In December of 2009 Cheryl and I heard Susan Linker on the radio discussing animals available for adoption. Susan is the director of Our Companions, an animal rescue and adoption program here in Connecticut. One of the animals featured had been named ‘Holly’ by the animal control officer in Bloomfield, Christine Sparks. Holly was a ten year old female Shepherd mix that had been chained to a doghouse 24/7 for all of her life. Her teeth were worn down from chewing on her chain or on rocks to stave off her hunger. She weighed nineteen pounds when she was seized from her abuser. A little Cocker spaniel that was Holly’s companion didn’t survive but Holly could and would survive. We remember meeting her at the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. She took an immediate liking to Cheryl but it took her longer to trust me.

But first she needed complicated ear surgery to remove her ear canals which were badly infected from years of not being cared for. Since it is the policy of Our Companions to save every animal that can be saved, they had already arranged for her ear surgery. The end result was that holly was an underweight senior dog, which was soon to be completely deaf and while a number of people inquired about Holy, no one followed through on adopting her. Except Cheryl and I. We were relentless about adopting Holly. Following applications and home visits and initial meetings we couldn’t wait to pick her up after her surgery and bring her home, which we did in mid-December of 2009.  We couldn’t wait to pick her up from her surgery and bring her to our new home.

Holly was a bit of a celebrity when she was featured in an Our Companions article and on the front page of the Bristol Press on Christmas Eve 2009 with the headline ‘Merry Christmas for Holly.’ At last she was in a forever home and she seemed happy to be comfortable and very gracious about adopting us.

When you are adopted by a loving animal that puts her faith in you, becomes incredibly loyal to you and devotes herself to studying your every move – you learn what love and trust and co-dependence really mean. Holly was an incredibly loving and friendly dog and approached all humans and all other animals with confidence and curiosity. Holly became Cheryl’s best friend immediately and become closer to me each passing month.

Holly grew stronger and healthier and after one year she had grown to 65 pounds. She was on the mend and loving life. In the three years and one month that followed we were only separated from Holly on three nights and each of those was in the last year when Holly began experiencing cardiac problems and was hospitalized overnight. Other than those three nights we were together nearly 24/7 for over three years.

Holly traveled to Massachusetts and New Hampshire. She visited Pennsylvania and New York. She rode to Florida and back several times and we counted out the states with her as we crossed state lines. Holly was a well-travelled and well loved girl. She had many friends and admirers and she appreciated every one of them whether they were two or four legged. And everywhere that Holly went she always had a warm and comfortable bed. Other than being loveable, sleeping was her passion.

Her next favorite pastime was taking long walks almost anywhere but mostly in West Cemetery where Cheryl and Holly and sometimes I would visit every section of the area before Holly relented and went home for a long nap.

About a year and a half ago, on just such a walk; Cheryl and Holly were approached by handsome boy who undoubtedly was drawn to Holly’s good looks.  A hurricane was pending that night and we ended up taking the big boy home to shelter him while we searched for his owner. He had no collar, no tags, no micro-chip and no one looking for him. We ran ads, visited pet web sites, contacted authorities and made follow up calls. The conclusion was that the big brown guy was a drop-off that someone had tired of or couldn’t handle. We were afraid he would dominate Holly or make her uncomfortable but it turned out that  just the opposite was true.

Once Holly had passed judgment she accepted the big fellow into our home and we named the big guy ‘Duke.’ Holly had a new friend, companion and mentor. Owing to Holly’s early years she was unfamiliar with treats, and rawhides and pig ears and milk bones. She never had experienced love and kisses and affection and she was slow to embrace any of these things… until Duke moved in.

Holly learned that treats are good and ear scratching is to be sought out and love is to be freely given and received. What followed was undeniably the best year and a half of Holly’s life. Good food, trained humans, treats, affection, a companion, long walks and soft warm beds; it simply couldn’t be any better.

About eight months ago we found out that Holly had cardiac issues, but that they could be treated with medication. Now I must admit that while she was gentle, trusting and loving… a pill taker Holly was not. We were constantly challenged by trying to entice her with beef liver, chicken gizzards, beef hearts, cat food, rotisserie chicken, pork and nearly everything else we could think of. During the last month Holly struggled with her health but she was doing better on most days and we were getting all of her medications in and on schedule. Last night she took her pills with freeze dried beef liver treats and went out for her last walk of the evening. On the way in she began to hyperventilate and started to collapse. I ran out and carried her to her bed and Cheryl and I comforted her and tried to relax her to slow her breathing.

Wrapped in Cheryl’s arms and being pet and comforted by me – at a little after 12:05 AM today – Holly slipped the chains and leashes of this life and entered eternal rest. God must have needed one more companion and seeking the perfect dog he called Holly to heaven.

Hopefully she can hear now, and jump without her hips hurting, and walk and walk for miles without losing her breath. Freed from cardiac tests and intravenous and pills and capsules and blood pressure readings and all the rest, she is free to roam and is breathing in the fresh clean air of a brighter place.

Holly forever changed our lives and she will never be forgotten by the many that knew and loved her. Our hearts are hollow today but we are so grateful for the eleven hundred days that she blessed our lives. She taught us about courage, and perseverance and trust and loyalty. She put her life in our hands and never doubted that we were up to the task, even we sometimes felt challenged beyond all reason. We are so lucky to have known her and been able to love her.

Cheryl and Duke don’t know I wrote this but I guess getting it off my chest and sharing it with friends must be cathartic because once I started, I couldn’t stop.

I am not telling you any of this because Cheryl and I need kind words or cards. We know lots of people have beloved pets and sadly they sometimes lose them. But if you have a dog, give him/her an extra hug today and scratch behind their ears.

We are grateful to Dr Eric Linnetz and the staff at Chippens Hill Veterinary clinic. And we are deeply touched by the care Holly received at Shoreline Clinic in Shelton.

Our Companions is a premier animal adoption organization and we share their belief that every pet that can be saved, should be saved. If you care to make a donation in Memory of Holly you can send it to:

In Memory of Holly (Johnson)
Our Companions Animal Rescue

P.O. Box 956

Manchester, CT 06045
Phone: (860) 242-9999 | Fax: (860) 331-8555


Peace, love and health you and your forever friends.