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The Will To Survive

The Will To Survive
  • Sophia Sanchez

“Have you ever wanted to save someone from their own darkness so badly, you are willing to set yourself on fire just to light the way?” - Unknown

Life has an interesting way of bringing souls together.  Sometimes all it takes is a chance encounter to know you’ve met your soulmate.  And sometimes, the journey to happiness is longer. You’ll see each other every now and again; never quite getting the timing right.  Until one day, the stars align and your happily ever after is exactly as you imagined it would be. Maybe it’s fate. Maybe it’s never giving up hope.  Either way, your connection is inevitable… it was always meant to be.

Tilly learned the hard way just how rare it is to find a soulmate.  Her entire life, she put her trust in all the wrong people. An innocent soul, how could she have ever known they’d lead her astray?  A pit bull mix, there had been rumblings that Tilly had been used as a bait dog before finding her way to a shelter in Arkansas. A troubled girl who’d lost her trust in humanity, she feared everyone.  And because of her rightful reactivity, she was given the name “Trouble.” A fierce and despairing reminder of the torture she didn’t wish on even the people whom had inflicted so much of her pain.

In 2015, Last Hope Animal Rescue in Iowa came to her rescue.  They not only saved her life, but gave her hope for a better future.  It is there where she’d meet her forever human, Stephanie.


It was in 2015 when Stephanie found Tilly’s photo on the Last Hope website.  She immediately fell in love. Stephanie was determined to meet Tilly in person and began attending adoption events any time she could just to get a few minutes with the girl who’d stolen her heart.  Not being in a position to give Tilly the forever home she deserved, Stephanie began volunteering at the rescue just to stay close. Stephanie would become one of the only humans Tilly would ever trust.

Because of her past, Tilly had some behavioral issues.  She didn’t trust men, found children stressful and had difficulty understanding the difference between safe and rough play - often biting the hands of her handlers and volunteers.  She was going to be difficult to place in a home. A year later however, Tilly made her way into a foster home. Stephanie was happy Tilly was going into an environment where she’d hopefully thrive.  Nevertheless, she felt conflicted because it meant she’d no longer see her favorite girl regularly. It was in this home that Tilly would reside until September of 2018.

Stephanie stopped volunteering at Last Hope Animal Rescue because it was too hard to be there without Tilly.  For three years, she’d see Tilly only in brief moments and short visits wishing and praying there was some way she could give her the home she deserved.  The last time she’d see Tilly in the flesh would be March of 2018.

Several months later, Stephanie stumbled upon a Facebook post from Last Hope where they described the torture Tilly had endured yet again at the hands of her foster dad.  In an intoxicated state, he beat Tilly almost to her death.  How many more times would Tilly be let down by the only people she’d ever trusted?

It took Tilly nearly a full year to recover from her physical injuries.  The emotional burden has yet to lift. It was now 2019; four years after Tilly had first made her way to Iowa and Stephanie had given up hope that Tilly would ever be hers.  Her new foster home, the ones who’d nursed her back to health, had intentions of adopting. They eventually withdrew their offer because of Tilly’s aggression towards children.  The stars finally aligned for Stephanie and Tilly; as if the universe decided Tilly had suffered enough. On October 19, 2019 Tilly was finally home for good.

This union was a long time coming.  Four years in the making to be exact.  There were so many moments where Stephanie saw glimmers of what their lives would be like, only to be stripped away by the reality that life had other plans.  It just wasn’t their time. But like so many love stories, the journey to happiness is just as pivotal to the narrative as the happy ending. All it took was one, small, thumbnail of a photo for Stephanie to know she’d found her soulmate all those years ago.  

No dog should ever have to suffer the way Tilly has for most of her life.  But if Tilly could speak, she might just tell you that her happily ever after was completely worth the wait.