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Pit bull rescue marks birthday with 500 tennis balls in touching tradition

Ivy is one lucky dog, but life wasn't always easy.
Ivy the pit bull smiles while sitting in her pile of 500 tennis balls.
Ivy the pit bull smiles while sitting in her pile of 500 tennis balls.Justin Hall / @jhall_designs
/ Source: TODAY

Look at that smile!

Ivy, an 8-year-old pit bull rescue, could not have been happier when owner Justin Hall gave her 500 tennis balls for her birthday this week.

"The tennis ball tradition started on the first birthday she had after I adopted her. I bought a few packs of tennis balls and 'made it rain' for her and she absolutely freaked out," Hall, 32, told TODAY in an email.

Ivy the pit bull received 500 tennis balls for her birthday.
Ivy the pit bull rests next to owner Justin Hall.Justin Hall / @jhall_designs

"Every year since then I've been getting her progressively bigger boxes of tennis balls," he added, "and this year it culminated with a bulk shipment of 500 tennis balls off of eBay as well as her own little above-ground pool in the backyard."

Hall, a graphic designer based in Orlando, Florida, adopted Ivy four years ago following a dark chapter in her life. She came from a defunct breeder and survived in a household where she was locked in a room for a week with no food or water.

Now, though, she has found the owner to give her the love and attention she deserves.

Ivy the pit bull got 500 tennis balls for her birthday
Ivy smiles while sitting in her bike trailer before going on a ride with her owner.Justin Hall / @jhall_designs

"Ever since I adopted her she's been my little sidekick for anywhere I go," Hall said. "She loves the water; I take her kayaking and she has a blast every time. She also enjoys being pulled behind my bike in her little bike trailer."

Ivy and her adorable smile went viral on Reddit after her birthday surprise, but she's been a fan favorite on Hall's Instagram since she was adopted. "She is way more popular than I am," Hall said.

Pit bulls tend to get a bad rap, but Ivy is here to prove it's unwarranted. "Everything about her personality goes against the 'vicious pit bull' stereotype," Hall said.

"When we're walking, it's common for people to cross to the other side of the street, shield their children," he said. "But I love being able to expose as many people as possible to her so that they can see she is as gentle and friendly as they come."

And as for the sweet birthday tradition, Hall seems committed. He's aiming to get 1,000 tennis balls for Ivy's next birthday. We can't wait for the pics!