By Jan Shaw
I bought Holly as a puppy from a farm in Derbyshire, England in 2001. She came from working parents and her father was like the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the dog world – all muscle. She was to be the friend of my Black Labrador puppy Jenna, who was born 2 weeks earlier.
Holly was a beautiful dog, both inside and out and became an excellent ratter and mouser. She lived with us on our 3-acre horse property in Nailstone, a small village in Leicestershire, England where I kept my two horses, Voto and Bertie. We had two barn cats but Holly beat them hands down (or paws down!) at mousing. She would catch and kill the mice and Jenna would pick them up and ‘retrieve’ them to me, usually in the kitchen!
Holly was an exceptional hunter, and as well as killing rats and mice, one day I was looking out of the bedroom window and I saw her and Jenna standing over a pheasant that Holly had caught and killed in the garden. There were feathers everywhere. While I’m not a fan of hunting, Holly was just following her instincts.
In 2010 I moved to Colorado in the United States and couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my dogs behind so I brought the two dogs with me. They were flown into Denver International Airport and when I picked them up the poor dears were very disoriented after their long flight and didn’t immediately recognize me but within a few minutes, they were wagging their tails and really happy to be with me.
I lived in Evergreen, a beautiful town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Denver. We would take long walks in the parks close to Evergreen and follow trails through the mountains.
In 2011 I moved to an Arabian horse farm near Austin Texas to look after eight Arabians for the owners. Holly loved being able to roam the 36-acre property and sit on the golf cart or the Polaris ATV as we drove around the property.
One morning in the fall of 2013, Holly was outside at the back of the house having her early morning pee when I heard her screaming. I thought she had been attacked by a coyote but I was horrified to find she had been attacked by several Rottweiler-cross dogs. One of the dogs had hold of her across her back and was shaking her and the dog had to be kicked to make him let go of her. Holly ran inside to me, snapping at the air around her thinking she was still under attack. She had bite wounds across her shoulders and flanks and one of the wounds on her flanks was bleeding profusely. I wrapped her in a towel and held her to reassure her, making sure I stayed calm so that she would calm down knowing she was safe and not go into shock.
I took her to the nearest veterinary hospital where they treated her immediately and the vet was amazed by her normal heart rate, especially considering the severity of her wounds. Later that day she had surgery and the most serious wound on her left flank had to have nine layers of stitching. The vet was amazed she had survived such an attack but Holly was such a brave soul.
When I picked her up to take her home she had multiple drains where she had been bitten and was wrapped in bandages. It took weeks and multiple doses of antibiotics for her to recover but she did make a full recovery and resumed her life on the farm.
In October of 2015, I moved to Bayfield in SW Colorado – back in the Rocky Mountains again. It was in August of 2016 at the age of fifteen that Holly suddenly took ill. That morning she seemed very disoriented and kept falling over. It was as if she had been poisoned, but that was impossible as she had no access to any toxic materials. I sat with her on the couch while calling several veterinary hospitals who could examine her. After several calls, it was the nearest Veterinary Hospital in Bayfield that was able to see her the soonest. When the vet examined her it was obvious she was in a bad way and she was kept there overnight for tests and observation. The next morning I called the vet to get their prognosis. I was told that she had liver failure which had caused a build-up of toxins in her system which was why she was acting as if she was poisoned. I had to make the heartbreaking decision to have her put to sleep.
I went to the Veterinary Hospital to be with her at the end of her life which was very upsetting but I knew I had to be with her in her last moments. She passed away peacefully and I took her home to be buried.
Holly was a wonderful dog and despite her injuries from the attack, she lived a good life with lots of adventures. Since my arrival in the United States in 2010, we had traveled thousands of miles around the Western United States and with her journey across the ocean from the UK she was probably one of the most traveled dogs. I still miss her and she will always have a special place in my heart.