A woman heard a dog crying. She went toward the noise and ended up at a Camden garbage dump. There she found a pit bull with skin deeply torn from her legs and head. The dog was trying, but failing, to get up.

The woman called animal control and the pit bull was sent to a shelter, where the dog would not receive medical care and was scheduled to be euthanized after her weeklong hold ended.

This dog, who was scheduled to die in 2015, would be rescued and later become the ASPCA 2019 Dog of the Year.

But first, someone needed to save her.

Kathy McGuire, president of NJ Aid for Animals, happened to be looking for a dog at the same shelter where the injured pit bull had been taken. The dog, she said, “was obviously in pain" and seemed to have been used as a “bait dog” in dogfighting. She put the pup in the backseat of her car and drove to Mount Laurel Animal Hospital.

When the vet examined the pit bull, she didn’t growl or lunge. One of the kennel attendants, McGuire said last month in a YouTube video, remarked that “she’s a real sweet pea. She said ‘Oh, that’ll be her name.’"

Sweet Pea needed a lot of help. She needed surgery and many visits to the vet, and NJ Aid for Animals didn’t have the funds. So the group posted pictures of Sweet Pea to social media and support flowed in. They got more money than needed and started a fund for abused and abandoned animals in Sweet Pea’s name. The fund has covered $65,000 in medical expenses for these animals since 2016, according to NJ Aid for Animals.

Last year, Sweet Pea became New Jersey’s official face of dogfighting awareness. NJ Aid for Animals posted billboards around Philadelphia and the Camden area showing Sweet Pea by cherry blossom trees, tongue hanging and wearing strings of pearls.

“She certainly looked the antithesis of what you would think a dogfighting dog would look like," McGuire said in the video.

Assemblyman James Kennedy said, “I gladly voted in favor of making Sweet the Official Face of Dog Fighting Awareness for...

Posted by New Jersey Assembly Democrats on Monday, April 8, 2019

The ASPCA said it chose Sweet Pea this year for her fund-raising efforts, kind demeanor, and improbable survival story.

“Despite her brutal past, Sweet Pea maintains a friendly and playful disposition that has surprised local police, animal welfare professionals, the community, and even local leaders,” the ASPCA wrote. “For bringing attention to the persistent crime and brutality of dogfighting, busting breed stereotypes, and inspiring donations for animals in need, Sweet Pea is the 2019 Dog of the Year.”