Our Holly

"The pain and loss of a beloved pet is something many of us bear in private, for how many times have we heard, from those not privileged enough to know our profound sadness, “It was just a dog, (cat, horse, bird, hamster) … it’s not like it was a person!” Well I’m here to say our Holly WAS a person, OK so she had four legs and more hair on her body than any person I know but her spirit, her soul, her character and the unconditional love she heaped on all her humans was and still is, irreplaceable.

We said goodbye to her seven years ago and yet as I write the tears stream down my cheeks, they often still do but let me explain how house and  pet sitting is helping us heal, to do this I really have to tell you the Story of Holly, it’s a joyful adventure!

Animals have been a part of my life forever, I cannot imagine life’s journey without them. They give far more than they take and teach us more about ourselves than any human can. Just consider the hardened criminal who cries like a baby when having to say goodbye to the puppy he’s been training for a year, in prison, when it embarks on it’s next stage as a Guide Dog, or the “problem” teenager who’s life is turned around at the horse rescue centre, where a wise person started rescuing youngsters as well as equines.

Holly became a Laws family member in January ’93. It was my son who thought of her name, she was born on Christmas Day. Mary, Joseph or Jesus didn’t quite fit, Holly did. Had there been two puppies available who knows we may have had Holly and Ivy!
At the time we were living in Tunisia and our daughter attended an English boarding school I was settling her back in after the Christmas holidays when I picked up a local paper, local to Heathrow Airport that is, and in the pets for sale saw;

Springer Spaniel Puppies …. Our kennels are experienced at shipping overseas etc”
Mummy lets go and look!”
No Nicky, you know what Daddy said, no animals, living overseas and traveling as we do is not conducive to owning a pet. He was right of course but that’s head thinking, not heart!
Let’s just go and look …….!”

So I arrive at Tunis airport and John’s waiting in the baggage hall. We retrieve my three suit cases, “Is that it?” he asks, “Err no there’s just one more” On the carousel comes this wooden crate peering through the door were the biggest, most soulful and slightly scared eyes, attached to a quivering body, with ears much too long for her tiny head, my heart melted, again! All puppies are cute but there’s something very precious about a spaniel puppy (or perhaps I’m just biased after all she was my sixth Springer) “What is that!” My husband was furious with me but knowing him as I do, knew his anger wouldn’t last long. (Before I’m branded as being irresponsible, I know and agree that all parties involved should be in agreement before even considering getting a pet, of any kind)

We walked out of the airport in silence Once outside we needed to get her out of the crate to see if she needed to go to the toilet, she was shaking and at just 8 weeks old so very tiny. When she’d relieved herself, it was a long flight for her, I picked her up. John’s face was still red with anger, or high blood, at this point I wasn’t quite sure, I asked if he’d like to hold her. He gently took her off me and clever girl that she was, she put her nose inside his shirt collar and licked his neck ……. It was mutual love and adoration from that first lick, a love affair that was to last and grow stronger for the next 14 years. Holly was John’s first pet, he used to say, BH (before Holly) that he wasn’t an animal person but she taught him that he is, she saw it, she knew it.

In her short life, and fourteen years is such a short time, she clocked up more air miles than many people, if only there had been a Canine Frequent Flyer programmme. She lived with us in N Africa, India (six years) Canada, France, Germany and the UK. We nearly lost her, through illness, three times, through following her nose whilst in the woods twice, had adventures and stories that could fill a book, like the time British Airways “lost” her, how her and I were the source of great curiosity when we lived in Bombay, as I chose to drive a truck with her riding on the passenger seat …… not done by too many women, especially Westerners AND with a dog as a companion. Then there was the time, when through work commitments in Singapore and Vietnam we had to leave her in India, for 9 months. I cried, worried that she’d forget us, (of course she didn’t) that she’d have no A/C in our maid Connie’s house (pathetic that part, I know) Fortunately I had incredible pet sitters, my maid and her family! So you see I know what it is to have to leave a beloved pet, I also know how utterly lucky we were to have our pet sitters.

One Saturday night, in the summer of 2005, with no warning signs Holly fitted 12 times in the space of 20 mins I called Nicky, now a Veterinary Surgeon, she told me to take her straight to the Royal Veterinary College at South Mimms ( where she’d studied) she’d meet me there. After two days in ICU Holly was diagnosed as having a brain tumor but with drugs to control the seizures and masses of TLC we managed to keep her well enough to fly her home to Vancouver Island the following year. We’ll never forget her reaction when she arrived back at her house on a bright, sunny October day, she ran up onto the deck, which overlooked the ocean, ran back and forth and barked and barked as if to say “We’re HOME Mum and Dad!!”

She stayed home for that Christmas and left for “Rainbow Bridge*” on February 12 2007. Our hearts were broken that day, I have never seen my husband so bereft. Her passing left a hole in our hearts and lives so big that the pain was palpable …… No, she was not just a dog, she had a name, Holly and she was a precious member of the Laws family.

So how has pet sitting helped John and I

Well after a lot of heart searching we decided not to have another pet, the pain was so raw could we really go through that again? Also we’re not getting any younger and a pet really is for life, a long term commitment, in every way.

About a month after Holly passed away I was asked to pet sit a spaniel, in her own home, for two weeks. Her owner said she understood if it was too soon for me. I won’t lie I did have my reservations but also knew that her owner wanted her to stay safe, secure and happy in her own home, much like we had with Holly who never experienced being in kennels, our choice for her. I said yes and have thanked the heavens, stars and everything else every day since. The experience was healing, cathartic and a joy. I was able to have the love, albeit it a second choice to Pippa’s real Mum, of an animal again and give love in return. In the five years since my first pet sit we’ve been privilege enough, and trusted enough, to love and care for many lovely animal souls, each one is different, each teaches us something new, each helps lessen the pain of losing Holly,

                                          *Rainbow Bridge"  Poet Unknown
               A beautiful poem of hope for those grieving the loss of a beloved pet

                                                          "Rainbow Bridge"

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....


Angela has been traveling the world for the past 40 years. Her career in International Marketing took her across Canada and the US and since the mid 80s has lived in Italy, N. Africa, India, Singapore and other parts of SE Asia with husband John, a Petroleum Engineer, now retired. Self-professed nomads with a shared passion for travel and animals, they continue to travel the world having adopted an affordable travel lifestyle: Pet and house sitting. Some five continents, many amazing homes and wonderful four legged friends later, Angela is the resident in-house expert, advising home owners and house sitters at Trusted House Sitters and a regular contributor to travel blogs sharing experiences of life away from the travel brochures, living like the locals. You can read more at www.housesittingperfected.com.