- Associated Press - Saturday, November 14, 2015

MARLTON, N.J. (AP) - Pup Francis’ doggie diaper slid down his hindquarters as the 11-week-old mix used his front legs to pull his 16-pound body across Kim Mangione’s living room floor.

The pup - a Rottweiler, German shepherd, Staffordshire terrier, chow chow mix - was set to be euthanized in September. His litter mates were rescued from the Philadelphia shelter where they were surrendered. But the then-nameless pup was left behind. His back legs were shriveled and lifeless, his tail unable to wag.

“If there was any hope, we want to give it to him,” Mangione, founder of Marlton-based New Life Animal Rescue, told the Courier-Post.

“He was just a little baby.”

Pup Francis - rescued by Mangione during Pope Francis’ Philadelphia visit this fall - wasn’t expected to move the back half of his body. At least two veterinarians advised Mangione to consider putting him down.

Friday - just two months after she brought him home - Francis wagged his tail when Courier-Post reporters visited her home-based foster care for senior and special needs animals.

Francis used his back legs to scratch and to help push his body onto the dog bed next to 6-month-old Corgi mix Shelby, rescued from North Carolina.

The pair - plus senior pit bull Missy, who was deemed a hero three years ago - are among 400 animals spared by New Life Animal Rescue since Mangione started plucking the underdogs from Philadelphia and South Jersey shelters four years ago.

She grabbed Missy, then 8, from a shelter more than three years ago. The dog - a senior - was surrendered and set to be killed because of her age. While the brown-eyed pit bull doesn’t play well with other dogs, Missy is loyal to humans. She barked for help for hours when her elderly owner fell and broke a hip. Missy was surrendered by the fall victim’s family. Mangione is trying to find her a home.

“The underdogs end up teaching you a lot,” said Mangione, who’s built a network of foster families.

She learned that lesson when she adopted her daughter Emmie, 16, from Korea. Emmie - one of five children in the Mangione household - is “medically fragile,” her mother said.

“She taught me more than anyone,” Mangione said.

Every one of the Mangiones - Emmie, and her siblings Christian, Elena, Erica and Kira - play a part in caring for the animals.

Emmie is on cuddling duty. Erica, 22, helps with “everything,” she said.

The girls tend to be inspired by the success stories, Mangione said.

“We get emotional a lot,” Mangione said.

“There’s always another one that needs us. If we keep them all, we can’t foster more.”

Transformations from sick, often neglected and sometimes abused animals to loving, playful and highly adoptable pets tug at the volunteers’ heartstrings, according to Sue Zabel, a volunteer who fostered Francis days after he was nabbed from the shelter.

?”We bring them to the rescue. Just showing them love, they flourish,” she said.

Some animals - like Francis - need around-the-clock care and equipment. He uses a small harness to run in the yard and goes to pet physical therapy.

Funding the group is tough, Zabel said.

“It’s a challenge. We’re not going to cut corners,” she said, explaining the volunteers must have faith the animals will turn around in time.

Francis has “had the will from Day 1,” she said.

Mangione dreams of opening a rehab facility where Francis can take physical therapy and Philadelphia shelter dogs can recover from kennel cough in quarantine. Until they get the funds, it’s a dream.

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Information from: Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, N.J.), http://www.courierpostonline.com/

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