Sweet Thea

February 2022.

“Gift of God” were the words that sold it for me. Thea.

My gift of an angel, in dog form is heading into surgery today to have a tumor in her mouth removed. All the prep, vet visits and conversations, guide my memories back in time to our first weeks together. When this lifestyle was forced into our routine without an invitation. RSVP’ed to our lives, assuming the invite was lost in the mail or returned to sender. Thea and I have quite the unique story together, where times such as these tug at me to tell it…

I needed a gift from God. Then, more than ever. Following the days, weeks and months of graduating college, moving across the country 5 days later, embracing one of the most grueling teaching programs, my grandma passing, becoming grossly ill and starting my first teaching job, I would have settled for the gift of a hug and called it a day. But, on this stormy, muggy, Nashville afternoon, a gift of God was more than I could ask for or predicting on the horizon. Listening to the pitter patter of rain plop on the roof of my new house that was not yet a home, I began to itch at impatience researching the internet for names that would perfectly encompass who my new fur faced friend would be. I hadn’t met my new best friend yet, but wanted a name that would represent all I could want in the season I was currently living. My warm chin rested on my much -too- boney knee, barricading myself onto my chair, with my old sorority sweatshirt swallowing me whole, as I scrolled, and scrolled, praying the name and meaning would jump off the screen anytime now. Moments before I called it quits and shut my laptop, I saw the words “gift of God” appear across my screen. “Wow, God, you could’t be anymore direct with that one dude. Gee, thanks!” The name “Thea” was the home to this beautiful meaning. I did a bit more research on the name just to fact check, and considering all the sources, both the Greek and Latin meaning boiled down to the essence encompassed in the the phrase “Gift of God”. That’s exactly what Sweet Thea has been to my life since the day I brought her home in August of 2017.

I find it laughable and humorously frustrating that my “gift of God” just so happens to be a Pitbull. The breed that is the most bullied, feared, shamed and condemned by society. My gift is the world’s liability issue, and the best five dollars I’ve ever spent (YEAH CALIFORNIA, I’M LOOKIN AT YOU AND YOUR BREED RESTRICTIONS). So everyday I tell her “you’re my best girl, my best gift” because the world tells her the opposite. Thea has quite the story that continues to be lived out even after 4 and a half years of calling her mine. She stood out to me at the rescue shelter because she was the only dog in 3 rooms full of animals who was not barking. She was pretty beat up: Scars on her chin, evidence of a fresh liter of puppies, and extremely malnourished weighing at skeletal 46 pounds for a Pitbull, and her collar drooping off her neck. She looked like anything but a “gift”, which is why I knew she was the one for me. I looked at her and thought “there’s my girl.” Sweet Thea. I would learn very quickly that Thea was more than just a gift, she was a breathing miracle.

August 2017. The day I brought her home.

A week marking her first few days as mine, I came home from work to the image and of my floor saturated in blood. Tiny drops, and then puddles everywhere. Since I am a truth teller, I will not lie and say I totally remained calm, level headed, and peacefully escorted my pup into the car. No. I straight up panicked, yelled and screamed. The sight of the never ending blood, sent me into tears, as I haphazardly scooped her up and raced the rain to the first vet’s office I could find on Google Maps. This was were we found our beloved vets in Nashville, who fell in love with her just as I did, mess and all. While I felt taken care of there, we were transferred to a nearby animal hospital where they performed overnight emergency surgery on her. Through my blurred vision, I starred at the sterile floor, covered in blood mixed with my salt filled tears, and burst into the battle cry of “Why would you give me a gift just to take it away from me?! Why would you let me fall in love with this dog to take her away and destine me with loneliness!?” Hope was for suckers I thought. And so is love.

Battle shots seized the next morning to the sound of a 6:00 AM phone call with the news that it was touch and go (literally), but Thea was now stable. Drugged up, weak and in pain, but alive. Alive was all I needed. I could work with alive. Our new normal wasn’t normal for awhile. Thea couldn’t walk up our stairs, be without her cone, and required more medication than a drugstore could hold. We spent a plethora of sleepless, air mattress nights downstairs together, hand fed meals, and spent much of her time being carried in my arms. I thought the worst was over, but I turned my back unprepared for the sneak attack.

That Wednesday, I was on my way home to the same scene; Blood everywhere. My roommate called me with the reality, and I didn’t even get inside before Thea was in my car and we were on our way back to the ER.  That wasn’t enough this time. Thea’s loss of blood volume was excessive, and she had an alarming low red blood cell and platelet count. For the second time in two weeks, I watched her wince as she was whisked away in panic, leaving my scenery to reverberation of swinging doors, unaware of if I’d ever see her again.  

I very impatiently waited for the phone call that came at 1:00 PM the following day. Where the voice at the other end sucker punched me to my knees in a wail. “We’re so sorry ma’am, but Thea’s blood cell count has dropped to a considerably low level: 10%”. Thea had extreme vaginal bleeding following a spay procedure before I took her home from the rescue shelter, in addition to abdominal damage after exploration. Due to how she was treated before I adopted her, she was aggressively used as a breeding dog, and therefore, unfortunately resulting in a “prominent uterus” where tissues are much more friable. Considering all of this, and the damage, when Thea went in for her routine spay surgery, her uterine vessels slipped out of the ligature, causing the bleeding. Since Thea already went in for surgery a week prior to stop the bleeding from what was left of her uterus, the prognosis wasn’t looking or sounding promising. By the end of the phone call, I was left with the 24 hour ultimatum to find faith in the depths of my pockets to search for thousands of more dollars that my new teachers salary didn’t provide, or put her down. The words almost swallowed me whole.

The next day, I drove to the ER that Thea had now resided in for 3 days, with complete emptiness in my head and heart about my decision. The truest of truths was I had no idea what words were going to exit my mouth as a group of professionals stared at me and probed about my choice. I was fifteen minutes out when I received a call. I answered half expecting for the news that Thea didn’t make it through the night. But that day, hope wasn’t for suckers, hope was for me. “We’re not sure how to tell you this, or the explanation behind it, but a medical management procedure that is usually used to buy time, has worked for Thea on a more permanent level.” I’m fairly certain I stopped breathing as she continued: “This morning, a recheck focal ultrasound showed resolution of the blood within her vaginal vault, and her PCV showed that her red blood cell count is starting to regenerate (now up to 24%). Since Thea is no longer actively bleeding, we don’t have any reason to keep her. Please come take your girl home.” For the first time since moving to Nashville, I cried happy tears. An unexplainable miracle came knocking, and I couldn’t invite it in fast enough. I drove to the animal hospital the rest of the way as if I was a person who could afford a speeding ticket.

I made the most tear soaked promise to my gift of God that day. That she would always be my best girl, and it was her and I against the world. That God knew she needed me just as much as I needed her, and that we belonged to each other. The movie trailer version is, Thea has comforted me in one of the most heart wrenching shattering seasons of my life, has helped make 3 houses a home, drove cross country with me for a move and was the most well behaved of us all, sleeps and cuddles in my bed every night, licks my tears away, is too smart for her own good, takes her fetch game seriously, shares the same smile as me, now needs to lose weight and not gain it, loves to play in the snow and hates the water (baths are fun), will do anything for a belly rub, has been loved beyond measure by my favorite people, and has never dropped blood since.

Thea is my gift of God. She’s my best friend and my living miracle.  The only constant in my young adult life that is ever changing and never stable. The one who I can come home to for endless tail wags when the world steps all over me like a door mat. My choosen cuddler to lay on the floor with and lick away my life’s problems.   The one who stays when sometimes my life feels like a revolving door of friendships. Today, as she heads in for surgery I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a nervous wreck, but I smirk and feel like the two of us have the world’s best kept secret: That life is for us, and hope isn’t for suckers.  

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