When people have gone through a violent, traumatic experience, it can be difficult to believe that things will ever get better. Aside from the physical scars, it can be hard for the victim to believe their emotional scars will also heal.

This can be just as true for dogs as it is for humans. Worse yet, it can be hard for pets who have such painful pasts to be adopted; more often than not, they may be struggling with emotional problems or physical deformities.

Calista the pit bull was in such bad shape that it was apparent that she was involved in a dog fighting ring, most likely as a “bait dog.” Yet when you see her now, you’ll be amazed at her transformation…

In 2013, a Phoenix, Arizona police officer couldn’t believe that the injured female pit bull that he found on the street was still alive. “She was emaciated and covered in ticks,” said a woman named Jeannette, who would later adopt the dog, in an interview. “She was so dirty, he thought that she was brown, and she was so swollen and scarred, he thought that she was also blind.”

Worse yet: it appeared that her ears were bitten off, which may have been a sign that the pit bull was a bait dog in a dog fighting operation. “She had multiple bite wounds to her ear,” said Jeannette. “One of her ear flaps was completely severed; the other one was rotten and decayed and not preservable.”

The police officer managed to take the pit bull to a nearby shelter after catching her. Mayday Pit Bull Rescue couldn’t help her themselves, but they got in touch with Jeannette and her husband in the hopes that they would foster her. Unfortunately, she was in rough shape. Would she survive her injuries?

“For some reason, we just agreed, and so my husband went and picked her up from the shelter, and immediately took her to the ER vet,” said Jeannette.

“The team of veterinarians had their doubts that the dog would survive, but they did everything that they could. She ended up having multiple tick-borne diseases, and she was anemic,” said Jeannette. “The people at the rescue said she was the worst they’d ever seen. I mean, she literally smelled like death—it was horrible.”

“You could tell that she was terrified, but there was this hope in her eyes, even though she had every reason in the world to be angry,” Jeannette continued. “We were furious and so upset that someone could have done this to her, and yet she was so forgiving.” Despite the fact that she would have to stay at the vet for a longer period of time, Jeannette and her husband thought it was the right time to name her: Calista.

“When you rescue a dog, you always want to give them a name, especially if they’re going to stay that night, so if they die, they die with a name,” said Jeannette. “We named her Calista, which means ‘most beautiful.’”

Calista survived her first night, surprising everyone, and then, as days passed, she continued to hang on. Each day, Jeannette and her husband would come to visit her to see her progress.

“We really wanted to form that bond with her, and let her know that there was consistency in her life,” said Jeannette. “People from the rescue also came and visited her, so she just had a lot of interaction with people.

”It took a number of reconstructive surgeries, as well as intensive treatment, but Calista’s condition finally started to improve. She went home with Jeannette and her husband after a week. Since they already had a dog named Zazu, they weren’t ready to go any further than fostering Calista. Yet, only one month later, they changed their minds once Calista officially was available for adoption. They just couldn’t part with her!

“Everyone else joked and said they knew she was staying, but we said, ‘No, no, she’s just a foster,’” Jeannette said. “And then as soon as she was available for adoption, I said ‘No, she’s not going anywhere.’”

“Now I can’t imagine her being anywhere but with us,” she added. “I think we needed to emotionally accept that we were ready to bring her in.

”Zazu fell in love with his new sister as well. “He was very helpful to her by teaching her how to be a dog,” Jeannette said. “She didn’t know how to play, and she was afraid of everything, and seeing him do things was very helpful to her.”

Calista still had some health problems, including mast cell cancer, which she was being treated for. Still, she was one happy dog. “She loves life,” said Jeannette. “She loves food. She loves people. She loves other animals. She’s just an amazing, amazing soul. Sometimes fear crops up from her experiences, but she’s pretty much overcome all of that.”

“She’s known for her tail drumming,” Jeannette continued. “She’s always wagging her tail, and we have wooden floors, so it sounds like she’s drumming. She is literally the happiest dog I have ever known.

”You can learn more about Calista on Instagram and on her Facebook page. It’s remarkable to see the kind of progress that she’s made and continues to make. It’s truly a testament to how special her new family is!

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