When Michigan resident Dan Tillery and his girlfriend found their dream rescue dog, they had fulfilled a lifelong dream. Adopting a rescue dog in need of a loving home from a local shelter was something the couple firmly believed in. As soon as they saw Diggy, it was love at first sight.
What Dan and his girlfriend didn’t know was that this adoption would cause a whirlwind chain of events; events that would change their lives and their town forever.
Read here to find out how one picture of smiling Diggy was all the evidence the police needed.
1. Lost Soul
It all began when a sad two-year-old stray dog was found wandering on the streets of Detroit, Michigan. He was picked up by Detroit Animal Control. Detroit Dog Rescue (DDR), a local no-kill shelter, came to collect the dogs from them.
The problem was, they had already put 12 dogs into the van, and that one last rescue dog didn’t have any space. He sat, forlorn, in his cage, alone. No one could ever have known how big of a controversy he would spark — and it would involve the police.
2. One Last Kennel
Luckily for that one rescue dog, Kristina Rinaldi, Detroit Dog Rescue’s executive director, happened to be on site. She saw his sad face, and it broke her heart. Every one of the volunteers agreed they had to help him, because he so deserved a chance.
Without even trying, he’d won them over. The problem was, there already wasn’t any space left in the van. So Rinaldi took matters into her own hands. She put the dog in her car and drove off. A simple move that would lead to an insane chain of events that no one could have expected.
3. New Name
What the volunteers of the Detroit Dog Rescue didn’t bet on when they picked up this sad pup was just how much they’d get attached to him. As he slowly came out of his shell, they soon discovered that he had a personality unlike any other dog.
As they learned more about this dog, they found he had some quirks. They called him Sir Wiggleton because of the silly dance he would do when he got excited, wiggling his rump to and fro. And they had to find a way to help him.
4. Waiting In Vain
At the shelter, the volunteer workers of the Detroit Dog Rescue gave Sir Wiggleton the normal processing they provide for any rescue dog they place in their kennels awaiting adoption like medical treatments and socialization with other dogs. They also posted pictures of him on their Facebook page from time to time.
They waited. But month by month went by, with nothing. It was sad to see a dog with such a bright personality and clear capacity to love remaining without a true home. Everyone was asking themselves: what would happen to this poor pup?
5. Looking For Love
Meanwhile, almost an hour away in Waterford Township, a musician called Dan Tillery had just moved into a new home with his girlfriend, a house that he finally could call his own. The terms of the contract in his old rental apartment meant he couldn’t fulfill his dream.
Dan had always wished that he could have his own dog to share his life with. Now that he was a homeowner, it was possible at long last. And as he began to explore his options, he stumbled across the Detroit Dog Rescue’s Facebook page.
6. A Most Excellent Discovery
As they searched their local dog shelters, Dan and his girlfriend happened upon Sir Wiggleton. They saw the pictures of this unusually goofy rescue dog and were absolutely taken by him. They could tell just by looking at him online that he had tons of personality — just like them!
The pair was super excited. On their screen could well be the opportunity Dan had always dreamed of, just waiting to be taken home by them and loved. There was no question. They had to act immediately. Time was ticking.
7. Prospective Parents
The Detroit Dog Rescue was delighted to receive two excited visitors. It was Dan Tillery and his girlfriend. They knew exactly which rescue dog they were curious about seeing, and it was the one the agency had lovingly named Sir Wiggleton.
The agency was thrilled to see that its Facebook posts had succeeded, and finally the star puppy had fans. But as part of protocol, they’d have to take him over to Dan’s home first for a trial to see how he got on. This was the moment of truth!
8. Adoption Day
Sir Wiggleton was taken on his longest car ride. Rescue workers accompanied him, hopeful that everything would go as they hoped and he would acclimate well. To everyone’s joy, the meet-and-greet at Dan’s home couldn’t have gone better. The sweet rescue dog made a fantastic impression.
It was love at first bark, and Dan and his girlfriend were all too thrilled to sign the adoption papers. The elated couple decided to rename him Diggy. After almost 100 days of being in the shelter, it seemed Diggy had found his forever home. Or had he?
9. On Cloud Nine
Things were going amazingly with the new family of three. Diggy quickly learned new ways to show his affection for his new dog daddy. He would wake up Dan every morning by licking his face. They loved their special rescue dog and enjoyed his enthusiasm and constant excitement.
The three of them couldn’t have made a happier team. So just like any couple who was proud of their new child, whether human or furry, Dan and his girlfriend just had to share their excitement with the world. They never could have imagined the consequences…
10. Social Media Star
Like any proud dog owners, Dan and his girlfriend posted pic after pic on their Instagram accounts, flooding their social media with snapshots of their new best friend. After all, with a rescue dog as photogenic and goofy as Diggy, how could they not share their star child’s charm with the world?
Naturally, the folks at the Detroit Dog Rescue had not forgotten that lovable stray who’d taken their hearts. They were following his progress, and they reposted a hilarious picture of the adoption on Facebook. But things were about to go in a direction nobody expected.
11. Internet Stars
The Detroit Dog Rescue pic with Dan and Diggy went viral, getting over 24,000 likes within a matter of days. People were going wild for the happy duo. It was such a popular pic that even Good Morning America covered a segment of it on TV.
But in sharing this innocent moment of love from one of its favorite adoption success stories, Detroit Dog Rescue was about to see the story take an extremely unexpected turn. Unbeknownst to the guys at the agency, there were people who had seen the pic who took it the wrong way — very, very wrong.
12. A Storm Is Brewing
The picture was reported to local police in Waterford Township, Michigan. There was something about Diggy that had been seen in the picture online that meant they had to take action against Dan Tillery. The police were tipped off that this citizen was violating the law.
Dan, meanwhile, was merely enjoying his life with his new rescue dog. There was nothing quite like the fun of getting to know and bond with one another. Nobody had even the slightest clue that something was up. Then came a harsh knock at the door.
13. A Shocking Visit
Dan opened the door — and to his complete shock, it was the police. They had come in connection to the photo that had been posted on Facebook. All Dan could think was what in the world could possibly have been in that happy, innocent photo that would make people so upset?
That photo and the intentions behind it seemed so utterly normal and sweet. But in this surreal moment, they told Dan that he had in fact broken the law, and there would be ramifications. Dan was floored. What had he done?
Dan was utterly unprepared for the shocking news he was about to receive. According to the police, Diggy was a pit bull. Waterford Township had a local ordinance ever since 1990, stating that nobody could own or bring the dog breed into the area.
Because of what the police claimed, Dan had broken the law. The reason the legislation existed in the first place was based on the reputation that pit bulls had for being vicious and dangerous. But only the opposite could be said of Diggy! The question now was what would happen to Dan’s beloved Diggy?
The police went over to where Diggy was. They were wary, because of everything they had come to believe about pit bulls. But Diggy, ever the happy pup, sprang up and licked their faces. He didn’t know any other way to greet people.
The cops were surprised, though naturally, Dan knew that’s how his dog would react. Diggy’s sweet greeting shed even more doubt on the edict they were there to enforce. But the law was the law. They gave Dan a terrible ultimatum.
16. Rough Ultimatum
The cops said that Dan had two options. It was a harsh bind to be caught in. He was told to surrender his dog, or face the consequences. Dan refused. Admittedly, they were being cordial, and he knew they were just doing their job, but the situation was ridiculous.
There was just no way whatsoever that he was going to let them take Diggy away. The dog was like his own child. It was absurd. As they left, they gave him a deadline to decide — just a matter of days.
The deadline Dan had been given came and went, and still he refused to comply. On June 13, 2016, he was given a citation by the police of Waterford Township, on the grounds that he had violated the town ban on pit bulls.
Deeply upset and shaken by the situation that was spiraling out of control, he contacted Kristina Rinaldi from Detroit Dog Rescue. She was ready to back him up. Together, they went to the police station to speak their mind. But they weren’t prepared for the outcome. What’s more, the police seemed to have missed out on one tiny detail.
18. Harsh Consequences
At the police station, try as he might to contest the ludicrous action, Dan was told he would be given a ticket. From a legal perspective, being in violation of Waterford Township’s civil code regarding pit bulls was a civil infraction.
Dan faced a fine of up to $500. But there was one glaring fact that Dan presented to the police. He insisted to them that what he had to say was something overlooked, and it was sure to completely change the entire scenario.
19. Hey, Bulldog
Diggy wasn’t even a pit bull! Dan knew from the very beginning that his dog was an American Bulldog. Not only that, but it was even written in the very same adoption papers he’d signed when he rescued him, which Kristina showed the police.
He confidently declared to one of the police officers that he was in no way planning on surrendering his dog. He was going to keep him. And so, as threatened, he received a citation. But the fight had only just begun.
20. Viral, Again
Dan Tillery posted about his predicament on the Internet. He’d already amassed a sizable fan base, both from his music career, and from the original fateful viral photo. Maybe somewhere in his online audience, he could find consolation, if not help.
Once his followers caught wind of the difficult bind Dan and his beloved pooch were caught in; he was livid. As word spread, more and more people stood up to his defense. Soon enough, the Michigan Humane Society got involved. They were going to do something big.
21. Taking Action
Dan and Diggy’s supporters drafted an online petition. They were upset by what had taken place for several reasons. Not only was Diggy not a pit bull, they argued, but the legislation regarding a specific dog breed was ridiculous and uncalled for.
They made an important point. Pit bulls were not violent by nature, but they could certainly act that way if their owners mistreated or trained them to be aggressive. By banning a breed, the law in question punished dogs rather than bad owners. It made sense, but would the petition work?
22. Forging Ahead
Just like the original photo that Detroit Dog Rescue had posted of him and Diggy, Dan had no idea of knowing how big this would get. The petition garnered over 54,000 signatures in a breathtakingly short amount of time. Dan prepared for the fight, hiring a lawyer.
He wasn’t going to let this stand. Far from quitting, he and his girlfriend were not about to lose their precious furry child. They hadn’t expected this situation, but they were ready to go the distance for Diggy. And there were several key things that would influence Dan’s case.
23. By The Books
From a legal perspective, Dan and Kristina had both done several things that were totally by the books. Kristina knew about the prohibition on pit bulls in Dan’s area, and even before his adoption she had contacted the local authorities to make sure they were allowed American Bulldogs.
Before the police had ever arrived, and based on the documentation in the adoption papers, Dan had even had his rescue dog pal registered as an American Bulldog, so it would be official. But up until now, that hadn’t mattered to the police. But what would the court have to say about this?
24. An Angry Meeting
A local town hall was held to discuss the issue. Nobody expected how massive it would get. Hundreds upon hundreds of supporters showed up. Some of them had even driven more than an hour and a half just to attend.
The issue surrounding Diggy and the way the law was treating him with such disregard had inflamed hearts. It had touched a raw spot on people’s conscience. They had massed at the town hall in Waterford Township, and they were angry. Things were really starting to heat up!
25. Don’t Bully The Breed
The supporters kept chanting angrily in support of Diggy the rescue dog. They were furious. People got very emotional at the town hall meeting. One woman decried the fact that they were using people’s tax dollars to fund what they saw as unjust and ridiculous laws.
The speakers pointed to the fact that other nearby townships, like Canton Township and Hazel Park, had already repealed similar laws. Everyone was in agreement that bad dog owners, not the breeds, ought to be punished. Then came a revelation that threw everyone off guard.
26. Pitbulls Compared
Several people who had worked for a while with dog rescue groups came forward at the town hall meeting. They had plenty more experience with dog behavior, from breed to breed, than the majority of the hundreds of people in the room.
What they stood up to explain was sensational. According to them, people were far more likely to get attacked and bitten by a dachshund or a Chihuahua than a pit bull. They reminded the audience that a pit bull’s temperament is entirely dependent on how their owners treat them. Were they right?
27. Statistics Challenge
As far as the numbers went, during the course of the year 2016, there were 41 fatalities from dog attacks in the USA. Of those, pit bulls were responsible for 22 cases. It looked like fairly harsh evidence against the breed.
But everyone, Dan included, had to remind the legislators that people themselves, not the dog’s pedigree, were responsible for the way a dog was conditioned to behave. And above all else, lest they forget, Diggy wasn’t even a pit bull! What would the court decide?
28. In Limbo
Dan and his girlfriend were incredibly nervous and emotional. On the one hand, it truly was nice knowing so many people believed in their cause and were prepared to stand up for them, even total strangers. The amount of empathy and support was incredible.
But if things didn’t go in their favor, the consequences would be terrible. If they lost this case and the police position held, they faced the very painful reality that the police could take their favorite puppy pal away from them. Nervous, they awaited the decision.
29. Sweet Victory
In September 2016, after those draining months of legal battles, the 51st District Court dismissed the case to remove Diggy from his home! That sweet rescue dog with his signature goofy smile would be able to stay in his forever home. They had won!
The law in Waterford Township was changed because of his case. Now, the law mandated that only vets, not police officers, could be trusted to decide a dog’s breed. And Dan knew exactly what he had to do to celebrate.
30. Commemorating A Comrade
Anyone who’s followed Dan Tillery on social media knows just how much he loves decorating his body with art. And to celebrate his victory, Dan added a new, big tattoo to his thigh at the next New Year’s: a picture of his beloved rescue dog Diggy.
Now that the ugly and nerve-racking past is behind them, they can enjoy their life together, without fearing that someone might separate them. From the look of things, the two of them are the definition of exactly why they say a dog is man’s best friend.
31. Puppaccino Dates
It wasn’t easy for Dan Tillery to finally call Diggy his own, but when he could they never looked back. Diggy does everything with Dan, including joining Dan for a (dog-friendly) coffee at Starbucks. The best part is that Diggy gets to join in on the fun and get his very own Puppuccino (a non-caffeinated cup of whipped cream) ordered for him.
Diggy looks quite pleased with his weekly trips to Starbucks, and even licked his lips while he waited for his very own puppuccino to arrive. But this isn’t the only time Diggy gets to enjoy food and beverages with his loving owner, as you’ll see as you continue reading.
32. Always Smiling!
It’s no wonder that Diggy earned the nickname of the “Smiling Dog” — just look at him smiling away and enjoying his life with Dan Tillery. It is pictures like these that make rescue stories so worthwhile and heartwarming no matter the hardships to get to these moments.
All Dan wanted to give Diggy was a home where he could run free and enjoy himself like every other dog deserves. How could anyone think this face could do any harm?! Well it turns out Diggy is a dog of many talents and even has some things in common with his owner.
33. Making Music
When Dan Tillery isn’t having fun with Diggy, his partner in crime, he’s a musician, singer, and songwriter. Diggy wants in on all of it, so he loves chilling on Dan while he strums on his guitar or pens a few verses for his performances.
Dan often plays music in the living room while Diggy relaxes on the couch. Talk about moral support from the best pair of fluffy ears. Whether Dan jams in the morning or night, Diggy is there to accompany him until the very last note. But besides for music, Diggy does a whole lot more with his best friend.
34. Keeping Active
Besides for creating music, Dan Tillery is passionate about keeping active, traveling, going on adventures, fitness, and food for the soul. Yep, that means Diggy is always right there hiking and exploring with his beloved owner and best friend. The best part is Diggy loves every minute of it.
The pictures Dan snaps of him and Diggy together are just adorable, and keep everyone in the loop on social media since they won the case. But gallivanting around nature isn’t the only thing the pair gets up to. They also have some pretty inspiring activities up their sleeves (and paws).
35. Some Forty Winks
A man and his dog have gotta get some rest, and friends that nap together stay together! But that’s just not any nap; it’s a cuddly and adorable picture-perfect one. It’s safe to say that Diggy couldn’t be happier in his rescue home with his best friend by his side around the clock.
It seems that the pair cannot get enough of one another and even have to get in their dose of forty winks together. What’s more, Diggy is there for the family during the good and the bad times and creates some pretty amazing lasting memories as heartbreaking as they might be ….