SAN DIEGO, California–December 1, 2010–Rico Suave, whose former owner cut out all of his tongue with a knife, inspires nationwide advocates; two non-profit dog rescue groups 2,000 miles apart join fundraising efforts to build Rico a home for the holidays.

Rico lived in Rosarito, Mexico just over a year ago. There, his previous owner tried training him to fight. Rico regularly ran long distances down the beach with heavy weights chained to his neck.

September 12, 2009 changed Rico’s life. While running, Rico overheated and collapsed on the shore. Beach-goers heard Rico’s owner scream at him to keep working. They witnessed the owner draw a knife and cut Rico’s tongue from his mouth, afterward throwing it into the ocean.

Even Chance, a San Diego-based rescue and advocacy group for the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT), offered Rico a spot in their training-focused foster program after learning of him in July 2010.

After months of physical improvement and progression in obedience with English words, Rico will soon encounter a roadblock. His uniquely qualified foster family will move away from San Diego in December.

Sadly, due to Rico’s specific needs, finding the right type of foster home is tricky. A typical need for terrier-type dogs is creative mental stimulation. Rico has a higher than average need for mental exercise and a greater need for ball-chasing space. These qualities make a typical urban or suburban home sub-ideal for Rico.

In November, Rico’s story landed in the hands of Mutts-n-Stuff (soon to be Phoenix Pack) of St. Louis, a rescue group nearly 2,000 miles away. The Missouri-based group graciously extended their help to Even Chance’s Rico. Mutts-n-Stuff is an all breed rescue that specializes in working with pit bulls, abused and neglected animals and canine victims of dog-fighting. Mutts-n-Stuff’s recent newsworthy and heart-wrenching rescue efforts to two very special dogs have been highly publicized over the past year. Fay, a victim of dog-fighting that had her lips viciously cut off with scissors, was rescued from the Missouri 500 dog-fighting bust. Phoenix, another dog-fighting victim, suffered such extreme abuse that it caused him to go blind in both eyes. The dog-fighters continued to force Phoenix to fight, even in his blindness, until Humane Society of Missouri stepped in and rescued Phoenix from his traumatic life. After Humane Society of Missouri rescued Phoenix, Mutts-n-Stuff opened their arms and brought him into their rescue program. Mutts-n-Stuff worked with Teson Properties to fundraise and build Phoenix his own personal cottage on their land. This cottage was created to meet the needs of a blind pit bull, and offer him a happy and comfortable place to retire. The cottage included a fenced in play yard, a cozy house with a bed, eating area, room to play, air conditioning, and heat.

If fundraising efforts are successful, Mutts-n-Stuff will now bring Rico into their Phoenix Pack program to spacious and rural Missouri. If all goes well, Rico will celebrate the New Year in a personalized cottage next to Phoenix’s that will be designed to custom fit his special needs.

At his cottage, Rico would have plenty of safe outdoor space to chase balls—his favorite thing—and plenty of avenues for exercise, both physical and mental. In Missouri, Rico would continue his obedience training with the Phoenix Pack crew and would receive committed individual attention until he finds his forever home.

As a gesture of appreciation from his San Diego fans, Even Chance will name the next dog to enter their program “Phoenix”, in memory of the dog who inspired the first specialized cottage.

Tongueless, Rico cannot show his appreciation to the Phoenix Pack by giving them traditional ‘kisses’. Rico will extend love to his new supporters by sucking on their chins—his own personal brand of thank-you smooches.

To work toward his happy ending, Rico’s advocates across the country will need to raise $5,000 before the end of December.

Even Chance and Phoenix Pack are currently accepting donations for construction and Rico’s airfare.