~Grief shows up where love has always been.~
Holly (Oaks Holly) came to us in November, 2011. We had just lost our greyhound Bee Wiseman to osteosarcoma the month before. We were so heartbroken by that loss, but we felt that Murray needed a new dog companion. We did not want a young greyhound. We did not want a right-off-the-racetrack greyhound. We did not want a white and red brindle greyhound. We searched for an old brood mom who would be a good match with quirky Murray. That dog was nowhere to be found, so we ended up back in Northeast Philadelphia at NGAP looking for any greyhound who could get along with Murray. We walked Holly at the insistence of kennel workers. Holly, who was called Belle at the kennel, was young, right off the racetrack in Florida , and white and red brindle. Three strikes against her. And then when we turned back to the kennel after walking her for a while, she stuck her nose in Burke’s pocket and put on the brakes. She liked him very much, and she did not want to go back into that crate. We took her home the following week. This was not the dog we went looking for.
Murray and Holly 2012
Holly was bred at Black Oak Kennel in Georgia. I wrote to her owner to get her Bertillon Card. She’d only had 28 races in Florida before she was retired. Holly was only three years old when we adopted her. We knew we’d have many happy years ahead with her.
Holly got along well with finicky Murray. She got along with every dog. Every breed. Every size. She was not afraid of any other dogs. She was shy but not scared. She was a pacifist. She valued peace among all creatures. She never made a peep in the eight years we had together. She befriended Murray, River, Hopper, and our newest girl, Kaia. She would have gotten along with any dog we brought home. She was so easy that way. This was no small thing for us.
Holly and River 2016
Holly came to us with the darkest fur on her face. She had a beautiful fleur-de-lis on her forehead. We watched her bunny soft fur turn whiter and whiter each year until she was almost completely white on her head. That special mark on her forehead had almost disappeared, but we could always see it. In these last months of her life, that beautiful faded fleur-de-lis reminded us of the three year old girl we had adopted many years before.
Holly never asked us for anything except for a few more minutes on her walks. She was always stubborn about turning for home. As long as we walked on soft grass or on sandy beaches (evil corns made walking tough on cement sidewalks and streets), Holly could walk forever. She would pull like a pit bull if she thought you’d turned back towards home whether that home was our house, a rented cabin, or a hotel room on one of our many adventures with her. In Dewey Beach last month, with metastatic cancer in her lungs, we spent our last beach day on Sunday walking with Holly. We walked for two hours with her, stopping along the way to take pictures, to talk with friends, to play near the warm water. After two hours, we turned toward home and she pulled and pulled to keep on going. That was a heartbreaking moment I will never forget. We had to head home. She wanted to keep going on the beach.
Holly was a blood donor to the University of Pennsylvania Bloodmobile. She donated blood regularly for six years. She saved the lives of many other dogs. She never complained or fussed. She did this important work because we asked her to. She was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer a few years ago in a story about the canine blood donor program at Penn. We were so proud of our girl that Sunday when we saw the article and the big photo of our girl in the newspaper. So proud.
Philadelphia Inquirer 2014
Holly happily and easily went along on all of our greyhound adventures. She enjoyed seeing other hounds in Gettysburg, in Dewey Beach, at Grapehounds. She was a wonderful traveler who was fine to tag along or stay behind in a hotel room. As she got older, as those awful corns showed up more often, she preferred to stay behind and rest. We let her do so, but I always felt bad that her mobility had declined even with Therapaws and the constant hulling of those corns. We missed having her along, but we were convinced that she preferred soft beds, quiet, and (when appropriate)air conditioning.
Holly helped us through our agonizing losses of Bee Wiseman, Murray, and River. I will always remember how Holly stayed up night after night with Murray during the last week of his life. Instead of sleeping in the bedroom, she stayed out in the living room with Murray. She knew what we did not. She watched over him from the sofa. Ever vigilant. She was a constant, peaceful force in our house. She helped us absorb each loss and reminded us that we’d need to keep going even as grief tried to paralyze us.
Holly was the healthiest hound we knew. She was never sick, never had an upset stomach, never rejected anything we fed her. She’d live a long life, we thought. Her eleventh birthday was on Friday, November 1st. We knew she didn’t have too much time left, though. In July, just a month after River’s sudden passing, we learned that Holly had bladder cancer. We managed this illness all summer and fall. Each day was a tiny bit worse than the one before. We let her go on Monday, November 4th, a day too early perhaps, but under her own power. She enjoyed a beautiful walk in the woods near our house on Monday afternoon. We were lucky to have such a warm, sunny day in November. No coats, no chill in the air. Just walking on a beloved trail in the woods sniffing all of her favorite spots as the sun began to set. I took this photo of her knowing it would be one of the last. I’m glad I brought my camera along.
As our appointment time drew closer I made the turn for home. Holly pulled with all her might to continue on our path along the trail. If only that walk could have continued....
You asked us for nothing and gave us everything we ever asked of you, Holly. Befriend picky Murray, donate blood, hop in the car and go on a road trip, get used to a terrier in the house, wait for us in the hotel room, let daddy hull that corn, get used to the hyper schnauzer-mix while dealing with cancer, and finally, make the turn for home one last time.
We were so lucky to have had you for eight years, Holly. You weren’t the girl we were looking for eight years ago, but we thanked God everyday that you found us. You were the perfect fit for our little family. We will see you again one day, sweet girl. We are missing you, missing you, missing you. Wait for us. One day we will make our last turn for home. Wait for us there, sweet Holly.