Tivi's Angels

A tale of tragedy turned triumph...starring angels on earth

One is too many and yet they are innumerable — stories of unspeakable treatment of animals by so-called human beings. Too often the accounts focus on the initial, horrific details, with little follow-up on the outcome of the victims or survivors. That is until Tivi — and his pack of angels — broke tradition.

Tivi’s tale, from tragic beginning to happily-ever-after ending, is a story of hope, perseverance, destiny, and angels on earth.

Tragic Beginnings

On a blistering-hot summer day in Prineville, OR two years ago, a Sharpei/Pitbull mix was found thrown roadside near the reservoir. The dog’s muzzle was bound with a dirty rag, he’d been doused with gas and set on fire, then thrown from a vehicle — breaking his hip and dislocating his shoulder — and left to die. When he was found, his breed and color were unidentifiable. He spent a week in intensive care and a month in the hospital being treated for burns over 90% of his body, the hip and shoulder injuries, numerous cuts and badly battered feet. 

With his physical wounds on the mend, he was taken to the Humane Society of the Ochocos, a Central Oregon no-kill shelter in Prineville, to continue his recovery. This is where Tivoli (“Tiv-oh-lee”), or Tivi as he came to be known, spent the next two years of his life, much of it in a pen.

Enter angels, Susan & Randa

Susan and Randa with Tivi

Susan and Randa with Tivi

When he first arrived at the shelter, Tivi’s skin was black and falling away in clumps. Remarkably, his recovery went so well he didn’t require special veterinary care beyond his initial surgeries. The blisters slowly healed, revealing tender pink skin underneath . . . and eventually, small tufts of red hair. 

Tivi quickly captured the hearts of Susan Mackay and Randa Speck, employees on the five-member staff at this small, hardworking shelter that operates wholly on donations. 

Susan and Randa were struck by Tivi’s friendly, forgiving nature and openness with people, especially considering the hardship he’d endured. “The first few months, he showed no emotion and was very quiet,” says Speck. “But he was special. You could see it in his eyes. He was almost human, only better.”

After a couple of months, Tivi was able to venture outside. “He did not know how to act around other dogs,” Speck says. “He wasn’t aggressive or anything; he seemed to not know what to do and so would just stand there.”  

Tivi’s ordeal was traumatic, so it’s not surprising he had post-traumatic issues. One was confinement anxiety.  Speck says, “He needed to be able to see out all the time,” made clear by behaviors like chewing through doors (which he did several times), and destroying everything in his room. 

The job of finding a forever home for Tivi was daunting. His scarred and sensitive skin presented real risks: the smallest scratch from a playful housemate could cause serious infection so he needed to be an only pet. His broken bones, or more specifically the pin in his hip, meant no stairs for Tivi — he needed a one-level home. Many who were interested in Tivi simply couldn’t pursue adoption — their households didn’t match his special needs. 

Whatever his challenges, Tivi’s loving ways and amazing grace won the hearts of Speck and Mackay . . . and many who visited the shelter. These two sensed Tivi “specialness,” and made it their mission to find him someone equally special to provide the life he deserved. Tirelessly working to get his story out, the duo produced a Tivi calendar with all proceeds going to the shelter — which sold out.  They also created several touching youtube videos to illustrate Tivi’s essence, captivating hearts across the nation, and as far away as Canada and Sweden. 

Tivi’s angel, Angela

Angela Adams with Tivi

Angela Adams with Tivi

Angela Adams describes herself as just a third-party agent in Tivi’s story, but her determined persistence ultimately brought about his fairy-tale ending.  

Over a year ago, Angela’s good friend, Amber Rogers of Bend, OR, saw one of Tivi’s youtube videos and immediately sent it to Angela. Her response: “I have to do something, whatever it takes.” 

Proprietor of Born Again Pit Bull Rescue, 29-year-old Adams is an inspirational ball of energy. Already working full-time as a caregiver, she also works part-time doing rescue, and volunteers a few hours a week at Clackamas County Dog Services. She also devotes time to her own two dogs and several fosters. “Losers make excuses; winners make it happen,” says Adams, adding that when she sees a need she is not one to sit back and wish she could do something.

Marketing is Adams’s forte, and she set about building on what Mackay and Speck had begun. She started posting Tivi’s story on forums and social networking sites everywhere. She created Tivi’s Facebook page and built a website (adopttivi.webs.com).

Word spread, and the outpouring of affection for Tivi was tremendous. The shelter’s wall became covered with cards and letters to him, plus gifts and care packages from people near and far. Cash donations arrived, as well as food. One woman touched by Tivi’s story sent a pallet of dog food not just for Tivi, but for all his canine companions at the shelter. “Even if you can’t adopt, there is much a person can do besides.” Adams says.

Though Tivi was receiving well wishes and attention around the world, few had shown interest in actually adopting him. Adams says she knew she had to do more. She began contacting every Northwest newspaper and television station with Tivi’s story. “No one responded except KPTV Channel 12,” she says. But that interest turned out to be golden.

The Channel 12 crew made the three-hour drive to Prineville, creating a beautiful video that aired on a local afternoon show, Better Portland.  “Not one call at the shelter after that airing,” says Adams. She appealed to the folks at Channel 12 to air the video again during the 10 o’clock news slot. They agreed, and that time the program was seen in Estacada, OR, by one Jonathan Elwing.  

Tivi’s man, Jon

Tivi and Jonathan

Tivi and Jonathan

Just having bought a house, Jonathan Elwing says he was just casually looking for a dog, perhaps a “special needs” dog. Seeing Tivi’s story on the news made such an impression he contacted the shelter the very next day.  

While a handful of others had shown interest after the second broadcast, Speck says “Jonathan was the only person to drive the hundreds of miles to the shelter to see Tivi in person.” 

Jonathan and Tivi seemed destined for each other from the first moment. “It was an amazing match,” says Speck. “They both had great big, identical smiles.” 

While the adoption process was being finalized, Elwing got to work. He added a fence and covered sundeck to his home and installed a doggie door . . . all for the safety and comfort of his new companion.

Meanwhile, those at the shelter prepared for the day they would say goodbye to the dog who would forever be in their hearts. “We knew it would be hard to not have him around everyday, but we also knew he deserved something better,” Speck says.   

Once again, the Channel 12 crew set out for Prineville, this time to document his big day that was for many as joyous as it was painful. The segment concluded with Tivi’s arrival at an ecstatic Jonathan’s house. Just the beginning for two very special beings . . . a lionhearted canine survivor blessed by many angels on his road home, and a very special man who, since Tivi’s arrival on the scene, has provided this dog with a much-deserved kingdom. 

In fact, Tivi’s lush new lifestyle — filled lovingly with rich landscapes, adventures and every imaginable doggie luxury — can be seen on Elwing’s blog postings (tivi.tumblr.com), Tivi’s Facebook page (Tivi’s Home), and Tivi’s website (adopttivi.webs.com). Just another gift Elwing provides in his characteristically quiet way that nevertheless speaks volumes about a man’s love for his dog. 

Those whose hearts were broken by early images of the horrifically wounded dog are delighted to see and share each new image and sweet, amusing update: here, Tivi is seen in handsome country club attire, there he’s out hiking, gazing regally across his newfound kingdom. Another image shows him napping in comforters like so much heavenly meringue. Then there’s rugged Tivi, pal-ing around with his guy in their truck, mugging for the camera, craning for a smooch. 


Thanks to over 700+ fans on his original Facebook page, Tivi recently became SunRiver Resort’s “Director of Barketing” by a landslide in May, winning from a field of nearly 300 contestants. Now not only does he have a new prestigious title, but he’ll appear in the pet-friendly resort’s marketing materials, and he and Elwing will enjoy a vacation at the resort. 

Tivi and Jon have become an inseparable pair with a loyal following of people deeply touched by their fairytale life with the happily-ever-after ending. Elwing says, “I’M really the lucky one, and anyone who knows Tivi knows that.” 

Read the follow-up to Tivi's story, Tivi's Sweaters.


Vonnie Harris is a freelance writer, and operator of PetStop PitStop of SW WA. She and her brood, Jake and Jessie, both yellow Labs, and parrots Pedro (Yellow-Nape Amazon) and Lorali (African Grey) reside in Vancouver along with 4 chicken friends. Vonnie also is “the face of Spot” at many Portland-area pet-related events. Contact her at vonnie@spotmagazine.net.