Her story begins in tragedy, like many abandoned pets: she had no home, no family, and, as it seemed at the time, no future. When Havanese mix Tessa was turned over to an overcrowded Los Angeles animal shelter in early January, the shivering little pup struggled to even stand up. Frail, starving, completely blind, and immobile, it was clear that Tessa was suffering from some terrible illness. It seemed all hope was lost.
But all it took was just one person to speak up and another to open her heart and turn the tides for a little dog in need.
Mere days before Tessa was scheduled to be put down, a worker at the Los Angeles shelter where Tessa had been surrendered contacted Annie Hart, the executive director for Beverly Hills-based nonprofit animal rescue The Bill Foundation. When Hart heard about Tessa’s sad state, she was moved to act. Hart drove out to the L.A. shelter knowing she’d likely meet a very sick dog, but the seasoned rescuer couldn’t have prepared herself to meet a sweet dog in as bad a shape as little Tessa.
“She was really suffering,” Hart says of Tessa, remembering the impossibly thin, dangerously dehydrated dog she met that day. Determined to at least give Tessa a fighting chance, Hart scooped the barely-recognizable Havanese mix up from her shelter cage.
Several veterinary visits and a barrage of tests later and doctors were able to figure out the underlying cause of Tessa’s inability to walk. An MRI revealed Tessa had been suffering from a very serious condition called hydrocephalus, or “water on the brain.” Hydrocephalus occurs when cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the brain due to congenital defects, trauma or an obstruction. This build-up places an immense amount of pressure on the delicate organ, and can lead to blindness and an ophthalmological condition called vertical nystagmus, which causes abnormal eye movement, dizziness and loss of balance.
The diagnosis fit, but the prognosis was not what Hart wanted to hear. Tessa’s hydrocephalus had likely gone untreated for some time, and the disease can often prove deadly if left to its own devices. Hart was devastated.
“The initial prognosis was very grim,” Hart tells the Huffington Post. “Her doctors agreed that it was very likely a hospice situation.”
But after everything little Tessa had already been through, Hart was determined to keep trying. When she brought Tessa back home, Hart decided to try another course of treatment, which combined traditional medications with acupuncture. The regimen was grueling and the chances slim, but ultimately the results were worth Hart’s every effort. As if by some miracle, Tessa began to show signs of improvement.
“It was on day three [of the treatment] that she responded to light. I caught it on film — the part with her responding to the flashlight,” Hart remembers. “It was such a magical moment. My husband and I just started sobbing. We didn’t think there was much hope for her but she was ready to keep trying.”
Soon Tessa was not only standing on her feet — she was walking, running and jumping. Though she is still mostly blind, Tessa has adapted beautifully, learning to use her other senses to get around, feed herself and make new friends.
Hart continued to document Tessa’s amazing progress, and the resulting video has taken the web by storm, inspiring animal lovers all over the world.
Now a couple of months into her extraordinary recovery, Tessa has one more obstacle to overcome — finding her forever family. While Hart explains she would love to be able to keep Tessa, she cannot, but knows the right person for Tessa is out there somewhere.
“Tessa just wants to be part of the family. With the right home, she will continue to progress,” says Hart. “She’s pretty gutsy. I’ve never met a dog like her — an animal with such a light spirit, such a willingness to live.”
For more information about Tessa’s continued progress or her search for a new home, check out the Bill Foundation’s Facebook page for updates. If you would like to inquire about adopting Tessa or any of the organization’s wonderful animals, or if you are interested in making a donation to the Bill Foundation, visit their website today.