Phase I of Rico’s new home is complete! Brutally abused Rico, an urban San Diego dog, will be moving into his new custom-built cottage in Missouri on April 10th.  Funds are still needed to complete the next phase of the project: building Rico’s play yard.

St. Louis, Missouri—April 10, 2011—Rico Suave, a dog whose former owner cut out all of his tongue with a knife, has inspired nationwide advocates: two non-profit dog rescue groups located 2,000 miles apart have joined together to raise funds to build Rico a custom cottage and play yard.

Just over one year ago, Rico was living in Rosarito, Mexico. 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 became overheated and collapsed on the shore. Beach-goers heard Rico’s owner screaming at him to get up and 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. Even Chance spent the next months working with Rico on minor health issues, training, and companionship that Rico’s previous life had lacked. Due to Rico’s specific needs, finding the right type of foster home has been challenging. 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 less than ideal for Rico.

Even Chance reached out to Phoenix Pack (formerly known as Mutts-n-Stuff) of St. Louis, a rescue group nearly 2,000 miles away. Phoenix Pack is an all-breed rescue that specializes in working with pit bulls, abused and neglected animals, and canine victims of dog-fighting. Phoenix Pack’s recent rescue efforts to help two very special dogs have been highly publicized over the past year. Fay, a victim of dog-fighting, had her lips viciously cut off with scissors and was one of the “Missouri 500” dogs that were rescued in the largest dog-fighting bust in U.S. history in July 2009. Phoenix, also a victim of dog-fighting, suffered such extreme abuse that he was permanently blinded in both eyes. Even after Phoenix became blind from their abuse, the dog-fighters continued to force Phoenix to fight until the Humane Society of Missouri stepped in and rescued Phoenix from his traumatic life. After the Humane Society of Missouri rescued him, Phoenix Pack opened their arms and brought him into their rescue program. Phoenix Pack worked with Teson Properties to fundraise and build Phoenix his own personal cottage. This cottage was created to meet the special needs of a blind pit bull and offered him a happy and comfortable place to retire. The cottage included a fenced play yard, a cozy house with a bed, eating area, room to play, air conditioning, and heat.

Despite the 2,000 mile distance between the two rescue groups, Phoenix Pack and Even Chance joined efforts and have successfully fundraised over $6,000 to build Rico a custom cottage of his own on the Phoenix Pack property in rural Missouri! Rico will now reside in a new personalized cottage next to Phoenix’s that has been designed to custom fit his special needs. With the cottage now successfully built, the two rescue groups will now focus on raising funds to complete the second phase of the project: building Rico’s much needed play yard.

Rico’s cottage is a combined rescue effort. Even Chance and Phoenix Pack (formerly known as Mutts-n-Stuff) are proud to collaborate and work together for the same goal of advocating for, educating about, and rescuing pit bulls in need. At his cottage, Rico will have plenty of safe outdoor space to chase balls—his favorite thing—and plenty of opportunities for exercise, both physical and mental. In Missouri, Rico will continue his obedience training with the Phoenix Pack crew and will receive committed individual attention until he finds his forever home. Tongueless, Rico cannot show his appreciation to the Phoenix Pack volunteers 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.