Heaven's owners are currently trying to raise over $2,000 for a surgery to remove her infected mammary glands.
Some say it was destiny for Lysa Napolitano and her dog to meet. On the same day that her mother-in-law, Shirley Dunlop, died, she saw Heaven for the first time.
"I knew right then that she was special," she said.
Heaven, a pitbull terrier, was surrendered to the ARNI Foundation back in 2014 after Putnam Animal Control rescued her. According to a Facebook post by the animal shelter, she was "used as a backyard breeder until she couldn't anymore."
The dog came to the shelter with almost no hair and tested positive for Stage III Heartworms. Though her future was fragile, Heaven beat the odds.
Because of her abusive history, the volunteers at ARNI were particular about who adopted her, but Napolitano had dedicated time to the organization in the past and promised to provide a good home.
It took awhile for Heaven, who could be anywhere from 7 to 10 years old, to adjust to a happy domestic life. After her eight months with Napolitano and her husband, Steve Dunlop, she finally felt comfortable enough to play.
"She is more alive now," Napolitano said. "She had never even seen stairs before. The first time I tried to get her to walk down them, she looked at me like 'Mom, really?'"
Heaven's sweet and tender demeanor motivated Napolitano to make her a certified therapy dog. She currently makes weekly visits to Bishop's Glen Retirement Center in Daytona Beach, where Napolitano's mother-in-law used to live.
Though things have been looking up for Heaven since her adoption, her health is still an issue. She's had 10 cysts and three infected mammary glands removed and a recently discovered ruptured uterus. According to her owner, her insides were such a mess that the veterinarian had to send the dog's tissue in for more biopsies because they didn't know what it was.
"Every time they operated, they'd find something different," Napolitano said.
Heaven's mammary glands are so pronounced that people are constantly asking if she just had babies. Napolitano said the veterinarian wants to remove her whole chain of glands to prevent future infections and surgeries. She's currently trying to raise money to pay for the operation, which will cost over $2,000.
Sheldon Bell, owner of the breeding company Xtreme Champion Bully, said people who don't care about the dogs often overbreed them, which can cause a lot of issues down the road. Personally, Bell said he doesn't breed a dog more than three times.
"I hate to call them puppy mills, but it's stuff like that," he said. "They get the dog, and they breed it every six months, as soon as the dog goes into heat. A dog shouldn’t be bred that much."
Bell also said that people are after the pedigree and a specific type of dog bloodline that often isn't any better than mixed breeds or mutts. When it comes to the debate on whether or not purebreds are healthier than mutts, Bell is siding with the mutts.
"The more purebred the dog, the more unhealthy the dog is," he said. "It's the inbreeding; the gene pool."
But still, people are paying for it. Pitbull puppies on Bell's site are selling for anywhere between $1,200 to $1,800.
"A lot of people breed pitbulls for the money," Napolitano said. "And a lot of times it's for fighting. It's such a sad world because they're the best dogs. She's the best dog."