For Holly

Lessons From My Dogs

For Holly

March 16th. It’s been two years now since Holly died, and nearly two years since I came to know her. I never knew her in her physical life; my awareness of Holly, an abused beagle saved from a chained existence in a neighbor’s yard, was born after her passing. No, I never knew her, yet she’s now and always a part of my life.

Born too, because of one lovable beagle, is a friendship between two people on opposite sides of the country. Kimiko lives in California and I in Virginia. It was Kimiko who rescued Holly from her abusive fate at the hands of the neighbor after watching her week after week, tied to a tree, sometimes without food for days, neglected and sad. She offered to buy Holly from the neighbor and brought her into her household to meet her husband and their dog, Lucky. Holly quickly blossomed and became a gentle, loving presence offering Kimiko that unique feeling of stability and togetherness that dogs so often give us.

But Holly suffered from several medical conditions and after many long happy years in this loving home, she succumbed to renal failure. Searching for someone who might understand her grief, but surrounded by callous, incredulous “it’s just a dog” people who would never share her pain, Kimiko emailed me after reading Lauren’s Story, my book about my own beagle, Lauren. Two years before, on May 16th , Lauren had died of cancer and yes, I understood the debilitating pain of losing one’s companion in life.

Fast forward two years hence, and Kimiko and her husband still have and care for Lucky. I write to her about my two canine joys, Flash and Chance. And life continues….

Holly and Lauren have brought together two people, one American, one Japanese, one on the west coast, the other on the east coast who have never once met, and yet nevertheless formed a bond based on mutual understanding and unconditional love. I know I would do anything for this woman so many miles away in California, and if there is one thing our animals give to us it is this powerful feeling of love without conditions. Easy for most of us to feel with our furry friends, the test becomes harder when we must apply it to include all of humanity. Now, that’s a lesson! But one I think our animals help us with and urge us towards.

How often have Kimiko and I marveled at these two abused beagles and all the people they touched, both while they lived and even afterwards. As Kimiko says, Holly and Lauren are together en

joying their eternal spring surely chasing rabbits and always smiling down at us, never far away.
And so I say thank you to a dog named Holly whose gentle spirit has touched my life, a dog I never met, and yet a dog for whom I will cry tears of joy this March 16th, for giving me so much.

Photo: My great love, Lauren, at my kitchen table in Paris. And below, awaiting her food on the kitchen tiles.

Kay Pfaltz is a writer and animal activist. Visit her website at to order copies of Lauren’s Story: An American Dog in Paris, the true story of a sick and abandoned beagle whose zest for life triumphs throughout adversary. Kay donates 100% of profits to animal organizations.