Holly and I met in the Summer of 1988.

I had finally decided to have another dog in my life, so I contacted the local animal welfare group, PAWS. They told me of a young mongrel bitch that had been found wandering in the Biscot Mill area of Luton.

My sister Emma and I went to the home of one of PAWS's volunteer's and I had my first glimpse of Holly, or Daisy May, as she was known at the time. She came out of her kennel barking and with her hackles up!

She was a funny little thing to look at, she looked a bit like a Labrador who's legs ended at it knees, with big paws at the end. "Oh look at her little legs" I said, she stopped barking and stood stock still and I received my first famous Holly Stare. After she'd finished glaring at me, Emma managed to persuade Holly into a game of chase. I stood back and watched Holly's reactions and temperament. "What do you think" I asked Emma. "I think she'll be OK, she's just very unsure at the moment and doesn't known what's going on, she'll be OK" replied Emma.

We estimated Holly to be about a year old, by looking at her beautiful set of teeth, which remained immaculate throughout her life.

So Holly came home with me. Emma and I stopped at the dog grooming shop were Emma worked, so I could buy Holly a lead and collar and then we took her to meet my parents and their Yorkshire terriers, Cindy and Jodie. I took Holly home and she met my partner at the time, Martin.

He walked into the house wearing his motorcycle crash helmet. Holly, who had been cuddled up with me on the sofa, went absolutely ballistic. She charged around the house barking her head off and racing passed him at full speed. He took his helmet off, and she calmed down enough to sit and stare at him, whilst giving the occasional bark. "I see we've got our hands full here" he said.

Holly settled in well during the first week, and then the trouble started. As frequently happens with rescue dogs, Holly could not bear to be left on her own, she thought she was being dumped again. She had her own quiet area in the kitchen, under the stairs, where she had her bed, her toy's, her chews and her food bowls. One morning I came down to find the vegetable rack decimated and the bin spread all over the floor. This continued to happen every morning, so the offending articles were removed and things put behind cupboard doors. The cupboard doors were vandalised. I went to the loo one day and shut the lounge door behind me, so Holly decided to eat the sofa.

I tried my best not to show any reaction to these incidents and would just tidy up whilst ignoring Holly, who would be waiting for me to say something. However Martin's patience was starting to wear thin. I went for a bath, as Holly was shut out of the bathroom, she decided to eat the quilt on the bed. Martin waved a rolled up newspaper at her, Holly just froze on the spot and lost complete control of her bladder, and so we discovered that she'd been beaten.

The final straw was when I left for work one morning calling to Martin, who was in the bathroom, that Holly was out in the garden. He came downstairs about five minutes later to find Holly had eaten through the back door and had her head stuck through the hole. I rang PAWS and the Vet's and they both decided that spaying Holly might just calm her down, We had been waiting until she'd had a season as we were not really sure how old she was, but the Vet said she'd probably be OK as she was a healthy and obviously strong young dog. So Holly was booked in for the snip.

The next day Holly had her operation and I had my driving test, which I passed - first time. I think I was too worried about Holly and whether the operation would help, to worry about taking my test.

As a treat for Holly, when she came home, I had brought her a Lady and the Tramp bean bag for her bedroom. She was still sleepy, from the anaesthetic, when we picked her up and she went straight to bed. The next morning I opened the kitchen door to be engulfed in a snowstorm of tiny polystyrene balls, with Holly sat in the middle of it all covered from nose to tail and a big grin on her face.

After that final outburst, Holly seemed to calm down just having the occasional relapse. She loved to go for a ride in the car, and I discovered her great love for football, give her a ball and she'd amuse herself for hours. Only it had to be a real leather football, anything else was just not good enough!

We joined the local doggie school and she passed with flying colours. However when she was out for a walk her recall was not as good as she'd pretended it to be when she'd gained her certificate! We went for a walk with Mum, Dad, Emma and Cindy and Jodie to Ashridge Woods. Holly was fine until she got the scent of something interesting. The head went down, the ears went flat and the tail went up and she was off at high speed! She raced round and round us staying just out of reach. She'd stop and let us nearly have her within reach and she'd be off again!! This carried on for about 30 minutes and in the end Emma had to hide in a bush and rugby tackle Holly to the ground as she ran passed!!

I also discovered Holly's love for Bailey's liqueur. One evening I was settled on the sofa, watching a video, with a very large glass of Baileys on the floor by the side of me. Holly was, allegedly, asleep on her bed. As I reached down to pick up my glass, Holly staggered passed the sofa and collapsed in a heap in front of the television with a very glazed expression on her face! I looked at my glass to find it was completely empty! She was drunk!! She even had a hangover the next morning!

When Martin and I went our separate ways, Holly and I moved in with one of Emma's friends and her four dogs.

Karen and Emma both worked at a grooming parlour and kennels and Holly and I would often go up for the day and Holly would play with the other dogs. It was on one of these visits that Holly, her of the cast iron stomach, decided to eat what looked like a dead mouse. It was eaten so quickly I couldn't really tell, however the kennel's owner told me if it was a dead mouse it'd had probably died from rat poison, and we'd better make Holly sick to get it out of her stomach.

We tried putting mustard on her tongue - she liked the taste! We tried anything with a horrible taste we could find, nothing worked, I rang the Vet and he said try soap. This seemed a bit strange, but we gave it a go. Holly charged around play- fighting with the other dogs and eventually after about 30 minutes the offending object was brought back up. I still couldn't tell whether it was a mouse or not, as it was covered in soap suds!! Holly was none the worse for the experience.

When I got together with my first husband, also called Martin, we decided to rehome another dog as company for Holly. We found a little mongrel bitch puppy whom we called Whitney. When Martin and I were married, Holly was there and featured in the Wedding video and photographs. We moved into our new home and gained two rescue kittens, a black and white Manx called Harriet and a tortoiseshell called Rosie. When Martin's mum's border collie had puppies, Martin decided to have the largest dog puppy who we called Jesse. Whitney and Jesse became great friends and totally inseparable, however Holly remained a 'people dog' and loved to go wherever I went. She did become fast friends with Harriet and the two of them would gang up on Martin, who Harriet hated with a vengeance. Holly would keep watch whilst Harriet did horrible things like weeing in Martin's crash helmet or using his sock drawer as a toilet!

One day Emma and I took Holly, Whitney and Jesse to Stockgrove Country Park, nr Leighton Buzzard. There is a small lake there and Whitney loved swimming. Holly and Jesse would only paddle, however if Whitney went out swimming after a stick Holly would paddle to the edge of the shallow part and ambush Whitney for the stick on the way back!

On this particular day, Emma and I skirted around the outside of the lake and came out at different area than usual. At this point the lake went straight down, there was no shallow part. Whitney went charging in as normal, but got frightened when she realised she could not touch the bottom anywhere, the side was quite steep and she could not get enough of a grip to pull herself out. As I was leaning over the edge fishing her out, I heard Emma shout. I turned around to see Holly perched on the side, with all four paws on the edge about to dive in. Before I could stop her she had conducted a dive worthy of an Olympic diver, she went straight down under the water with hardly a ripple caused. She then proceeded to swim underwater! I quickly put my arm in the water and managed to grab hold of her collar and pull her to the surface and out of the water. She just stood there glaring at me as if to say "I meant to do that, I knew what I was doing!"

As my marriage started to go wrong, Holly was always there for me when I needed a cuddle and some support. Even if she was in another part of the house and I was upstairs crying, somehow she would know, and she'd come up to me, usually closely followed by Harriet. Martin and I decided to separate and I found somewhere else to live. As Jesse and Whitney were so close and Jesse was really Martin's dog, it was decided that they would stay with him, and Harriet and Rosie would come with Holly and I.

We all moved into our girls bachelor pad and we had a great time. Holly and I did everything together and if I went away with my friend Donna or visiting other friends, Holly would go and stay with her Nanny and Grandad (my mum and dad). When I started dating again, Holly would give any prospective candidate the once over. If they did not pass the Holly test, that was the end of them!

Holly carried on with her occasional naughty outburst, I'll never forget the day that Holly and I went to Mum's for Sunday dinner. We had finished eating and Mum had emptied the joint's fat from the roasting tray into the rubbish bin. We started to wash up and I realised that Holly was missing. I called her, there was no response so I crept out to the garden to discover Holly buried up to her back legs in the rubbish bin. I called her, only for her to reveal herself covered from head to front paws in the joint's fat! At least she had a lovely sheen to her coat!

It was around this time, 1993, that Holly start to become unwell. She became larthgic, started to be sick and seemed to cough a lot. I took her to the Vet, who told me her lymph glands were up, he gave her some pill's and told me to return if it didn't get any better. It did not improve. We went back to the Vet and he said Holly's lymph glands had increased again in size. He told me he suspected Holly had leukaemia, and he would like to take some blood and conduct a biopsy to confirm this, if it was true he estimated Holly would only have a couple of months to live.

I was devastated. Holly and I went home and we'd lie together listening to Shakespeare's Sister's song 'Stay'. That became our song. When the result's of the biopsy and blood tests came back, they showed that Holly did not have leukaemia. However, the Vet could not find out what was wrong with her.

At the end of 1993 I met John, who I later married. Holly took to him straight away. John had never had a dog before, but for him and Holly it was love at first sight. John even created a breed for Holly. He called her a Dutch Mountain Hound (because of the unmentionable short things attatched to her body!) It was amazing how many people actually believed she was a Dutch Mountain Hound. They would often ask how the breed had originally managed to manouver around mountains with such short legs. We would reply, "how many mountains are there in Holland!"

Holly continued to be unwell, some days having good days but more often than not, having really bad sickly days. Our Vet could not find what was wrong and told me to prepare for the worse. I spoke to my parents and said I would not give up, because apart from the sickness, Holly was happy in herself, wanting to go for walks, playing ball and helping John in the garden with our scooters. The little girl from next door would come round and Holly would go out to play with her and her friends.

My mum suggested I took Holly to her Vet, Ken Thompson of the Icknield Veterinary group. He'd helped her with Jodie who, unfortunately, had recently passed away, Cindy had died the year before. 'Uncle Ken' as he is known to his patient's, looked into Holly's problem thoroughly, she had to have more biopsy's and x-rays after drinking some kind of liquid which would show on the x-ray.

It was then that we discovered Holly's trouble. She had what was known as a Mega Oesophagus. This meant that when she ate anything it would not go straight into her stomach, but it would sit in her oesophagus which would stretch and some of the food would slip down into her lungs, promoting secondary pneumonia, and it was that causing the coughing and heaving. Her lymph glands went up and down in size as she fought against infection. Uncle Ken suggested that Holly would be helped by eating her dinner raised off the floor, such as the larger breeds do, so John made Holly her very own dinner table. Almost straight away Holly improved.

One week our friends from York came down for a holiday and we decided to go camping for the weekend. Holly loved it, in fact when it was time to go home she sat and sulked in the middle of the tent with her back to us and her paw on her football. We had to take the tent down around her!

A few months later we all went to York for a return holiday, and when I say all, I mean all, John, Holly, myself and even Harriet and Rosie! Holly was thoroughly spoilt all week and had numerous roast dinners cooked by her 'Auntie Christine'. In fact all Christine had to say was "it's Chicky, Chicky time" and Holly was there waiting in the kitchen by her dinner table!

Later in the week we all went to Scarborough to attend a Mod rally (where lot's of people dress up in sixties clothes and listen to real music!). Holly had a great time and brought her own patch to prove she'd been there and even went to one of the daytime do's - she helped out on the door! She became known that weekend as the Mod Dog.

That year I became pregnant, and Holly would mother me and follow me around. The pregnancy didn't work out and I had to go into hospital for a D and C. John said Holly went into the garden and wailed at exactly the time I went down to theatre, and would not rest until I came home. When I did, it was Holly who sent me straight to bed. Unfortunately this has happened more than once since then and on each occasion Holly acted exactly the same.

It was at this time that my parents acquired their latest dog. Emma, who was now working as a traffic warden, rung my mum to tell her of a Yorkshire Terrier that had been found roaming in Dunstable and had been taken into the Police Station. Mum went down and had a look and said that she would give the dog a home if it wasn't claimed. We had to wait for seven days, and then we went to collect the dog from the police kennels. Holly came with us to check her out. Mum and Dad eventually decided to call the dog Katie. I don't know about her being a Yorkshire Terrier, but she defiantly is a Yorkshire Terrorist!!

In late 1994 John and I decided to move and in early 1995 we decided we would like another dog, as Holly enjoyed having a play with her own kind. John and I went to Crufts and John fell in love with the Elkhound. He liked the idea that, as we was informed by the chap on the breed stand, they didn't bark, smell doggie, or moult their hair. I said we'd look into it. I was a bit concerned as the breed was quite a bit larger than Holly. Anyway Holly's had never smelt doggie in her life, she may have suffered with cheesy feet but that was about all!

Speaking of cheesy feet, Holly had both of us in hysterics one day. John had come home from work and had taken his work boots off in the front room, he and Holly were playing ball and the ball landed near John's boots. Holly went to fetch the ball and as she got near the boots she stopped, sniffed around, looked back at John, walked up to the boots, stuck her nose in one of them, quickly pulled her nose back out, wiped her nose on the floor and then turned around and knocked both the boots over with her paw and staggered across the room and collapsed at my feet pretending to gasp for air!

Holly was starting to slow down quite a lot now, and had gone very distinguished around the muzzle, however she still enjoyed a game of football and you only had to mention the word tent or camping and she would start packing!! Every year at Christmas Emma would buy Holly a leather football or basketball, and it would be wrapped and put under the tree. Christmas morning, Holly would wait for everyone to open their presents and then she would start on hers, saving the large round object until the end. She would go mad, chasing it around the room and ripping the wrapping paper off. One year she even managed to send the Christmas tree flying! Christmas 1994, Emma decided that she would buy Holly an indestructible Kong instead of a ball for a change. After John and I had open our presents Holly started on hers, she was devastated when she realised there wasn't a ball there, then she thought it must be under Nanny's tree and she'd get it when we went up for dinner. Holly kept harassing us to get in the car and go to my parents. When we got there she ran straight to the tree and started to check her presents. Once they were all opened and she realised she hadn't got a ball, she went and sat facing the wall with her back to us. She would not have anything to do with anybody, she refused her favourite Cadbury's Roses chocolate and even refused to have her Christmas dinner. She either sat with her back to us, or stomped around the house giving big sighs and huffing a lot.

By the middle of the afternoon we couldn't stand it any longer, Mum said there was a ball in the garage and if we wrapped it up, we might just get away with the rest of the day in peace. I crept into the garage, smuggled the ball into the house, went upstairs and quickly wrapped it up. I came downstairs and hid it under the tree. "Holly" I called "look, Daddy Christmas has been again, he must have forgot something." Holly came over a One hundred miles an hour, she went bananas, the lounge was covered in wrapping paper within seconds, and Holly was sat in the middle of it with a big grin on her face! She then went into the kitchen and ate her dinner. The next year Emma had brought Holly a ball, but forgot to bring it with her and had to go back home to fetch it as we all could not stand another Christmas like the one before!

In the New Year I saw an advert in the local newspaper for a black German Spitz (Mittel) bitch, aged six months. I rang John and told him, and he asked what they were like. "They are just like the Elkhound, only smaller" I said telling a small white fib! We went to have a look and we acquired Marcie.

Holly and Marcie became very close and Marcie helped Holly to regain some of her youthful vigour, especially on walks when they would charge around like a pair of hooligans. Later, when John was reading an information leaflet on the German Spitz, he read that, and I quote, 'a German Spitz in full moult is like a dandelion in the breeze', that the German Spitz was originally bred to bark and inform the villagers that there was intruders or wolves about, subsequently Spitz's are known to be yappy, and also with their thick coats, when they get damp they tend to whiff a bit. "So much," he said "for the non barking, non moulting and non smelling small version of an Elkhound!"

In 1996 John and I moved again, we decided to buy a house this time as it worked out a lot cheaper than renting. We brought a house that needed renovation. As the house had no central heating and we moved in February, it was decided that Holly would go and stay with my parents. She had started to be unwell again and I could not risk the chance of her catching a chill, anyway she helped to keep Mum's Yorkshire Terrorist in line!

Holly would come a visit at the weekends and I would go round every day to see her. Marcie really missed Holly and as I had fallen in love with the German Spitz breed, I decided to get another. We found out about an eight week old little white boy in Corby, so we went to see him. We fell in love with him and he came home with us. We took him up mum's to meet Holly and Katie. Katie decided he was only good for a severe chewing and had to be put in her bed. Holly, however, gave him the once over and the famous stare. She decided he was OK, but if he stepped out of line she would soon put him in his place. Jake became Marcie's partner in crime! Or should that be partner in grime!

When the weather warmed up, Holly came home. She seemed to be feeling better again, although she was still on about five different tablets, twice a day. Jake became devoted to her and really loved her, Holly, however, would act as if she didn't care about him, and would constantly tell him off, although I did often catch her cuddled up with him on the rug, if she thought no one was looking. Holly looked much better, although she was a lot slower now and found a long walk to much of a strain. She still liked to have a short game of ball. For my birthday, Emma had taken a lovely photo of Holly sat in my mum's garden with her ball by her feet. Emma had the photo enlarged and framed as a present for me. I cried when I saw it.

John and I were married in the August and we had two weeks holiday for our honeymoon. The first week we decided to spend at home and the second week we would be going to the Isle of Wight, camping! I spoke to my Mum and we decided that the journey and camping for a week would be too much for Holly, however well she seemed. She was still having to go to Uncle Ken's every week for a check up. The Thursday after we'd been married Holly started to get really excited. She'd heard the word holidays (or 'Holly-days" as it was pronounced in our house) and the seaside mentioned. John and I decided we would take her to the seaside for the day, however Holly had different ideas. She refused to come until we had given in and packed the small tent and the sleeping bag. "We'll have to take her camping now" I said "she'll never let us live it down if we go away next week without her." So we all drove to Hay-on-Wye in Wales and stayed at a small campsite there. Holly was in her element. She sat in the doorway of our small dome tent and surveyed her surroundings whilst sniffing the country air. She introduced herself to the campers either side and played with the children. Jake and Marcie just watched in amazement!

The two teenage girls from the family camped next door asked if they could take the dogs for a walk, Jake and Marcie were game, but Holly, when asked if she wanted to go walkies, looked up at the darkening sky, gave a large yawn, went into the tent, crawled inside the sleeping bag and fell fast asleep with her head on the pillow! Later on John, myself, Marcie and Jake went to bed and we all had to squeeze into what was left of the sleeping bag as someone was snoring their head off and could not be moved!

That Saturday, our Scooter club had a weekend event. This meant we would again be camping out, however we would be taking our large family tent as it would also double as a marquee. We all went again and the dogs had a great time, they all know the difference between the noise of a scooter and a motorbike. They ignore motorbikes and go barmy when they hear a scooter. Holly played ball with our friend's little girl and they all chased around the field with her.

That night we had a barbecue and sat around the glowing coals chatting. Again Holly decided when it was time for bed, this time making sure Marcie and Jake went too!

On Sunday evening I took Holly to my parents and gave her a big kiss and said I would see her in a week. Katie was really pleased to see her. The next day we set of for the Isle of Wight. I rang Mum nearly everyday to make sure Holly was OK. She said that she'd been sick a few times, but apart from that she was OK. Mum had the phone number of the campsite in case she needed to reach me.

On the Friday morning the campsite's owner came to find me. She said that my mother had phoned and could I ring her straight away. I rang to the phone box and tried to call my Mum. The answer machine was on, I kept trying for about an hour. Eventually I got an answer.

Mum said Holly was very ill, that she'd been unbelievably sick and was bringing up lots of blood. Her gums had turned completely white. Uncle Ken had told Mum to bring Holly straight down to the surgery. He'd met Mum and Dad in the car park. He had taken one look at Holly, grabbed her from my Dad's arms and run with her to the theatre. He got Holly straight on to a drip and made her as comfortable as possible. He told Mum and Dad that she may have had a burst ulcer and once she had stabilised and was less dehydrated he would investigate. Holly would have to stay in for that night at least. I wanted to go straight home, but I couldn't get a ferry as it was bank holiday weekend.

I phoned Mum that afternoon and she said Uncle Ken had phoned and told her Holly had stabilised and the colour had returned to her gums. She had not brought up any more blood, so they would give her an x-ray the following day to see if they could find out what had happened.

I phoned Mum the next evening and she said that the x-ray had shown absolutely nothing and that Holly had apparently made an amazing recovery, yet again. She would be able to come home the following day. Uncle Ken was absolutely bamboozled as to what was wrong with her. He said "That's our Holls, up one minute and down the next, she's an absolute mystery."

He'd contacted Veterinary colleges and other colleagues and nobody could come up with what could be wrong with Holly. John and I came home on the Monday and we went straight to my parents before going home, Holly came bounding out of the house to meet me! Then I got 'That Stare', the one that said "how dare you go camping without me." I could hardly believe that she'd been at death's door only three days before.

It was decided that Holly should again stay at my parents, as she would need someone constantly around to keep an eye on her. Holly had a couple of good weeks and then she started to be really sick again. The strange thing was that it wasn't food she would bring up, it was water. She could eat her dinner, but as soon as she had a drink, even just a teaspoon full she would begin the dreadful coughing and eventually be sick. Mum was constantly cleaning up after her.

Holly, who had always been a very proud dog, was mortified, you could see the shame in her eyes. We would constantly tell her it was alright and it wasn't her fault. She began not wanting to go for a walk anymore and it became an effort for her to go out to the garden. She even lost interest in her ball, she would try, but she just didn't have the energy. Uncle Ken tried everything in his power to help her, but she was losing weight fast and becoming dehydrated.

Suddenly her really bad days were out-weighing the good days. One night I went to my parents and I lay down on the floor with Holly. I cuddled up to her and she seemed to tuck my head under her chin, against her chest, and she rested her head on the back of my neck, We lay like that for a long time and when we both moved, we looked at each other at the same time and she seemed to nod at me. I knew what I had to do, however I couldn't bring myself to make the decision.

Uncle Ken had gone away to visit his mother in Leicestershire and he was ringing every morning to see how Holly was. On the Monday morning, Mum phoned to say that Holly had a bad night but seemed to be a bit better again. My Dad had been sitting up with Holly every night and hadn't been to bed properly for months. I went up to see her that night and again Holly gave me that look.

On the Wednesday morning. Mum phoned to say that Holly had been ever so bad during the night and just didn't want to know anymore. John and I went straight to my Mum's. I looked at Holly and she looked at me nodding, with pleading eyes and I knew the time had come.

"Ring Uncle Ken" I told my Mum. I cuddled up on the floor with Holly and I kissed her and she kissed me. "He's there" said Mum, "He's expecting us" We took Holly's bed with us in the car and we drove to the surgery. Uncle Ken took us straight into the surgery, he had everything waiting.

I held Holly in my arms, telling her how much I loved her and she looked straight into my eyes. She seemed to be telling me I was doing the right thing, and her look of love never wavered as she fell asleep for the last time.

Uncle Ken, with tears streaming down his face, wrapped Holly gently in her blanket, carried her to the car and placed her in her favourite bed. I sat with Holly when we got home, never leaving her.

That evening, Dad and John dug Holly's final resting place, and we laid her down with her favourite toys, balls and blanket. I spent hours sitting by her grave side, and couldn't speak to anyone for a very long while. I later bought a Rose Bush to mark Holly's place, called 'Remember Me'.

About a week after Holly had moved onto the Rainbow Bridge, I was driving to work in the morning. As I sat in the traffic 'Stay' by Shakespeare's Sister came on the radio. The tears started streaming down my face, and as I looked in the mirror to wipe them away - I saw Holly sitting on the back seat looking at me. I looked round and the seat was empty. I looked in the mirror, and she was there again - looking fit, healthy and happy. She seemed to be smiling, in her own special way. I think she was telling me that everything was alright, she was safe and well, she was free of all the pain and suffering and that although her body had gone - her spirit would be with me forever.

Even now I still feel her with me, not always, as I'm sure she has new friends in the place where all the good doggies go, but every so often I know she is here. I can feel her resting her head on my knee, brushing against my leg, sitting next to me and sometimes I see her shadow - there is no mistaking that shape,
My Dutch Mountain Hound.........

My Best Friend, My Beautiful Holly.

Sarah Carey 1996