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Nico, Facebook-famous rescue dog from L.A. shelter, faces another adversity: cancer

March 11, 2011 |  9:14 pm

Guest blogger Janet Kinosian first shared the story of Nico, a deaf shelter dog who was saved through the efforts of California rescuers and a community of animal-loving Facebook users, in 2009. Since then, Nico has found a home with devoted owners in the Midwest and lived in the lap of luxury, but has weathered more than his share of health problems. Now, Kinosian offers an update:

When we last left Nico SwanGarris — the deaf, abused Dogo Argentino whose hopeless and forlorn shelter photograph sparked a far-and-wide effort to get him safely into a loving home — he had made the transition into a wonderful family and was thriving. He managed to beat the cancer that was found on his ear before he arrived at his new home in Indiana and that part of his life seemed to be firmly in the past. He was loving life with his new sister Brisby, another deaf, white dog, and being spoiled by international attention from Facebook and local television.

I'm sad to report that Nico is facing yet another large and unfair hurdle. He has an aggressive cancer — in fact, four different types — and is currently taking chemotherapy medication by pill until his two moms can afford the highly expensive IV chemotherapy treatments at the Purdue Veterinary Teaching Hospital. His prognosis is guarded.

"We all know life is unfair, but this is the so utterly unfair," says Bridget Swan, one of his owners. "Having been forced to live the life of a fighting dog, and then to finally get to live so contentedly — well, it breaks my heart." Swan says she gets words of comfort daily from Nico's global community of Facebook friends, from as far away as Turkey, Iceland and Australia.

In addition to the chemotherapy treatments he's received, Swan and her partner Melissa are treating Nico with a holistic approach. He's also receiving a special diet: cooked beef, veggies and rice, with the surprising addition of a spoonful of ice cream at every meal for dairy. ("Of course, he totally loves this; and of course we also have to give one to Brisby," says Swan.) The couple is optimistic, but realize aggressive cancer is a tough battle.

"I've had this conversation with the vets and if it's anything that's going to make him miserable and suffer, I just don't want him to hurt anymore; he's suffered enough," says Swan, noting that Nico is still young, only six. "We'll do all and everything we can to help him heal from this illness, but he deserves not to have to live in any more torment or pain."

Nico recently received the first treatment in his second round of oral chemotherapy. He's not in severe pain, but his owners say he's feeling far from his best.

You can follow Nico's progress or send him good wishes on his Facebook page.

— 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.

Video: Nico plays at his new home in 2010. Credit: danadee74 via YouTube

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