Pieces of My Heart

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Farewell to the "How Could You?" Dog

by Jim Willis

I didn't want to spoil anyone's Valentine's Day yesterday by announcing that I had to say goodbye to my elderly rescued Basset Hound "Holly Golightly." Holly was about ten when I adopted her on her last day from a kill shelter, and she was approaching fourteen. She had a stroke several weeks ago and hadn't made a good recovery. I knew she was in her last days and, partially concerned about the quality of her life and partially spurred by an erroneous weather prediction that could have meant I'd be snowed in on my mountain for several days, I made that difficult call yesterday. It was appropriate that the day commemorating love should be her last day on this Earth.

I drove fifteen miles pas the vet office to get to the nearest fast-food restaurant to order Holly two plain cheeseburgers, without a dill pickle. I was very clear about that at the drive-through order-intercom because they'd made that mistake before and Holly accused me of trying to poison her (and I'd had to go back inside and order her new cheeseburgers!)... I made it to the pick-up window before the tears started to flow and the elderly woman working the window asked, "Are you okay, honey?" and I said, "Not really. I'm on the way to have my old dog put to sleep and I wanted her to have some final cheeseburgers." The poor woman started crying too and refused to accept money for my order. (I think I'll take her a box of candy next week. I'll bet she paid for them herself out of her minimum-wage earnings).

Holly never knew or cared how "famous" she was. She had inspired what has been called the most published animal-related essay in the world, translated into 25 foreign languages that I know of. She only wanted her home-cooked dinner served on time and for me to play doorman for her one hundred times a day. She'd been incontinent for the past year and, despite all proper precautions, and newspaper provided for her benefit, she felt the need to announce her incontinence to me at 3 or 4 A.M.

She never knew that "her" story, "How Could You?," when read by a drivetime radio DJ in Toronto, stopped traffic. And then it was repeated with similar results in other cities. Or that it encouraged some people to think, change their minds, get involved, and most importantly, for some to go to the nearest shelter and save a beautiful animal being who didn't deserve to die, who never deserved to be abandoned. I hope now, in a better place, she knows that. She changed a lot of lives, most especially mine, and I miss her so.

As much as I would appreciate anyone's sympathy, what Holly and I would appreciate more is that you download the story she inspired, "How Could You?," from the sample writings section, and distribute it where it can do some more good. That's the greatest tribute we could pay her: www.crean.com/jimwillis.

I gave her a final kiss and whispered "How Could You?" in her ear, and I think she understood.


February 15, 2003

Jim Willis, Pieces of My Heart



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