A Tribute to Our Girl and Best Friend

Some may never understand how we could consider "just a dog" one of the biggest and best parts of us. But, for 14 1/2 years, Holly was the brightest star in our lives, the unselfish companion who never expected anything more than our care and company, while giving back more than she ever could know.

We got Holly when she was 8 weeks old. While living in a townhouse, we were always afraid she would bark when we had to leave, so we used the beam of a flashlight to run her around the living room, hoping to tire her out so she would sleep while we were gone. There was never a time since then that she didn't comically chase the sun's reflection or a moving ray of light! We trained her to fetch the morning paper and bring it to us, especially when she knew she'd get a large dog biscuit. Holly loved the snow, and we were always the first in the block to run and fall when a good snowstorm came around. There was a blizzard one year, and we were the only ones brave enough to take on the three feet of snow.

Holly knew the difference between "watch" and "look". When we'd say "watch", she'd go to the TV and bark. When we'd say "take a look", she'd jump up on the window seat and look outside. She did go obedience school, and although she was never in the dog show events, she was a lot better behaved than some of the uncontrollable and whining kids we often see in the malls, grocery stores and airplanes. She loved and idolized both of us, and it always brings to mind a quote I once read in a paper..."Lord, make me the kind of person my dog thinks I am". We may never be heroes or favorites in many person's eyes, but here was one creature who thought the sun would rise and set in us.

Our work and travels have taken us around the world, sometimes a month at a time, and the only worry we ever had was Holly. Even though she was in good hands with my mom or dad or the vet, we missed her and worried more about her than the house, the car or the material things. But, whether we were gone a day, a week or a month, Holly was always there to greet us happily when we got home. To this day, it is still the hardest thing for us to open the door and not see her there.

Holly loved our cabin in West Virginia. She had her favorite spots to lay in front of the door, and on the front porch. On cool days, when we'd be working in the woods, planting flowers and trees or cutting firewood, we'd always look up to the front porch and there she'd be, holding down the fort. Before we moved our beds upstairs to the loft, we had them on the first floor in front of the fireplace. She'd jump up on them, and that's when she looked the most peaceful, sleeping with the fire softly burning behind her.

Holly slowed down a lot the last few years of her life. We switched vets in January 2000, and started taking her to Dr. Mills of Hillendale Animal Hospital. He only knew her for a little more than half a year, but was a most compassionate doctor with her, treating her arthritis and skin conditions.

We always knew the day would come when we'd have to say goodbye to this most unselfish and beautiful being. That day came on Friday, August 11, 2000. (Holly had been laying around more than usual, and seemed to take a fast downhill turn that last week.) That morning, she could not even stand up, and was falling down every time she tried....that was the saddest thing about it, she ALWAYS tried. But this particular day, I think we both knew she was just about ready to go home. Since she never liked the vet's office, we were so glad Dr. Mills was kind enough to arrange a visit to our house. When he arrived that evening, he seemed just as emotional as us, saying that as long as he's had to do it, it just never gets any easier. But Holly was calm, and she went very peacefully right in the our arms, right in her own home. There's just no way we'd put her through the stress of one last visit to a cold and scary office, and that's the way we wanted it for her.

That weekend, we were scheduled to go to Memphis for a concert with the Miracles at the Baddour Center in Senatobia, Mississippi. It is a housing center for almost 200 mentally challenged persons, and the Miracles are not only residents there, they are a highly talented group of vocalists and musicians. They were looking forward to our concert together, and couldn't wait to meet us. The sadness and anxiety we felt because of Holly almost caused us to cancel this event, but I knew, as I have seen in the past, that these very special people would help us through our grief. They just have a way of doing that, and we made ourselves go. Our concert on Sunday morning was just wonderful, and the Miracles were fantastic, not only singing with me, but doing some songs on their own. David, their pianist, is incredibly talented, and backed me up on a gospel song, "How Great Thou Art". He was excellent! After our last song together, I asked the Miracles to stay on stage with me, and I then explained to them and to the audience that our best friend was no longer with us. I showed them a photo of Holly, and they all understood that she meant the world to us...they cried along with us, and every one of them came over and gave us a hug. We knew that this special group of people would help us through the worst day of our lives, and we will always be grateful to the Miracles, their choir director, Chris Antill, and to the residents of the Baddour Center. Some people may laugh at a retarded person and think they have no concept of what's going on, but this is not the first time they've come to our rescue. Ironically, they literally saved our sanity, and we will never forget them for their understanding and compassion.

Holly was cremated. Part of her ashes are home in Maryland, part are home in West Virginia, and I carry part of them with me. Still, she lives in our memory and will always be the biggest part of us. There's never a time we see reflection of sunlight and don't think of her and how she'd be chasing it. We miss her so much at the cabin, and every beautiful, cool evening, we always say we know where she'd be...right on the front porch. And back in Maryland, there's a spot of dirt on the front door that we almost cleaned off, but can't, because that's just another reminder of her and where she used to lay the most. Some don't think that dogs have a spirit, but we'll defy that statement. Things happen that make us believe she's up there somewhere looking down and keeping track of things. The windshield wipers in the truck would make her bark, and every now and then, they go off on their own. We just look up and say, 'yea, we're thinking of you too, girl'. And Toots, the Bay Retriever who 'talked' to Holly all the time, recently got out of her yard. She managed to go the long way around the block and walk past Danny as he worked on his truck one day. Toots is never out of her yard, but in calling her and walking her back to her house, we found her usually locked gate wide open. We will always say that Holly was up there looking out for her friend, and guided her to our house.

Holly's spirit and memory will never be gone from us. We are so glad that she was part of us and will always treasure the years we had together. It seems like yesterday she was just that 8 week old pup, and the years just flew by too fast. She will always be the shining star in our lives, and in fact, we bought a star just for her. In the Star Registry, and up in the heavens, there is a shining star named Holly. We sure miss you, girl.