Back in 1999, Jonathan Kitto and his partner, Alonso Saldivar, were running a commercial cleaning company and were growing weary of the grind.
“I came home one day and said, ‘I need a dog,’ ” says Kitto, 58, who is also an Anglican priest.
The next day they went to a local pet supply store, which was having a greyhound meet and greet.
“Alonso was a little scared of dogs,” he says. “But a few minutes later I looked over and a big greyhound was sitting in his lap.”
Her name was Gigi. They adopted her and took her home.
“She was a wreck,” he says. “She was scared of everything.”
They called the rescue group for advice about Gigi’s behavior.
“They said, ‘You need to get another one,’ ” he recalls.
Mister Buck, who was up on the table about to be put down, soon joined their family. Three more dogs followed. Inspired, Kitto formed Gbark, rescuing 1,100 retired greyhounds who were bred to be racers, some of whom were abused or neglected.
“We have some very unusual cases,” says Kitto, who now lives in Bloomfield, Ind. “From one dog that was kept locked in a closet for two years to another who has a joint disease that leaves him barely able to walk.”
But he always found them homes.
“I have never met anyone like him,” says Kathy Murray, 47, who adopted Moose through his rescue. “Everything he does is for the dogs. He has a huge heart.”
Kitto eventually shifted the focus of the rescue to being a “last stop” for unadoptable dogs. He’s kept 60 greyhounds and mixed breed rescues who were about to be put down over the years.
“Some were elderly or sick or had a leg amputated,” he says. “In some cases they’d bitten somebody. When we get them, that’s their last stop. They stay with us forever.”
To keep costs down, Kitto began making his own dog food, which led to him starting Mr. Buck’s Genuinely Good Pet Food Company, named in honor of his now deceased dog pal, Mr. Buck. Proceeds from the sale of the food go to support Kitto’s rescue efforts and other rescue organizations.
Nicole Graves, foster coordinator for American Greyhound in Hobart, Ind., met Kitto a year ago and has since sent three unadoptable greyhounds his way.
“Gbark is a great home for dogs that need a special home,” she says. “Jon has just dedicated his life to caring for these dogs. I would be lost without him.”
But Kitto says he is the lucky one.
“It’s a huge selfish pursuit,” he says. “I’m sure some people don’t quite get that but these dogs, starting with the first ones, were life changing.”
More Heroes Among Us:
Know a hero? Send suggestions to email@example.com. For more inspiring stories, read the latest issue of PEOPLE magazine