Lifestyle & Human Interest

Rescued Bulldog with Enlarged Heart Spends Last Months Alive Riding in Motorcycle Sidecar


When Steve Grad met a purebred bulldog named Meatball who had been surrendered to an animal shelter, everything about his life changed.

Meatball, age 5, is helping Grad advocate for animals in need of a home, spreading his message in style as he rides around in a motorcycle sidecar.

When Grad first found Meatball, the American bulldog had been placed in a Denver, Colorado, animal shelter.

“I found Meatball online through which the shelters in Colorado link to,” Grad told Liftable, a section of The Western Journal.

“I love the breed, but I didn’t want to support animal breeding and buy a puppy from a breeder.”

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“I knew he was my boy the second I saw him!” Grad told Liftable.

His joy in adopting Meatball was also met with a sorrow for the hundreds of other shelter animals who were still waiting for a home.

“There were almost 400 adoptable pets the day I went which kills me,” Grad said.

While many people are under the assumption that purebred dogs cannot be found in a shelter, Meatball is living proof that any dog can end up without a home.

“Meatball is purebred; no doubt someone paid a lot for him as a puppy,” Grad said. “But life happens. Relationships change, people get sick, financial matters, whatever it is, and the next thing you know that $1500 puppy is two and at the shelter.”

In Meatball’s case, it seems that he is more of a lover than a fighter, and that is why he ended up at a shelter.

“He’s a guard dog that got returned. That’s how he ended up back at the shelter, because he wasn’t very good at guarding,” Grad told WGNO. “I tell everyone he’s equal parts love and slobber.”

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Now, Meatball and Grad have a mission of encouraging people to adopt pets from local shelters.

Grad decided to buy a motorcycle from a friend who builds custom bikes in Denver. The duo soon became a trio, with the motorcycle playing a starring role in spreading Meatball’s message.

Their motorcycle travel is an eye-catching way for people to stop and take notice of the happy, slobbering pup.

“It wasn’t that much money; anyone can do this or something like it,” Grad told Liftable. “The message is to participate in life! Do something. Anything!”

Meatball also lives with dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease that Grad is trying to carefully manage in order to extend his pup’s life.

“DCM is dilated cardiomyopathy, and what that means is he has an enlarged heart that will keep enlarging, and eventually it will fail on him,” Grad told WGNO.

“He takes 5 pills every 12 hours. He’s on prescription dog food,” Grad said. “So far so good. It’s helping extend his quality of life.”

Meatball and Grad relocated to New Orleans, and now spend their time meeting fans, advocating for animal welfare and enjoying life.

Grad has noticed that people from all walks of life find joy in watching Meatball ride down the road in his very own sidecar, goggles on his face and happy drool flinging through the air.

Meatball has also changed Grad’s life for the better.

“Meatball is my everything. I’ve never known love like this,” Grad told Liftable. “He only has one mode; love. That’s all he does. To the point that it’s made me a better person.”

With Meatball by his side, Grad finds himself talking to strangers, inviting children to pet the dog and educating dog owners about DCM. They plan to start having a presence at local adoption events to share their heartwarming story and encourage adoption.

“I didn’t do things like that often enough before Meatball,” Grad said. “That’s the impact he’s had on me.”

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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Lifestyle & Human Interest