Calf gives love-wary couple a heart-shaped sign
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"Love isn't something you find. Love is something that finds you."
- Loretta Young
They were bumping along through the pasture when someone saw him.
"Hey, that calf has a heart on its head," someone called.
Donna and Mike Thomas looked over and saw a little brown calf, no more than a couple of weeks old, standing in the pasture.
His sleek, little body was covered in chocolate brown fur - except for a spot on his head where the fur had come in snow white in the shape of a perfect heart.
The hayride moved along, and the birthday celebrations for Donna's son, Luke, continued. It was just a few days after Valentine's Day and only a couple of weeks since the couple had learned Donna was free of cancer.
Sitting in bed that night, Donna turned to her husband.
"You know how we keep having these signs that this is meant to be and right? What do you think of that love calf?" she asked.
"That's what I was thinking. That was a sign, like the rainbow from God after all the floods and devastation - a sign telling us that everything was going to be OK," he told her.
The next day, they went out to take a closer look. They stared at the calf, which gazed back at them with placid, liquid-brown eyes as he stood near his mother.
Donna and Mike met each other on a blind date at a dance held by the Goliad Education Foundation in September 2010.
She was an assistant administrator at a junior high school in Yoakum. He was an engineer working at DuPont, but his children and his ranch were his real passions.
Both were divorced and determined to be through with love.
Donna had just told her mother she liked being independent and was going to stay unattached to focus on raising her four children.
After 20 years of marriage and a painful divorce, Mike wanted to focus on his three children and his ranch in Goliad, telling his friends he would never marry again.
But Mike was going to a benefit, and a friend told him he would get him a date, someone to dance with.
Donna had just finished her second bout with cancer, and both had been through the pain of divorce.
Mike realized he had never met anyone like her in the world, and it hit her that here was a really good man - maybe the last one on the planet.
Despite their reservations, they started dating.
"It was pretty scary," Mike said, remembering. "I'd told my buddy that he could set me up, but I was done with all that."
Donna had already fought her way through Hodgkin's lymphoma and breast cancer once, so when she found a lump on her chest last summer, she immediately went to her doctor. Last June, the tests confirmed that she was facing another fight for her life.
In between all the doctors' appointments, Mike got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. They were married a month later in a small ceremony on the ranch.
The doctors told Donna they'd do what they could, and they never spoke of a cure or the possibility of remission, but she and Mike were determined she'd get better.
Her body couldn't handle another bout of radiation, so she started chemotherapy, and they looked for a specialist willing to remove a tumor found deep in her body.
When Christmas came, they sent out their first family Christmas card - a picture of the two of them on their wedding day, surrounded by their family with the words "All you need is love" printed across the top.
They found a surgeon to remove the tumor, and a few weeks ago, her doctor told her that despite what he'd predicted, she was going into remission.
The doctor couldn't explain it, but Donna knew why she had survived.
"I knew love and prayer saved me. This was my miracle," she said.
They celebrated their first Valentine's Day as a married couple. About this time, somewhere in one of Mike's pastures a calf was born with a patch of white on his forehead.
Mike has been running cattle for about 20 years, and he'd heard of calves born with these kinds of markings, but they were rare.
Standing up close to the calf, the heart stamped on his forehead is so clearly outlined it might have been stenciled on. Mike snapped some photos of the calf, but the photos don't show the perfect curves of the snowy white fur heart, he said.
"We just look at it as a sign, like the rainbow, that everything is going to be OK, and we've made it through," Mike said.
Sitting in bed that night, Mike and Donna felt a flood of joy, the tension of the fight that has been governing their lives for the past months draining away.
"We're just getting our lives back together, and then this calf is born," Donna said. "The fact that it's a heart and on Valentine's Day - you can't miss this. Could this be a coincidence?"
They aren't sure what they'll do with the calf, but they're hoping to keep him. His name is Cupid.