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Vagabond dog embarks on final journey

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How is it that a picture of our dog ended up on our neighbors’ Christmas trees? I smile every time I think about it.

Her name was Holly. Holly Noel. Born on Halloween, she was a Christmas gift to my husband Boone. He’d wanted a hunting dog and I’d always wanted a golden retriever. I found a way to get us both the dog we wanted when I discovered a line of goldens with excellent hunting pedigree.

Boone spent several months training her and Holly was a quick study. In fact, our little golden girl was so adept that my brother Matthew would often ask if he could take Holly with him on his bird hunts. When Matthew returned with her one day within an hour of leaving, we asked if he’d changed his mind about going hunting. Nope. He was happy to report that he’d already gotten his limit thanks to our Holly.

As the years passed and our family grew, hunting took a backseat to child rearing and Holly embraced the new role of loving, loyal kid wrangler. We couldn’t have found a gentler, more patient playmate.

Winter time always seemed to be her favorite time of year. She loved nothing more than to roll and play in the snow and during the holidays, we’d sing to her “she’s a holly, jolly doggy” to the tune of Holly Jolly Christmas. With a seemingly ever-present smile, the song truly suited her “jolly” personality.

When we moved to a quieter neighborhood on a less traveled street and Holly was an elderly lady, she took to visiting friendly neighbors. At first, we worried about her wandering. Our yard is a big one and putting a fence around it was cost prohibitive. We contemplated putting up an electric perimeter fence and even bought one, but didn’t have the heart to stop her from her walkabouts. We eventually surrendered to her will and engraved her name, our phone number and “Infamous Wanderer” on her collar. She never went far, and we knew her favorite haunts.

Besides, Holly had a penchant for making new friends who frequently told us they enjoyed her visits. Friends who would bring her inside, give her treats - even cook her steaks on “steak Friday.” And funny thing, our dog always seemed to know when it was Friday.

We are grateful to these friends who would call us if it was getting too late or too cold for Holly to walk home on her own. On her 13th Christmas, we gifted ornaments with a picture of Holly to two of her favorite spoilers.

Though I’m sure there are those who disagree with our doing so, I’m glad we didn’t keep Holly cooped up. She was too great to keep to ourselves; her gypsy soul required freedom. On June 28, at the age of 14, Holly embarked on her final journey to the great beyond. Though we mourn her loss, we are so thankful to have enjoyed her companionship for as long as we did and take heart in knowing that she’s simply moved on to her next great adventure. May your travels be full of friendly company, warm, sunny paths, birds to chase, children to cuddle, snow to roll in and of course, steak Fridays. Happy trails sweet friend.

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