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Monthly Archives: September 2014

A DOG CALLED HOLLY

by Elspeth

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This is my first post for more than two months, the reason being that Holly, my beloved black Labrador, took ill a few days after Jim and I attended the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games and, tragically, died on 31st July, just six weeks before her ninth birthday.  Having found writing a blog about what happened to Holly too painful up until now, when I learned that today was World Heart Day, it seemed appropriate that this was the day I finally did so.

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Although Holly was born with a hole in her heart, six years ago, we decided against an operation to fix it because we were told there was a high risk she wouldn’t survive the operation and, what’s more, even if it were successful, it wouldn’t improve her quality of life.  We still think we made the right decision as Holly suffered no ill effects from her condition until four days before she died.  Despite having been critically ill on the Sunday, after two days in intensive care at the University of Glasgow’s Small Animal Hospital, Holly was well enough to come home and, although we’d been told that the prognosis wasn’t good (around 6 months), she continued to respond well to the medication and, by the Thursday, she was almost back to our old Holly again and spent the day with us in the office, a place she loved.

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Around 5.45, having previously struggled to get her to take the various pills that were keeping her alive, to our amazement, when Jim called her to give her two large ones which were proving to be particularly troublesome, she snaffled them up as if they were treats.  After praising her for being a clever girl, she sat ‘smiling’ at us, her face full of pride, and then returned to her basket to wait until it was time to go home for dinner.  However, when we called her less than half an hour later, she didn’t respond, which wasn’t all that unusual as there was often a split second’s delay between a command and Holly following it but, when she didn’t respond for a second time, we realised something was wrong and found her curled up in her basket for all the world as if she was fast asleep.

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Although Jim and I are still shocked at how suddenly Holly died, (no one warned us it might happen that way) and are lost without her, it’s of some small comfort that she spent her last two days with us (although we visited her in hospital every day) and we won’t have to watch her going downhill nor will we have to make the heartbreaking decision to have her put to sleep.  However, at the moment, I’d still give anything still to have her even if it was only for a few more weeks.

Holly actually took ill while she was in the kennels though, fortunately, we weren’t away from home and so could be with her quickly after the owner called to tell us he’d taken her to an emergency vet.  We had tickets for the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games and for some of the athletics and had decided that Holly should have a fortnight’s holiday as we couldn’t leave her in the house on her own while we were in Glasgow and it would have been too unsettling to have taken her in and out of the kennels.  In the end, we were only at the Opening Ceremony and, although a wonderful experience, our memories of it will always be tinged with great sadness.

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Holly loved birthdays and always had a great time opening her presents (she preferred something edible to a squeaky toy or a new collar!) and scoffing her birthday cake made from grated carrot and mini bones!  She also loved other people’s birthdays as, after ‘delivering’ her present to the appropriate person, she always looked so perplexed that it wasn’t for her, that we started the tradition of an ‘unbirthday’ present!  This year, instead of being a day full of fun, Holly’s birthday was a very sad one.  Jim and I decided we wanted to do something special to mark the day and so we were two of the 2014 torchbearers who formed a ‘river of fire’ across the Forth Road Bridge, one of several events celebrating the bridge’s 50th anniversary.

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Having wanted a dog since I was a child, Holly was my first and Jim couldn’t have chosen a better one.  We considered ourselves to be so lucky to have such an exceptional dog as everyone who met Holly loved her – friends, even those who weren’t dog people, and complete strangers, David, the owner of Country Kennels which was her second home, the dog groomer who always praised her beautiful glossy coat, the staff at Jim’s bank, where she was always welcome, the girls at Ellisland, where she ‘took’ us for lunch when the weather was fine and we could sit outside, the vets who cared for her in Glasgow and gave us those last few precious days with her and even the postman who was always greeted with a woof, not simply because he was a postman, but because Holly knew he usually had a treat for her in his pocket!

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Of course, Holly wasn’t perfect but, even when she’d done something particularly naughty like eating half a Christmas cake or howling at someone in the street (perhaps it was because she sensed danger that wasn’t obvious to us), it was hard to be cross with her for long and one look from those big brown eyes and she was forgiven, often leaving us feeling guilty for having scolded her! 

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It will take us a long time to get over losing Holly if, in fact, we ever really do and, although some people have told us we should get another dog right away, Jim and I agree that’s something we’re unlikely to do, either now or in the future.  Holly was one of the family and so, not only would it feel as if we were replacing her, which wouldn’t be possible, but Holly definitely wouldn’t approve of another dog taking her place! 

Holly loved having her photograph taken and, as soon as I took my camera out of its bag, she would sit down, though not always in quite the right place, and pose for me!  Only a week before she took ill, I photographed her with some of the Clyde statues that were located across Glasgow which she thoroughly enjoyed as it was another adventure.

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I’ve written a book called ‘Happy Holly Days’, (it includes a ‘contribution’ by Holly herself), which I hope will be published in time for Christmas with some of the profits going to a dog charity.  I’m just so sad that Holly won’t be here to enjoy being a canine celebrity.  She was such a happy little soul with a huge personality whose enthusiasm for life made every day special – both for her and for us.  

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Although Jim and I still miss her desperately and, I suspect, we always will, Holly gave us nearly nine years of wonderful memories.  We just hope that we made her as happy as she made us.  We will never forget you, darling Hollydog, and will love you forever.

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