in the Midwest. It's the happy story ending all dog rescuers wish for but often don't always see -- though every animals deserve nothing less. We're wishing Nico a happy, healthy and cancer-free future!

-- Janet Kinosian







Janet Kinosian 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 a media consultant who can be reached at JanetKinosian.com.

Top left photo: Nikki Audet

Top right photo: Deena Crouch

Family photo of Nico with his adopters and "sister," Brisby: Akasha Thorpe

All other photos: Bridget Swan

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Such a wonderful story. Nico is in our prayers for safe recovery from his illness.

God bless every single person who helped this dog. Literally, I hope God blesses you all.

Its so good to see he have a good home now.Thank you for sharing about this heartbreaker.:)

What a beautiful animal & story. I read the original story the other night & I cried to no end! That pic of him leaning against the wall was by far the saddest pic I have ever seen. There was so much sadness in his body language. I'm so happy that what was lost in that babies soul has been found & renewed. A dogs heart is so full of forgiveness.

YAY Nico!! I'm so glad that this pup will live his life out surrounded by love!

This is such an uplifting story! I love hearing good news about dogs that have been rescued from bad situations. We have to remember that we are their advocates!

I am so filled with tears that as I write this everything is blurred. I whine and fuss about aches and pains but these " furever " friends endur much more than we'll ever know. God love the entire family.

AMAZING!!!!! What a great ending to the story!!!!! Thank you for sharing.

You are well blessed. God smiles upon you each and every day.

Thank you for sharing the update about Nico. I love to hear his story & the update! Keep them coming!

Nico is such a gentle soul. He is amazing and I wish him a happy and painless rest of his days.

This brought tears to my eyes. I just want to hold him and shower him with love. I hope he fights the cancer and lives a long healthy happy life.

This is such an uplifting story. I could never look at that pic of Nico leaning against the wall without tearing up. Thank God for the two "moms" who adopted him and have given him the home he deserves and obviously loves. I've been volunteering at a shelter in New Jersey and I love to walk and play with all the Pits...it's such a shame they have been given such a bad reputation because they're loving and playful and affection just like any other dog, maybe moreso. I will keep Nico in my prayers that his cancer is cured and never returns.

It's so nice to hear all this out pouring of love. Maybe some of you would like to adopt a few more. It is only getting worse out there for animals

Love the story!! Maybe more people will rescue those dogs in need!

This makes my heart happy!

This makes my heart happy!

if only more people cared

You are sooo blessed to have him. I was at our aminal shelter one day, and this black & White boxer & pit mixed, looked so unhappy, lonely. I stop, read his papers, and called him by name. He looked up to me, and wagged his tail, gave me kisses. I asked if I could take him for a walk. They where very leary on that, because they where just getting ready to put him down. I said, no that is not going to happen. I got him, and have had him ever since (4yrs now) He is soo happy, he has to be on my feet, or lay beside me and touching me. I wish there where more people out there, that is willing to take on an older dog, not just puppies. They all need a home. God Bless!!

Please know that I viewed Nico as a sweet puppy when I saw his first heart wrenching photo. I wanted to hug him tenderly and close to let him know he would be loved and cared for like he deserved. What a sweet boy. xoxoxoxoxxx

Love Nico...such a BEAUTIFUL story !

just a wonderful story! what an awesome beautiful dog! always adopt, never buy <3

What an amazing transformation...I hope more wonderful dogs can find the truly loving home they all deserve! Thanks to everyone involved in Nico's rescue!

to swan and garris
who love and care
for nico, who inspires
i send my love
and admiration
to you
as you battle his cancer
and do what you do

What a heartwarming story... Nico and everyone involved in his life are an inspiration to us all. I love following Nico's progress on Facebook and sending lots of prayers for his full recovery.

Nico's story makes me cry every single time I see it. I've been following him since those last days in the shelter, thanks to some mutual rescue friends who posted and reposted his plight on Facebook.
The number of abandoned dogs and cats in this country is overwhelming. So much so, that, at times, you're tempted to just turn your head because you just can't seem to make a dent in the sheer numbers. Then, along comes a Nico. Triumph. Life. Love. And it's all worth it. And no, you didn't ever really turn away. But, it's stories, lives, like this that make every rescuer go on and try once again.
Please remember, adopt spay neuter. Each one of us can make a difference in at least one animal's life. If you can't have a pet of your own, please consider volunteering. volunteers are the best gift for rescues.

What a wonderful story, dog, and family. My heart goes out to everyone that helped this dog and showed him the kindness animals deserve.

One of the most inspiring stories I have ever read....

What a great example of what happens when people care! It also goes to show that "pit bulls" are wonderful, loving dogs. ADOPT from a shelter or rescue--there are SO many wonderful dogs like Nico who need a home!

What a wonderful story. We need more stories like this to show what great pets and companions a shelter dog can be. Get well soon Nico.

This story broke my heart....God bless all those involved in giving this boy a wonderful home! He is a gentle giant even after all he went through.
God Bless Nico....get well soon!

Excellent story... Looking forward to more in the future!

I just love this story about Nico. Thank God, he found such a wonderful home and wonderful family to be with. Nico, will definitely be in my prayers.

I've followed Nico's story since the first sad picture of him in the shelter was posted. I still can't look at it without crying. When he went into rescue, I was ecstatic; when his moms adopted him, I was over the moon! To see his pictures now, to follow his life with his little sister, to be his FB friend is an incredible honor and pleasure.

Thank you, Bridget, Melissa, Brisby and Nico for letting us all feel the incredible love you share!

Wow!!! What a story!!! I love seeing these and they make my day. Congrats to all! Niko you are one handsome dude and I am so glad you have a home

This story brings tears to my eyes everytime I read/hear it. Seeing his before picture chokes me up and I'm so thankful for Bridget and Melissa for opening their hearts and their home to him! I pray more people will follow suit.

WONDERFUL story! Please continue to further the world of animal rescue with reports like these......

Every one should read this story, look at Nico's before and after pictures, and take action! There are many, many other "Nico's" out there that also need our help but most of all need to be adopted into loving and caring homes. Just like Nico was so lucky to have found!

It is wonderful to follow Nico and Brisby daily on Facebook all the while knowing where Nico came from and how far he's come.

Please continue to keep his story out there so we never forget! WE LOVE NICO!

god Bless him, i am glad he found a home and i want to read more stories like this, its very important to make people aware of whats happening with our animals in shelters all over the USA
good stories and bad ones, they all need to be here for everyone to see !!!


The picture of Nico at the shelter is a very moving photo....I feel sad each time I see it. Now, I am so glad that dear Nico has been adopted into a loving family and that there are now happy photos of him. I think that Nico's story would encourage folks to consider adopting shelter dogs, cats....
All dogs deserve a second chance if they never received their first one.

Rescue... don't buy. -Nico (Facebook)

Nico, I am so in love with YOU! You stole my heart the first time I saw your sad photo criculating on FaceBook. It haunted me and I crossposted and crossposted like crazy for you to be saved. I cannot express the immense joy I fet when I got wind that you were rescued. Each time an update of you is posted on FB now I am filled with eager anitcipation of what your new update entails. I was sad to read about your cancer but I am positive that you are going to kick this cancer to the curb, my angelic boy. I love you from across the ocean in South Africa, special Nico.

Ohh...thank you so much for this wonderful story! Reading about Nico's transformation from despair to loving and being so loved will inspire more people to adopt animals in need, especially the ones who have lost all hope... it is the greatest gift to another being to provide a second chance for life...the animals always know, and they are always grateful.

What a wonderful, inspiring story!! Love that dog!

Another wonderful story and reason to adopt from shelters. Please urge those around you to visit their shelters before heading out to a breeder.

Great dog

God Bless you 2 wonderful women. And Bless every person who rescues dogs. These dogs didnt ask for this kind of life, they r so innocent. Thank you to everyone who saves you r true angels. Nico hope u get well soon, I will be praying for u.

This made me cry, first from sadness, then from happiness and again from sadness (the cancer) I wish Nico all good health and healing.

i've watched this boy from the start.....looking at him today it's hard 2 believe that he's that sad boy in the corner of the shelter. sending prayers n keeping a wee blue healing candle going for this precious 1....

I just love this story! The photo of Nico in the shelter is so heartbreaking and speaks volumes. The contrast with the "after" photo is striking.

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