"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray. You'll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away."
When Holly was barely ten weeks old, I began singing this lullaby to her on a daily basis. She was my Christmas present when I was in the 6th grade, when I was twelve years ago. I remember picking her out like it was yesterday...she was so pudgy and she actually attempted to crawl away from me while I was looking at her litter of sisters and brothers. For some reason, mainly because she was so perfectly white and beautiful, I knew I had to have HER. I wouldn't get her until Christmas Eve, because she was going to my biggest and most special gift that year. I remember Dad going to get her, a couple of hours away from our house, and as soon as I saw his lights coming down our road I sprinted towards the door. My mom asked, "Do you have a name yet?" I wanted something Christmasey and I don't really remember WHO picked the name Holly, but that was what we settled on moments before I had her in my arms. And for whatever reason, I wanted her middle name to be LOU. Holly Lou Rogers. She was the Christmas angel that my family had desperately been waiting for.
She was supposed to be an outdoor dog. My brother Nathan has always had deadly allergies to cat and dog dander, so this was never up for debate. Dad custom built her a huge pen outside as well as an entry through the barn where she would have a built in wooden bed, carpeted areas, and a space heater to keep her warm. Christmas morning I woke up almost before the sun, barely put a coat on, and ran outside to greet my new baby sister. She was grunting, which we eventually learned would be one of her biggest indications of pure joy, and I swooped her in my arms. She nibbled on my coat sleeve and I kissed her face a million times. I remember being scared to put her in the blankets of snow that waited us outside the barn door, because she was so white and so small, I was terrified she would get lost!! My dad had created a pathway from the barn to the house though, so I made sure that she walked beside me down the path and I took her inside to our pool room. [My family has an indoor pool that is a building attached to our house. Mom and Dad said I could play with her in there because Nathan rarely went into the poolroom, and she needed to be able to run and play. I played so long in that room with her, chasing her around the pool [she fell in MUCH too often and that is probably why until the day she passed, she was never fond of water like the rest of Labs.] When the rest of my family woke up, she was allowed to be on the couch with me while I opened my stocking and I remember so clearly putting a giant red bow on the top of her head. I was wearing blue pajamas that had cows jumping over the moon on them and they were from Limited Too. I have no idea why I have never forgotten why I was wearing this particular outfit, maybe because of the pictures we have of Holly and I that Christmas morning...
From that Christmas on, from age twelve to twenty-three, Holly would forever be my closest friend. She was the sister that I had always prayed for as a child. She was the friend that I had always needed. She was the angel that always protected me. Nathan was sick very often, which put me home alone very often. [I'm sure I had some adult in the house, or that Sean was there, but I really don't recall.] I always brought Holly indoors and took her to my bed once we were done playing in the pool room. And from day one, I always sang, "You Are My Sunshine," to her. She would lay with me for hours. She was never a licker and she was always very quiet. It's like her soul knew that I just needed simple and pure comfort. When Nathan returned from one illness in the hospital, I remember he got allergy tested. They tested him for the dog allergy and everyone was shocked--it had gone away and the doctor said he was NO LONGER allergic to dogs. Holly quickly became ONLY an indoor dog, and even quicker became one of Nathan's best friends. She went everywhere with us. Mom brought her to pick us all up from school. My friends and classmates would flood the van and beg to see her. Many of them called her Holly Berry or Holly Molly and Holly Loubell. She had a million different names, and a million different fans.
At the time I got Holly, we also had another dog named Chelsie. She was a black and white border collie and lived to be fifteen years old. Holly was very young, maybe only 8 months or a year old, when it was time for Chelsie to be put to sleep for numerous health reasons. I was devastated and spent hours sobbing outdoors with Holly. I don't ever remember wondering though, "How will I ever get through this?" and that is because I had Holly by my side the entire time. She never left. I balled under our apple tree and even at one point went for a walk, sat down, and balled in the middle of our very empty dirt road. She just stared at me and waited. As I write this now, tears are streaming down my face. Holly left the world at 3:36 this morning and I didn't get to say good-bye. Mom and Dad were with her, and told her that they loved her. But as I write this, I can't help but think, "How will I ever get through this?"
Humphrey & Elsa, my two precious dogs, are lying in bed with me and they have me tucked in so tightly that I can't move my legs. I know that I am loved and that I am taken care of. I know that God is trying to comfort me and give me peace. I know He is trying to help me see that Holly was miserable and not well in her last days. She was just diagnosed with kidney cancer and everything came on so quickly... I know one can't truly prepare for times like these, but my heart was nowhere close to accepting the fact that she really would not be with us here on earth for much longer. Before she was diagnosed with cancer, Asa and I watched All Dogs Go to Heaven, because I don't think I ever watched it as a child. As I write this, I can't help but find my peace in the popular phrase that all dogs certainly must go to Heaven...
There are a lot of questions in my mind. Ones that consist of, "How will home ever be the same? How will Nathan do without his Holly? How will I be able to survive going to Michigan and walking into a house that does not house her anymore? How will I get through Elsa tearing through my parent's house looking for Holly? Will my parents throw or put away her bedding? Her toys? Her bones? How will life ever be the same?"
She blessed us with her presence for eleven years. Her twelfth birthday would have been October 30, the day before Halloween. I know she made it to the predicted lifespan of a Labrador Retriever, but I suppose there was an unrealistic mindset for me that she would live forever. How could she not?? As I close this entry, I guess I will say a small good-bye that I didn't get to tell Holly face to face...
You are my sunshine. My only sunshine. You made me happy when skies were gray. You'll never know Dear...how very much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away.
Holly, you caught many of my tears on your sweet, soft, white face. You listened to my heartbreaks and you so often bore my weight when I couldn't stand on my own. You kept me company while I did my routine runs down our dirt road. You loved chasing me while I road the go-cart. In fact, that's one of the last memories I have of you, Sissy. When I was home in July and Dad got the go-cart out for me... I told you not to chase me because I knew your hips hurt and that you were very fragile, but you couldn't resist. You barked and chased me a whole half loop around the yard. I think it made you smile. It made you feel like you were young again and like life was young again.
I'm trying to understand, but nothing is making sense right now. My world is shaking but I know Heaven stands, baby girl. My heart is breaking, and you have it in your hands. I know you hate to see me cry, but I can't stop just yet...You changed my life, Holly Lou. You made my world complete. Thank you for never judging me, for holding my secrets under lock and key, for loving me when I didn't deserve to be loved, for keeping me safe, for motivating me in times I felt I couldn't go on, and for being mine.
I think you lived a good life, baby girl. I hope you enjoyed every second and I pray you felt how much you were truly loved and adored. Thank you for watching over our big brother, for being his Holly, for being the most said word and name in his vocabulary outside of Garfield in his nightly prayers. You were his just as much as you were mine.
Holly, there will never be another you. There will never ever be another dog or even person who touched my heart the way that you did. All I can say is thank you, and beg God to give me peace and comfort during time morning of pain and tears. As I write, I feel like you are still here. And when I stop to pause, this feeling of such remorse shakes my body as in my head, Mom's phone call to me plays over and over again. You're body is gone, Holly, but you will never be gone. Please don't ever forget me. I won't ever forget you.
Your Big Sister.