Lifestyle & Human Interest

'Demon Dog' Finally Adopted After Being Returned Three Times, New Owner Discovers His Amazing Talent


Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.

Many rescue dogs wait patiently for a suitable family to find them. There are plenty of good pups out there with tragic backstories who just need a little love — and then there’s Ralphie, affectionately labeled the “fire-breathing demon dog.”

You may have seen part of Ralphie’s story before, as he went viral earlier this year for being an adorable menace who has proven time and again that he is not a dog for the faint of heart.

He’s a French bulldog, and since he’s small and squishy and cute, lots of people have been drawn to him — but he’s bested them all.

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According to the Niagara SPCA in New York, where Ralphie worked his way into infamy, the little guy was returned three times.

He was too much for his first owner, who had him taken to a board and train program that didn’t really help, according to NPR. His second adopter said he antagonized the family’s older dog. His third adopter had him only two weeks before tapping out, citing Ralphie’s unruly behavior.

So he was back at the shelter, where staff continued to try to work on his manners. There was no shortage of interested potential owners, but after three tries, the shelter was looking for a very specific kind of person.

And that person turned out to be an experienced dog trainer named Jason in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The trainer said he first learned of Ralphie when the pup went viral in January. He immediately noticed the similarities between Ralphie and his own French bulldog, Cookie, who also has a bite record and a healthy dash of snark.

“I sat down and wrote out a resume of everything I’ve done work-wise with dogs and also my own dogs,” Jason told People.

“I got a call three or four weeks after I sent the email from his trainer in Buffalo, and the trainer says, ‘I think you are our guy if you’re still interested.’ And I said, ‘Yes, I’m definitely still interested.'”

The shelter shared the news on its Facebook page.

“Well, it’s time to reveal Ralphie’s next adventure,” the Niagara SPCA posted on March 24. “After reviewing 700+ emails, speaking with several dozen potential adopters and sending applicants on to Ralphie’s trainer to review, we found who we believe is Ralphie’s perfect adopter.

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“His adopter’s circumstances differ from our original requirements. Some of that has to do with learning more about Ralphie through training- mainly getting him over his reactivity around other dogs. The rest- well, that has to do with Jason being a unicorn adopter.”

Jason has trained dogs in a variety of high-level areas, including detection and tracking and obedience, and his own dogs are a motley mix of retired, high-energy dogs and former problem pups.

He’s no stranger to dogs with drive or a bite history and keeps his dogs active in a variety of dog sports.

“We wish our tiny, reformed terror all the best and we look forward to hearing about all of his adventures,” the shelter’s post continued. “Will agility be his jam, or maybe he’ll beat his new sibling, Cookie’s 5k time of 36:06??? Whatever his next adventure is, we know he’s set up for a successful future!”

Jason has started social media accounts for the little rascal, allowing the thousands of fans he has accumulated over his tumultuous time at the shelter to watch him live his best life from a safe distance.

“He trusts me now,” Ralphie’s owner said. “There’s a lot of trust. I gave him a bath the other day. I clean his eyes every day now. So I can move him, I can squeeze him, I can roughhouse with him. He’s completely normal with me now. A lot of it is just giving him time and understanding that his biting behavior was a remnant from his past.”

Jason also has discovered that despite Ralphie’s small stature, the feisty dog has some serious athletic skills, especially in trick training and agility — and given his profession, Jason knows what serious talent looks like.

“He’s like Seabiscuit, but he’s the shape of a pig,” he said. “I think he’s going to win some competitions in a couple of years. He is one of the most talented dogs I’ve seen.

“I think we’re going to hear a lot more from Ralphie. He’s going to do some amazing things.”

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