A Selfie Of This Adorable Dog And His Owner Went Viral, Then The Police Saw It
Dan Tillery and his long-time girlfriend had an idyllic relationship. They were living a happy life together outside of Detroit, Michigan, but there was one thing missing. The couple had always wanted to adopt a rescue dog and give it a loving home. When they met Diggy, it was love at first sight and the couple knew they were the ones who could give him the forever home he deserved. But little did they know, a harmless photo of Dan and Diggy would go viral and cause a chain of events that no one saw coming, and would ultimately change their lives — and their town — forever.
Diggy Was A Stray Wandering the Detroit Streets
This story begins with Diggy. At the time he was found by the Animal Control Center, he was wandering the streets of Detroit. At just two years old, Diggy was malnourished, infested with fleas, and in desperate need of help. That’s when the Detroit Dog Rescue came to help.
The Detroit Dog Rescue is a non-profit organization that focuses on raising awareness for the forgotten, homeless, and stray dogs in Detroit. The group also works to find these sweet pups caring homes.
The Detroit Dog Rescue Was At Capacity
When the Detroit Dog Rescue encountered Diggy, they were already at maximum capacity. With 12 dogs in the van used to transport rescues, they didn’t have enough space for the stray. So Diggy sat there, caged and alone. One look into Diggy’s eyes said it all, and luckily, Kristina Rinaldi, the executive director of the organization, jumped in to help.
As soon as Kristina saw Diggy’s face, her heart broke. She knew she couldn’t leave this helpless animal behind, so she rallied the volunteers, and together they committed to helping Diggy.
They Knew Diggy Deserved A Second Chance
Although the Detroit Dog Rescue was at capacity already, Kristina and the team of volunteers wanted to help Diggy. They made a pact to help the sweet pup, and Kristina even transported him to the rescue center in her personal car.
Diggy hadn’t even tried, but it was clear that this sweet pup had already won everyone over. Diggy was en route to the rescue center and seemingly on his way to a better life — but no one knew that one innocent action would cause a chain of wild events.
Diggy Gets a Second Chance
Diggy arrived at the Detroit Dog Rescue center and the team got to work. Diggy was placed on a healthy and hearty diet and was given all of the medical treatments he needed.
One of the best things for Diggy was being able to socialize with the other dogs at the rescue. Since he had been on the streets, he had grown afraid of other animals and humans. The rescue team helped socialize Diggy and soon enough, he was playing with all of the other dogs there.
Diggy Gets A Fitting Nickname
When the Detroit Dog Rescue team picked up Diggy, he was understandably shy and afraid of most other dogs and people. But as Diggy was properly cared for, he started to come out of his shell. Soon, the team began discovering Diggy’s quirky personality traits — and there were lots of them!
One of the most endearing? When Diggy was excited, he would wiggle his butt back and forth. He would do this so often that he earned himself the nickname Sir Wiggleton.
The Waiting Game
Diggy went through the routine that all incoming dogs do when he arrived at the Detroit Dog Rescue. He was put on a healthy diet, given proper medication, and socialized. During this time, the volunteers posted the occasional photo of him on social media, hoping someone would fall in love with Diggy’s adorable smile.
But soon enough, a month went by, and Diggy was still up for adoption at the rescue center. The volunteers were saddened to see such a sweet, loving dog with a shining personality waiting for someone to give him the love he deserved.
Meanwhile, Dan Tillery Was Dreaming About Diggy
While Diggy was waiting to find his forever home in Detroit, Dan Tillery was dreaming about owning a pup of his own at his home in Waterford Township. About an hour outside of Detroit, Dan had just moved into a new home with his long-time girlfriend.
Dan was ecstatic about the move — mainly because he was now a homeowner, which meant he could finally adopt a dog. Dan had been wanting to take in a rescue for years, but his prior lease agreement had stated no dogs were allowed in the apartment. That was in the past though and Dan couldn’t wait to help a pup in need!
Dan Found the Detroit Dog Rescue Online
Now that it was finally possible to have a dog of his own, Dan wasted no time trying to find a rescue who needed a loving home. As he and his girlfriend began to explore their options, they stumbled upon the Detroit Dog Rescue on Facebook — and the sweetest picture of Diggy.
Something about Diggy stood out to Dan and his girlfriend, and they couldn’t wait to learn more about the pup.
They Were Captivated By Diggy’s Goofy Smile
More than any of the dogs they had seen in their search for a rescue, Diggy stood out. This was largely thanks to his unusually goofy smile. Although they only had pictures and the rescue center’s description to go off of, Dan and his girlfriend could tell Diggy was the pup for them. Diggy’s personality shined through!
The couple was ecstatic that they had found Diggy and knew they needed to reach out to the rescue fast. The longer they waited meant more people would have the chance to come in and adopt Diggy.
Dan Meets Diggy
Dan and his girlfriend contacted the Detroit Dog Rescue and scheduled a visit. The rescue was over the moon that the loving couple had taken such an interest in Diggy. The rescue knew just how sweet Diggy really was and was happy that their Facebook posts had finally helped get the word out there.
While they could tell that Dan and his girlfriend were serious about giving Diggy a loving home, they still needed to set up a trial run to see how the pup would do in their home.
A Match Made In Heaven
Diggy headed to Dan’s home in Waterford Township with some of the rescue workers. The rescue workers tried to remain hopeful that Diggy would acclimate to Dan’s home, but it’s never certain when you have a rescue dog. Luckily, the meet and greet went perfectly!
Diggy quickly took to Dan and his girlfriend, who were quick to sign the adoption papers and make things official. Diggy had spent more than three months at the rescue center waiting for his forever home and he had finally found it!
Diggy Fit In Perfectly
With Diggy now officially adopted, the family of three settled in to their new lives. Diggy became comfortable around Dan and his girlfriend and soon found his own ways to show affection to Dad and Mom. Every morning, he would wake Dan up by laying a slew of slobbery kisses all over his face.
Dan loved Diggy’s company so much that he documented his adventures in dog ownership on social media (like most of us do!).
Diggy Became A Social Media Star
Like many dog owners, Dan and his girlfriend shared lots of photos of Diggy on their social media accounts. When you have a dog as lovable, goofy, and photogenic as Diggy, why wouldn't you?
The Detroit Dog Rescue was so happy to see Diggy’s progress on Dan’s social media that they re-posted one hilarious photo of Dan and Diggy on their Facebook page. Within a day, tens of thousands of people saw the image, which was completely harmless.
Dan and Diggy Became Internet Stars
The Detroit Dog Rescue is always sharing photos of rescue success stories on their Facebook page, but the reaction they got after sharing a photo of Dan and Diggy was insane! The rescue organization shared a sweet photo of the two lying on the ground. In the photo, it looks like Diggy is literally smiling! The image got so much attention that in less than 24 hours it received over 24,000 likes.
People loved the photo so much that it was even featured on a segment of Good Morning America!
When the Detroit Dog Rescue shared the photo of Dan and Diggy, they had no idea that tens of thousands of people would react to the photo. While the majority of people loved the photo and were captivating by Diggy’s shining personality, not everyone felt this way.
Unbeknownst to the Detroit Dog Rescue, Dan, and his girlfriend, there were some people who took the photo the wrong way.
The Photo Was Reported to the Police
Just a few days after the Detroit Dog Rescue shared the sweet photo of Dan and Diggy, the image was reported to the local police in Waterford Township, where Dan and Diggy lived. The person who reported the image noticed something about Diggy and felt the need to take action. They felt Dan was violating the law and that there should be consequences.
While all of this was unfolding, Dan and Diggy were living a happy life, minding their own business.
The Police Visit Shocked Dan
It was a normal day when Dan heard a knock on his door. To his surprise, it was the local police. They were visiting him after someone reported the viral photo of Dan and Diggy.
Initially, Dan was beyond confused. Why would someone report an innocent photo of the two of them? Why was someone so upset? While the photo was harmless, Dan was told that he was breaking the law and there would be consequences.
Dan was blindsided by the police showing up at his house to question him about the photo. Things only got worse when he realized why the police were really there. According to the officers, Diggy was a pit bull and the breed was not allowed in Waterford Township due to a long-time local ordinance.
The local ordinance had been in effect since 1990 and makes it illegal for anyone in the town to own a pit bull. This meant that when Dan adopted Diggy he was breaking the law.
Why Was the Law Put In Place?
Dan was dumbfounded when the police came to his home and told him about the ordinance. The idea that he did something illegal was baffling to him and he didn’t understand the need for such an absurd law.
Nearly 30 years ago, the law was passed based on the reputation of pit bulls. The people of Waterford Township argued that pit bulls are dangerous and a threat to the town. But this was quite the opposite of Diggy, who was known for his sweet demeanor and friendliness towards all animals and humans.
Diggy Was Friendly to the Police
The police entered Dan’s home to see Diggy. The officers were slow to approach the dog, assuming that he would be aggressive towards them.
But Diggy soon put to rest any of the negative stereotypes the officers had about pit bulls. Diggy approached them with his usual smile and friendly demeanor. He even offered the officers a few sloppy kisses on their faces. The cops were surprised, but Dan wasn’t. He knew Diggy was a great dog who wouldn’t hurt a fly. There was no way he should be illegal.
The Cops’ Ultimatum
Although Diggy was as friendly as ever to the officers, they still gave Dan a tough ultimatum — to surrender Diggy or face serious consequences. Without hesitation, Dan refused.
The cops remained calm and collected throughout the process, and Dan understood they were just doing their jobs. Still, he didn’t believe this situation was right. Diggy was an amazing dog who shattered any negative stereotypes surrounding pit bulls. The whole thing seemed unfair.
Dan Had Just Days to Figure Out What to Do
Although the police saw how gentle and sweet Diggy was, they still had to do their jobs. The officers ended up giving Dan a tight deadline to decide what he would do with his pup.
Dan was lost. He had no idea what he was going to do. Obviously he wasn’t going to surrender Diggy to the officers, but what choice did he have? Would he have to risk getting into legal trouble for keeping his dog? Would he have to move to another town with more reasonable laws surrounding pit bulls?
Dan’s Deadline Came And Went
The officers gave Dan a deadline, which came and went. Dan refused to comply because he knew that Diggy was a great dog who shouldn’t be judged by his breed. Unfortunately, the officers gave Dan on a citation on June 13, 2016, on the grounds that he was in violation of the town’s pit bull ban.
Dan was justifiably upset and reached out to the only person he thought could help — Kristina Rinaldi from the Detroit Dog Rescue. Kristina was also upset with the situation and was ready to do whatever it took to stand up for and defend Dan and Diggy. So Kristina and Dan went to the police station to speak their mind.
A Trip To The Police Station Stirs Up A Lot of Emotions
Dan and Kristina had spent a significant amount of time with Diggy and knew firsthand that he was not a threat to the town. More so, they knew that banning an entire dog breed was wrong. Having worked with pit bulls for years, Kristina felt it was awful that an entire breed of dog was being harshly stereotyped.
Together, the two voiced their opinions on the matter to the officers at the police station, but they could have never anticipated what would happen next.
Dan Is Fined $500
Despite Dan and Kristina’s efforts to defend Diggy to the police, he was told he would be fined for being in violation of Waterford Township’s ban on pit bulls.
Dan was fined $500 and told he could face future repercussions if he continued to care for Diggy in his home. But Dan wasn’t done yet. He realized the police had overlooked a crucial detail when it came to Diggy — a detail that would change the entire situation.
Diggy Wasn’t Even a Pit Bull!
Throughout this entire ordeal, Dan was especially angry that the community member who reported Diggy to the police had gotten the pup’s breed entirely wrong. Diggy was not a pit bull. In fact, Diggy was an American bulldog. Dan presented Diggy’s adoption papers to the police, which clearly stated his breed.
Dan made it clear that he had no intention is giving Diggy away. He was going to keep him because Diggy was family now.
Dan And Diggy Go Viral Again
Throughout this whole ordeal, Dan had documented his and Diggy’s plight on his social media accounts. The pair had already garnered a pretty big fan base from the original photo that went viral, and their fan base was only growing as people followed their harrowing tale.
Dan had hoped that by sharing his story, perhaps someone would be able to help. Luckily, he was right! As his story spread, people from all over the world joined in to help Dan and Diggy fight. The Michigan Humane Society even stepped up and helped do something big.
An Online Petition Was Created
By this time, Dan and Diggy had thousands of people supporting them online, but they needed to do something bigger if Dan was going to be able to keep Diggy. Together, Dan and his wave of supporters drafted an online petition.
The petition detailed Dan and Diggy’s story and highlighted how the police had gotten Diggy’s breed wrong the entire time. But while Diggy wasn’t a pit bull, the petition also made sure to highlight that the prejudice against pit bulls was very unfair.
The Legislation Punished The Dogs, Not The Bad Owners
Although Dan was confident that he would be able to keep Diggy since he was an American Bulldog, he knew he had to use this platform to advocate for pit bulls everywhere. Dan knew that pit bulls could be aggressive, but that sort of behavior typically occurs only if a dog has been abused or mistreated.
It was clear to Dan and his thousands of online supporters that the town’s pit bull ban did nothing more than punish dogs, instead of bad dog owners.
Dan Charges Ahead, Full Speed
Dan and Diggy had gone viral once before, and they were about to do it again. After drafting his petition, Dan’s story quickly made the rounds and within a few days, over 54,000 people had signed. To be as prepared as possible, Dan hired a lawyer to help.
Dan was blown away that this situation had escalated to the point where he needed to hire a lawyer, but he vowed to do whatever it would take to keep Diggy.
Kristina Did Everything Right
Having worked with a variety of dogs for years, Kristina Rinaldi took extra precautionary measures before putting Diggy up for adoption the year before. She knew about the pit bull ban in the Detroit town so she made sure to contact local authorities to see if American Bulldogs were allowed. This was well before Dan had even met Diggy!
When Dan did adopt Diggy, he had the pup registered as an American Bulldog. But for some reason, the police hadn’t seemed to care that Dan, Kristina, and Diggy had everything in order.
Town Hall Called a Meeting
A local town hall meeting was called to hash out the issue. While Dan expected a few people to show up, he never expected hundreds to come and support him and Diggy. But the duo’s story had touched many, and people from all over wanted to do what they could to help out.
People were horrified about the way Diggy was being villainized by the police and certain people in the community — and they weren’t afraid to let them know it! Hundreds of protesters gathered outside of the Waterford Township City Hall.
Have No Fear, Let The Pit Bulls Live Here
While people came from all over to show their support for Dan and Diggy, it was the many local residents that really stood out. Many of the local residents thought the ban was antiquated and quickly pointed out that the neighboring towns had already repealed similar laws years ago.
Pit Bull Advocates Gave A Voice To The Breed
Also in attendance were several people who have worked with pit bulls for years. From rescue group volunteers to veterinarians, lots of people came forward to share their positive experiences with the banned breed.
The group reiterated that people are more likely to be bitten by other breeds, but pit bulls are the ones that are constantly stereotyped as aggressive and dangerous. The people emphasized that bans like this punish the dog, rather than a bad owner.
What Would Happen To Diggy?
Dan and his girlfriend felt the love and support from their community and beyond — but that didn’t mean they were in the clear. At the end of the day, it was up to the court to decide what Diggy’s fate was.
The couple tried to remain confident that the court would rule in their favor, but they couldn’t help thinking the worst. What would happen if the court ruled against them? Would they have to save goodbye to Diggy forever?
Diggy Can Stay!
After months of back and forth with the legal system, the 51st District Court dismissed the case against Dan and Diggy. The dismissal ultimately meant Diggy was able to stay at home with Dan, and Dan would not have to surrender his pup to the authorities.
Even better, the antiquated law regarding pitbulls in Waterford Township was changed. The new law now mandates that only veterinarians — not police officers — are allowed to determine a dog’s breed.
A Tribute To His Lifelong Friend Diggy
With everything he went through for Diggy, it was clear that Dan loved his pup — but Dan wanted a way to show his love for Diggy even more. After the case was dismissed in court and the town’s law was changed, Dan got this sweet tattoo to commemorate his furry friend.
Now, Dan will have this tattoo to remind him of he and Diggy’s battle and the great outcome — not just for them, but for pit bulls near and far.
How Dangerous Are Pit Bulls?
Although Dan and Diggy’s story had a positive outcome, there is still a stigma around pit bulls. But is that stigma truly justified? And how dangerous is the breed really?
Ultimately, while pit bulls can be dangerous, so can any other dog. Sadly, when it comes to this breed, there are a lot of misconceptions. For example, many people think that pit bulls have the strongest biting force. In reality, pit bulls have been found to have the smallest bite force compared to other “bully breed dogs.” Think that pit bulls have “locking jaw”? Nope! This is a misconception too.
The ASPCA Thinks Highly of Pit Bulls
Pit bulls are often wrongly considered aggressive animals, but lots of research shows otherwise. The ASPCA even says that “a well-socialized and well-trained pit bull is one of the most delightful, intelligent, and gentle dogs imaginable.”
According to Pamela Reid, Ph.D., vice president of the ASPCA’s Animal Behavior Center in New York, it’s not necessarily that pit bulls are more aggressive, they’re just “less tolerant” of other dogs than other breeds. She adds that pit bulls have “great tenacity. They put their mind to something, and they do it. That’s what makes them great dogs for sports like weight pulling. They are very strong, athletic animals."
An Ongoing Battle
Despite the praise of pit bulls, the ASPCA and other sources say that owning a pit bull has its share of hardships. According to WebMD, pit bull owners may face “rising insurance rates or cancellation of your policy, difficulty renting, and the watchful eye of neighbors and passersby.”
These hardships were true for Dan, and the residents of Waterford Township who hoped to own one of these sweet pups. But despite the ongoing battle, animal lovers have not given up the fight to say goodbye to the pit bull stigma.