Nicole's boyfriend knew the best way to really hurt her was through her dog.
The woman had endured abuse for years at his hands. But it wasn't until Cuddles, a tiny Chihuahua mix, became a victim that she decided it was time to leave.
"He started hitting the dog. He would grab her when he wanted to get control of me," Nicole, who didn't want her real name used for this story, told The Dodo. "I didn't want my kid to see any more."
So she waited until her boyfriend left for work and quickly crammed clothes into a garbage bag. Nicole told her young daughter it was time to go. Time to leave school. Time to leave everything behind.
With the bag in one hand, and her dog tucked under her arm, Nicole led her daughter to the bus station. They boarded a Greyhound that took them hundreds of miles to a fresh start in a new city.
But when they reached St. Catharines, Ontario, more hard decisions awaited.
The shelter for battered woman would only accept the woman and her daughter. Not Cuddles, the dog who had been by their side for five years.
"I rescued her when she was a puppy," Nicole says. "She was thrown against the wall."