In March Save-a-Bull was notified about a pit bull puppy who had suffered a severe head injury at 4 weeks old. The puppy was an innocent bystander in an argument gone terribly wrong in Indianapolis, IN (news story).

As a result of his injury he was unable to walk, eat, bark, see, or hear. There was hope that as his brain healed that some of his functions would come back. The puppy was named Niko.

After much discussion, Save-a-Bull brought Niko into rescue, knowing that brain injuries are a big gamble. The rescue committed to providing all the medical care he needed and a foster home to recover in. We were all realistic about the fact that we didn’t know how much function he would gain and if he would ever be “normal,” but we were willing to give Niko the chance at a normal life.

At 5 ½ weeks old when he arrived, Niko’s vision was compromised, he walked but leaned to the side, he ate liquid food, and he had regained some hearing and the ability to bark. At his first medical evaluation, he had an MRI that revealed an extensive frontal lobe injury. The frontal lobe is where impulse control drives are managed.

Next, Niko went to the ophthalmologist to learn the extent of the damage to his eyes. We learned that his eyes actually worked, but his brain injury prevented communication between his eyes and his brain to register sight.

At his foster home Niko was going about his daily life learning to be a regular pup with “quirks.” He lacked the impulse control to know when he was full when eating, and he was very mouthy and could not learn to stop that puppy behavior. As a puppy, it was excusable, but as he matured into a full size dog, it became a concern as his bites were getting stronger and causing physical damage. Over time he developed anxiety exiting his crate which resulted in him biting at his foster parents.

As Niko got older, he was having more frequent outbursts during the day. He began attacking the resident dogs, unpredictably and continuously without any reasonable provocation. When his foster parents broke up  the fights, Niko would redirect on them and often drew blood. After the “episode” was over, he would come back wagging his tail with no recollection of what had happened. For everyone’s safety, Niko was fitted with and had to wear a muzzle at all times. He had no idea why we were doing this to him and he seemed sad and sullen as his quality of life began to deteriorate.

Niko was not a bad dog. He was actually a really great dog sometimes. Other times his aggression was unmanageable. It was sad to watch him worsen, and not fully understand what was happening around him, or how to deal with everyday situations. His brain injury simply wouldn’t allow him to lead a normal, happy life.

On August 14th his fosters, Lori and Peter Hames adopted Niko. On August 15th Niko “Whitedog” Shea was put to rest. It was one of the hardest decisions they ever had to make, and Save-a-Bull stood by their side in support.

We choose to remember only the best about Niko. He was charming in a crowd and at events and he loved new people. He was smart as a whip and learned many tricks in his short time with us. And he was adorable in his stylish Thunder shirt collection that was used to calm him. He was born an inherently good puppy and never had a chance to live the life he deserved. We will not let the lessons from his life slip away from us. He continues to inspire us and the work we do to rescue, protect and assist the dogs who need us and to make greater strides in teaching overall care and kindness to animals.


No charges were filed against the man who hurt Niko because at the time of the trial there wasn’t enough evidence that Niko would suffer permanent damage.

Thanks to you, Save-a-Bull has had the opportunity to rescue and rehome a lot of deserving dogs this year. But that’s not enough! Supporting spay and neuter assistance programs for our community will promote responsible dog ownership and breed advocacy which is an important part of the work we’re trying to do every day. Donate today and be a part of our Fix Your Pit program!