THERE'S NOT MUCH of an upside to having your eyeball surgically removed.

On the other hand, if you're a scrappy pit bull wandering the mean streets of Camden, losing an eyeball just might be your ticket to easy street.

"People have a special place in their heart for a one-eyed dog," said Dr. Joseph Filigno, a veterinarian at the Blackwood Animal Hospital in Gloucester Township, Camden County.

Pop, the pit bull in question, hasn't held a special place in anyone's heart for quite some time - certainly not in the heart of the driver who hit him, nor in the hearts of the owners, who authorities say ultimately left him for dead.

Ute Thompson, an animal-control officer in Camden, said Pop was a victim of a hit-and-run accident Dec. 9 in South Camden. When animal-control officers arrived, Pop's owners allowed them to take him to the Blackwood Animal Hospital for treatment.

Pop was in bad shape - one eye had popped out of its socket, Filigno said, and he also had a pelvic fracture.

"He was a little grouchy," Filig-no said.

Both injuries were treatable, Filigno said, but Pop's owners decided to sign the dog out Dec. 12 against the office's recommendation, to have him treated somewhere cheaper.

But Pop - that was his name even before the accident - didn't see another vet.

"They just dumped [him]," Filigno said.

On Dec. 18, a Conrail employee called animal-control to report Pop wandering on railroad tracks in Camden, his eye bandage still intact.

"He had obviously not received any treatment," Thompson said. "He was thinner, and his hips were protruding."

Thompson and Iraida Ifanador, Camden's code-enforcement director, said the city was investigating the case.

Sometime today, veterinarians at the Blackwood Animal Hospital will remove Pop's protruding eyeball for free.

"It's a pretty simple procedure," Filigno said. "You just sew the eye shut afterward, and it heals nicely."

After he heals, Pop will take a short trip to the Camden County Animal Shelter, just down the road, where he'll be put up for adoption.

Ifanador thinks Pop's underdog status should help him find a loving home quickly.

"Two legs, three legs - people love animals that have something wrong with them," she said. "I think with some prayers and a good home, he'll be fine."

Ifanador said the city picks up dozens of stray and abandoned animals each week. Part of the problem, she said, is owners who keep pets that they can't afford to support.

"They don't understand often that we're here to help them," she said.

On Friday afternoon, at Pop's former owner's South Camden rowhouse, someone peeked out from behind mini-blinds but no one answered a caller at the door.

For more information about Pop or about other animals with special needs, call the Blackwood Animal Hospital at 856-227-8503, or visit the Camden County Animal Shelter's Web site at http://ccasnj.org.