Goodbye Holly: The Eulogy for A Paulsen Family Dog

Holly's beginning is uncertain. When we arrived at the dog shelter in Salt Lake on September 23rd, 2006 the employees told us she was appx 2 years old and had already been through 2 previous homes.

The car ride home after picking Holly up at the rescue shelter

Despite her rocky first years, she seemed sweet to us, and almost exactly 13 months after our marriage, we decided we were ready for the stewardship of another living thing.

In December 2006, I was experimenting with allowing Holly to be off the leash with me in the front yard. We were putting up Christmas lights when a neighbor drove by in his truck. The truck's presence scared Holly and in panic, she ran toward the truck and was run over by the rear wheel.

Patiently we scooped her up and drove her to a late-night vet hospital where she underwent surgery to place a metal plate in her hip. At the time it was all we could do to spare the $1000+ to make it happen but we figured she was young and the investment would be good. We didn't realize just how many years we were buying for Holly. The ROI was amazing.

Sadly this experience didn't help Holly's social skills. I'll never forget an evening soon after Holly had returned from the hospital when we needed to leave and recruited a friend to come to stay at the house with recovering Holly. Holly could barely move but she managed to drag herself across the floor to bite our friend.

From that point forward she couldn't be easily trusted with strangers and her fear of Vets and animal hospitals meant being muzzled for every vet visit for the rest of her life.

Her fear of strangers didn't apply to our children. When Simon was born in late 2007 he was immediately drawn to Holly. She was always a very tolerant dog with our children. In fact, despite our fears that she might get aggressive she was known to circle around Simon when visitors came over in a manner to suggest she thought she needed to protect him.

And Simon loves Holly. Holly was a frequent comforter when Simon was in pain.

Holly was an escape artist. She didn't understand boundaries and felt our very generous backyard in Provo just wasn't big enough. She spent her outside time staring at the neighbor's dogs through the fence and digging her way under the fence.

She had a great technique that involved rolling onto her back and getting her front paws under the fence and then using the front legs to pull/slide the rest of the body through on her back.

We tried many things but eventually poured concrete directly under the fence line. That was relatively successful in that home.

On one memorable occasion, Holly vanished and we couldn't find her. We looked for hours and hours and drove around the neighborhood hanging up missing signs. We called all the nearby shelters over and over again in case she had been picked up by animal control but they reported not having a black and white dog with a red collar.

Late that night, after the shelters were closed a neighbor told us she saw the animal control vehicle pick up Holly. We drove down to the shelter the next morning and told them we knew they had the dog despite the numerous phone calls where they told us they did not. They finally agreed to go check and came back out with a not-so-happy Holly who had been peppered sprayed.

Ami wrote a letter to the editor of a local paper which prompted the director of the shelter to call us and apologize.

Holly loved to swim. We lived near the Provo River and Holly loved to get off leash and dive right in. She would paddle toward the ducks until there were no more left in sight and eventually with our strong calling exit the river. One neighbor had an above-ground swimming pool. If allowed Holly would jump over the 4-foot pool wall right into the water and swim so much that eventually, she would whimper in pain and exhaustion.

Holly swimming in the Provo River

Holly was a runner because I was a runner. From 2006 to 2010 I ran daily, often 5-8 miles and Holly took every step with me. We trained together for a large number of 5Ks and a half marathon.

Simon, Holly, and I going for a run

Holly wasn't one of those dogs you could take to public places. She never hung out on the patio of a restaurant with us or walked down a busy main street in a tourist town. She didn't particularly love other people but she loved us and that was enough.

Lucy loved Holly too. Holly wasn't as into “cuddling” as Lucy would like but nobody really is. Lucy would fight with Simon over who would walk Holly. Lucy will miss Holly dearly.

Holly followed me everywhere. The only habit or trait that truly lasted until the very end of Holly's life was her desire to be where I was. She followed me where ever I went. My home office generally smelt like Holly and toward the end of her life that frankly became a problem.

Holly in my lap while I sit at my desk in my Provo home office

Holly had serious anxiety. In the beginning, Holly demonstrated a destructive streak when she was left alone. A few nice chairs and other furniture, shoes, etc were all victims of her anxiety. She just couldn't stand the idea of being alone.

Up until the last year or so of her life, when we left the house she would howl and bark for at least 15 minutes until she gave up on the idea that barking could bring us back. Due to her destructive tendencies, we locked her in a room. In the Provo house that was a bathroom/laundry room. She wasn't ok with it but didn't fuss too much about it.

On our first day after moving to Colorado, we decided to lock her in an empty bedroom when we went out for dinner. When we came home she greeted us at the door. Upon inspection, we found that she had eaten/torn her way through the door itself making a hole large enough to get through. The next day we left her alone in that house to go to church and we decided to put her on a chain in the backyard. She broke the chain from the tree it was tied to, made a hole in the fence, and was exploring the neighborhood when Animal Control picked her up. We arrived in time to negotiate her release.

In the Lake Arbor house, we took to locking her in the basement. This was when she learned to open doors. We had to resort to putting her in the basement and then placing a wedge under the door to keep it closed. That eventually didn't work either and it was around this time, in her 10th or so year that we gave up on locking her up when we were gone. As she aged she calmed down in some ways. Or at least we didn't lose any more furniture after that.

Her anxiety made the prospect of taking her to a kennel to board while we were away absolutely impossible. So throughout her life we worked hard to find people who could house-sit for us. In her early years that meant someone actually sleeping at our house and being there the majority of the day. After a few days, she might even warm up to that person and tolerate some petting.

On one such trip we received a text from the housesitter informing us that he (the housesitter) thought we had a raccoon in our basement because there were bags of flour torn open and various plastic totes and cardboard boxes that had corners chewed up pretty bad. Sigh… not a raccoon. It was Holly.

On another occasion, while we were at Mt Rushmore during a July 4th holiday the house sitter let Holly into the backyard when fireworks began to erupt. Like most dogs, Holly is terrified of loud noises and spent most Independence day nights attempting to fit under our bed. On this particular evening however she escaped for the first and only time from the Lake Arbor house. She took off and our poor housesitter and her family spent the better part of 2 hours driving the neighborhood looking for her.

Eventually, they discovered she had jumped through an open window into the cab of a neighbor's truck. They couldn't get her out of the truck until they had the neighbor drive the truck into our garage and with the garage door closed they coaxed her out of the truck and back into the house.

In 2016 we moved into our current home in Whisper Creek. A few weeks after we moved in we made the difficult decision to miss out on a family reunion because we thought leaving Holly alone in a new house, even with a housesitter could push her to a breaking point.

Holly was incontinent for the last decade of her life. We gave her pills that supplemented some protein she lacked that helped her hold in her liquids. Over the 10 years, we slowly increased the dosage to the point that the Vet was telling us she was getting an unsafe amount. Perhaps, that dosage eventually did lead her to the physical challenges and degradation she experienced, but it was a massive trial for our family.

Living in unsanitary conditions with carpets filled with urine and ruined hardwood floors from constant cleaning was a huge price to pay to keep Holly around. However, she is our dog and our stewardship over her was something we took seriously. Given she lived to be over 18 years old I've often wondered if those pills prolonged her life.

In February 2018 we took note that Holly was getting old. At 13-14 years old, we figured she was probably moving toward the end of her life because all the dogs Ami and I had ever had or ever known hadn't lived past 14-15 years old. You could see the strain when she got up or lay down, and she started to lose hearing and eyesight.

In order to soften the blow for our family and children we decided it was time to get another dog. A dog that could be there for us when we lost Holly. Enter Watson.

There are 2 pertinent things you need to know about Holly and Watson. First, Watson loved Holly. Absolutely adored every single fiber of her being. Second, Holly hated Watson. Despite her best efforts to communicate her disgust Watson also interpreted her behavior as play and remains convinced they were best friends.

Here you see how important it was to Watson to be touching Holly. Despite her disgust, she knew she had to tolerate the creature, and tolerate him she did.

There were small moments when we thought that maybe, just maybe, Holly didn't fully hate Watson.

It didn't take long for Watson to greatly outgrow Holly

In Holly's old age she became more trusting. Perhaps the blindness, the deafness, or just the lack of energy, caused her to allow anyone to pet her. She took to positioning herself in doorways so she would be more likely to notice when I left the room.

She developed large and small lumps all over her body and for the last 3-4 weeks often had to be carried to the grass because she was unable or unwilling to make it down the 4 steps.

Holly started having seizures. At first, we thought they were associated with anxiety but then they started to happen right in front of me when she had no cause for alarm.

Deciding to euthanize Holly is among the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make. Three or four weeks ago I called the Vet for yet another conversation about how we would know when it was time to end Holly's life. When I hung up that phone call I lost it. I balled. Perhaps the most significant crying I've done in a very long time because I felt it. I knew it was time to let go and consider Holly's pain and discomfort above our own selfish desire to keep her in our family.

There was a distinct emotional switch from the previous years of joking about her being a zombie and talking about replacing the carpet when she left to suddenly feeling distraught and sad about letting her go. Reconciling my emotions, and those of my family, and deciding to let her return home was agonizing and horrible. I still feel horrible.

Today was the day. Neither of our children dealt with the pain well as they left the house for school and said their final goodbyes. I'm horrified that my children may not forgive me or may not understand that we made the best decision for Holly in ending her pain and allowing her to return to heaven and watch over us from her perch on high. I don't question the decision but I think others in the family do. Regardless I feel broken.

Holly has been with us for 16 years. She came home with us almost 1 year after our marriage and she has been with us longer than either child and has been in 4 homes with us. I basically don't know life without her at this point.

Holly's Final Moments

Ami and I burned thru Kleenex in Holly's final moments and the day doesn't seem to be getting any less emotional as it goes by. In her final moments, I couldn't say anything and Ami just repeated: “We love you Holly.” I hope Holly knows she was loved. She was not a very good dog by traditional standards but she was our dog and we loved her and she loved us. We'll miss you Holly.


  1. Matthew on November 8, 2022 at 11:30 am

    My heart hurts for you guys as you grieve for Holly. Right now it may be hard to believe, but I know you made the right decision. Maybe not right away, but in time, Simon and Lucy will see the love in the decision you guys made. I pray that God’s love would strengthen you all in and through this sad time.

  2. Riley on November 8, 2022 at 11:41 am

    What a tribute to the life that was (and is) Holly!

    I remember all these years of you talking about how she could still possibly be alive. I know you were planning on her leaving some time ago. But I also know that this was a significant loss.

    I’ll be sure to include you, Ami, Simon, Lucy, Watson, and Holly in my prayers today.

  3. Bruce on November 29, 2022 at 5:54 pm

    I do not shed tears easily but reading about your beloved dog really got to me. My son has a dog similar to Holly so it hit home. His dog sometimes barks constantly most of the time his wife and him cannot figure out what is wrong. My wife and I take care of him and their other dog when they leave as neither of his dogs do well by themselves. Here in Florida people fire off fireworks randomly year round and his male dog Speckles is absolutely terrified and will go through a window, wall or knock everything in their house over that is possible when fireworks go off. Same thing with lightning. He hates their cat and barely tolerate his other dog or our two. He will jump on the bed and if you try to move him over or try to snuggle he will bark constantly. His dog is under so much self induced stress it is like he has the weight of the entire world on him at all times. Long story short they have a lot to deal with and they like you love that dog dearly and will go to any extent for his well being. I seriously doubt if their are many people who would put up with that dog. When he stays overnight here neither my wife or I hardly get a wink of sleep. They have been dealing with that for 8 or 9 years now. Take Care and I am very sorry about the loss of your beloved dog.

Leave a Comment