Nana the pit bull’s nipples and belly hang low. They’re noticeable enough that people will often ask Nana’s person, Stephanie Doris, if she’s got puppies for sale.
She doesn’t, it’s just that Nana’s body looks this way now. Nana had what vets guess is 15 or so litters of puppies, before she was dropped off at a Los Angeles city animal shelter a little over two years ago.
She was about 8 years old and in rough shape, beyond all the breeding. Her teeth were gone — likely pulled out by her previous owners, or maybe self-inflicted, from being confined to a cage.
Nana’s ears are gone, too. The vets think they were cut off by amateurs who botched the job, then didn’t treat the resulting infections for years. They were full of fungus and polyps at the time of her adoption, and Nana had to have her ear canals removed shortly after.
Nana’s deaf now. She’s also finally safe.
“Even though I will never understand why or how they could treat a dog like that, especially a dog as sweet, as innocent and as gentle as Nana, I am thankful they surrendered her. Otherwise, she would not be with me now,” says Doris. “She has forgiven humans and, in a sense, I have forgiven, too.”
Back in February 2013, when Nana was given up to the shelter, Doris hadn’t been in the market for a new dog. She wasn’t yet a pit bull person, even.
But she stumbled on Nana’s photo, and a plea by shelter staff for someone to give the dog a temporary home. And that was sort of just that.
“To this day, I cannot explain what sparked me to impulsively apply to foster her. What I do know, though, is that it was one of the best decisions I have made,” Doris says.
The temporary home became permanent about six months after Nana first came home.
From that cruel start to life, Nana has gone on to something approaching the ideal doggie existence, with toys, and snacks, and love.
Until recently, Nana and Doris lived in Southern California, where they made regular visits to the beach.
Now they live in Nevada, where Doris is in medical school, and Nana spends most of the day on the couch, or moving from one dog bed to the next, until Doris gets home from school and can give her some snuggles.
“She loves life. She loves sleeping and cuddling,” says Doris. “She loves having her ear nubs rubbed and will totally melt when I do so.”
The two also find time to spread awareness of just how great pit bulls are. How these dogs can be abused by humans, tossed away like trash and come out of it like this — like Nana — if they’re given the chance.
Doris keeps popular Instagram and Facebook pages for Nana, where she shows off little miss adorable to full effect. Nana (and Doris) helped out with a massive online fundraiser for shelter pets, put on by the group I Am Not A Monster.
Doris and Nana also presented at 2014’s Pibble March on Washington — “pibble” being an affectionate term for pits — organized by the actor Rebecca Corry, whose path to pit bull advocacy was inspired by her own formerly abused dog, named Angel.
“Stephanie shares my passion for pit bull type dogs,” says Corry. “Through Nana, she, too, has shown many how special and important these perfect souls are, and how fulfilling and inspiring rescuing the victims of abuse and discrimination can be.”
“It was so special to be able to share that day, and the days surrounding the march, with so many likeminded, passionate people,” says Doris.
In the end, Doris hopes that all these efforts, showing Nana being Nana — the goofy, sweet survivor that she is — will inspire folks to adopt older dogs of their own. To give pit bulls, especially, that second chance at life.
Because look how good that life can be.
“There are so many Nanas out there, just waiting to be loved and to give love,” says Doris.
More in the here and now, Doris is just working her tail off to get through the first year of medical school.
Believe it or not, Doris says Nana’s helpful there, too, “the best study buddy.”
“I bet she’s glad she can’t hear because I continually lecture her on different subjects to help myself learn,” she says. “She acts like she cares but really, she’s thinking about her next snack.”
And, really, that seems more than fair. Hasn’t Nana suffered enough?