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

September 1, 2010 | 12:53 pm

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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

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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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