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Her body curved into a "C" whenever I looked at her. She avoided making eye contact with me.

Nancy was a two-year-old Pit Bull/Queensland Heeler mix I found in Kennel 5 at the San Diego County Department of Animal Services in Carlsbad in August. She had been there for only two days, but I already knew she had little chance of finding a home. As shelter staff put it she didn't "show well."

According to the department's records, Nancy was an escape artist who was found in a neighbor's garage, shaking a cat. After arriving at the shelter, a staff member called the owner to let him know where to pick her up.

The bastard said he didn't want her. He had used her up and tossed her away like a fast-food cup. I suspected that he had beaten her by the way she hunkered in the back of the kennel, too fearful to come out.

But despite having lived life as a backyard dog (I could tell by the gunk in her ears and the dirt that caused her white markings to turn gray) her spirit had been entirely broken. She peered at me with a puppy's curiosity a testament that her spirit wasn't entirely broken.

That's when I had made my move. I snagged her neck with a loop leash and hurried outside before she had time to think about fighting or biting me.

Most dogs bounce and scamper once they are released in a run, but Nancy didn't trusthumn beings and shied away from me. She curled into a ball and her back leg began to shake.

It took some coaxing, but after a half hour, I saw her blossom. She was easy to train to sit and lie down, and didn't cringe when I gave her a dreaded bath in the grooming room.

I used six Q-tips to clean her ears while fighting the urge to beat her former owner with a baseball bat with every flick. I was impressed by her stoic behavior because new experience for her--she didn't lash out or growl.

"I found a great dog at the shelter," I said when I had a talk with my husband that night. "Her owner was beating the crap out of her, but she is still the sweetest dog in the world. I think she deserves a chance."

As usual when we have these talks (we've been having them for ten years), he said, "We can't afford another dog" (we had three already). "We have to start saving for retirement."

"This will be the last time, I promise."

"That's what you said three dogs ago." he said, then went to get his car keys. He knows when he's fighting a losing battle.

On the way, I told him that the only time I'm truly happy is when I'm bringing an abused dog to life.

At first, Nancy wasn't any great bargain to have in our home. She pottied on my carpet about five times a day and even had the gall to pee in my designer purse and chew a sandal by Vera Wang. But the first time she hopped up into the bed, plopped down next to me and fell asleep with her head tucked under my chin, I knew there was no mere object that could substitute for the love I was feeling in that moment.

I had worried about bringing her home to my other dogs, because of the fighting scars on her face. But she was submissive around other dogs at the shelter and this lead me to believe the other dogs had been initiating the fights and I soon found out why.

She had a bad habit of dipping into the other dogs' food which wasn't an act well received. She isn't allowed to go near another dog's bowl and doesn't have as much need now that she's adequately fed. She's gained about ten pounds and is at a normal weight.

After about three days of living in our home, Nancy's eyes were starting to glow. I love watching her run at the dog park because she has a smile and gallops along as if she's enjoying every bit of freedom she has.

Scientists who have concluded that dogs don't have emotions, haven't spent enough time around dogs. I see the same change take place in abused dogs that I've seen in my friend's foster kids. Every living being responds to good care.

Now that we have four dogs (Yes, my husband and I had yet another one of those talks and have given up hope of ever getting to retire), Nancy is the easiest to manage. She is sweet, loving and has never even tried to escape--even when she was able to fit under the space beneath our wrought-iron porch railing. After the life she lived as a puppy, she knows a good deal when she sees it and we love having her in our family.

*Note to Editor--Would have loved to post before and after pics here, but they came out too big. This isn't always the case, so ?????????????????????????????????

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