Nana, Los Angeles, CA
Hi! I’m Nana the Earless Pibble and this is my journey.
Looking at pictures of my big smile now, you would never be able to tell that the first nine years of my life were spent in misery. A mature girl, I was bred repeatedly (more than 15 litters) and when I could no longer reproduce, I was surrendered to a Los Angeles city shelter.
My condition was deplorable… My teeth were pulled out, my reproductive organs were destroyed and my ears horrendously cut off by my previous owners. My ears were horrible; they were most likely cut in an unsterile and inhumane procedure at home, which led to different types of infection. Since it was very likely that I was never seen by a vet, the infections ensued and led to the formation of scar tissue and calcification of my entire ear canals.
I was awaiting certain euthanasia in the back isolation area of the shelter in February 2013…when someone very special came into my life.
She saw my picture posted on the shelter’s social media site. She was immediately compelled to take action and offered to foster me, something she had never done or even thought of doing before. To this day, she cannot explain what sparked her to impulsively apply to foster me. What she does know, though, is that it was one of the best decisions she has ever made.
A few days after she filled out the foster application, I was in her car and on my way to safety. The very moment I got into my car, I immediately bonded myself to this human whom I would eventually call my Mama. I looked at her with my hopeful eyes as a way to say thank you and laid my big pibble head on her lap the entire way home.
As we drove home together on this freedom ride, a beautiful moment passed between us; a moment in which I finally felt safe. A moment which has since changed the rest of our lives.
Sadly though, my life full of abuse and fear became immediately evident and manifested in so many ways. During my nine years of life, I had never quite learned how to be a dog and was undoubtedly given every reason possible to fear humans. I would cower at just the sight or movement of any human that wasn’t my Mama, especially men.
I had no concept of potty training and would relieve myself at any given moment, anywhere in the house. I had no idea what to do with toys or bones, and would freeze in my tracks if someone tried to pet me, even in the gentlest manner. Mama has to admit that during that first week of having me home, she found myself wondering if she had gotten herself in too deep, and if she was actually able to give me what she needed.
Despite all of the years that I suffered from abuse and neglect, my hope and optimism became palpable within days. I was brave. My endearing soul, which had survived through nine horrible years, had an endless amount of love to give and was ready to flourish. Mama says it was this engaging, brave spirit of mine that reassured her that she made the right decision in fostering me.
I knew we belonged together. After three months of fostering, I was officially adopted by Mama and her family!
To look at everything we’ve experienced together over the past year is rather overwhelming. While the first few months were rocky, I have triumphed over more hurdles than any human Mama knows.
My road to recovery has been riddled with various health issues. On July 1, 2013, I received a devastating news: dermal hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive cancer with an average metastasis rate of 33%. With my Mama by my side, I’ve beat it and completed chemotherapy and related surgical procedures.
And I no longer have my “cauliflower ears,” which is a real relief!! I was constantly treated for chronic ear infections and the overuse of antibiotics and anti-microbrial drugs led to the development of multidrug-resistant bacterial infections — MRSA and Pseudomonas — which I battled tirelessly. Since they were essentially unmanageable, and because I was in constant pain, Mama decided to go through with a bilateral total ear canal ablation and bulla osteotomy. Two separate surgeries and two pounds of scar tissue and inflammation were removed from my ears. (Yuck!)
I recovered well and while I can no longer hear, I am finally pain-free! I’ve adapted rapidly to my new life and am working on learning sign language. 🙂
I triumphed over all these hurdles and more!
Mama says it is such a blessing to be able to watch me continually blossom and break out of my shell. I do have to pay tribute to Zyra, my fursister. Zyra is a rescued 3-year-old German Shepherd mix and she was a vital part of my rehabilitation. While we had to be separated for awhile and introduced slowly, she has taught me so many things — how to let loose at the dog park; that it was OK to start trusting new humans; how to chomp on bones; that it was better to go potty on the grass and not the carpet; how to “sit,” “down” and “shake.”
Most importantly, she taught me how to be a dog.
And I am now relentless at experiencing new things, even if those attempts are somewhat short-lived. 🙂 No longer do I cower or run away when a stranger approaches me; sometimes I even lets them scratch my ear nubs. I love leashes now and love to go for short walks; I even run around a little at the dog park.
I love the beach and even play with dogs while running through the sand. And then, momentarily, I remember that I’m supposed to be fearful and I suddenly revert. But I am so much stronger. I am thriving. And those periods of reversion are getting shorter and fewer with each passing day.
Meanwhile, for my Mama, this has been an incredible journey for her as well. I was the first “pit bull” she has ever had in her home. She never really known for that matter. Before she rescued me, she really was unconscious to the plight of pit bulls — the stereotypes, BSL, abuse, dog fighting, #1 breed euthanized… I really opened her eyes to the problems that pit bulls, and all abused and/or homeless dogs, currently face.
Throughout my rehabilitation, Mama was surprised and so delighted to learn just how resilient and strong I am. I was unlike any dog she had met, and as she later learned, I truly am the definition of a pit bull — goofy, so loving, cuddly, always smiling, full of kisses, and so forgiving.
Before she officially adopted me, she volunteered a lot with ROMP Rescue, the rescue that pulled me. They did tons of adoption events and she was responsible for making all of the dog flyers and social media stuff. That’s really where all of her advocacy started — with me. She made an Instagram account for me — @journeyofnana — and it somehow reached tens of thousands of people all over the world.
My Instagram connected us with so many amazing people, amazing dogs and amazing stories of rescue. This furthered Mama’s passion of advocating for pit bulls and we connected with a lot of great organizations, from Project Blue Collar to the One Million Pibble March. We didn’t know we would be taking part in the momentous event.
It started with Mama taking the photo of me wearing the Pibble March shirt and posting it on Instagram. She wrote a nice little note about the march and Rebecca to garner support for the cause. Before we knew, a couple thousand people started following Rebecca and her cause, and many immediately ordered the shirts to help with costs.
Rebecca reached out to Mama and said that not only was she touched by my story, but also by the soulful look in my eyes in that first picture of me wearing the t-shirt. My eyes were what prompted Rebecca to reach out to Mama and ask her to share my story. And then she asked if Mama wanted to be a speaker!! Obviously, she could not say no! 🙂
A little secret I’d like to share with you: Mama was actually incredibly nervous about being a speaker at the march. She had never given a speech in front of that many people!! I flew with her on the plane to Washington, D.C., and I did so well — the flight staff loved me and Mama couldn’t even count how many people stopped to take my picture or ask about my story.
DC was amazing. Mama was absolutely humbled at how many hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people came up to meet me and take a picture with us. Many people told her how I brighten their darkest days. Mama was so amazed. She thought, “Wow…if I can bring a smile to someone’s face by simply sharing Nana’s beauty, what more could I ask for?”
The day of the march was so special because Mama was super nervous in the moments leading up to the march. She practiced her speech in front of me more than 20 times — Mama says I was such a good sport. 🙂 But as soon as we walked out of the hotel to meet up with the marchers, her nerves dissipated. She thought her heart would be racing out of her chest due to nerves, but she really ended up not being that nervous as soon as we started marching.
When she got on stage, Mama felt even better! The energy of the crowd was unreal and she was able to relax because we all were there for the same reason; we shared the same passion and love and dedication. It was great! And Mama did great too, if I may say so myself! 🙂 I am so proud of her.
For me, life started at the age of nine. I am a senior pit bull who was once battered and beaten, but I retained my fighting spirit and have learned how to trust, love and have fun again. I have proven that it is never too late to be ridiculously happy.
p.s. Come join my journey — Journey of Nana on Instagram and Facebook — promoting positive pit bull awareness while spreading awareness about the pet overpopulation crisis. We can ALL make change happen.