Holly’s Home: Honoring the Pup Who Brought a Community Together

Holly’s Home: Honoring the Pup Who Brought a Community Together

Holly’s Home: Honoring the Pup Who Brought a Community Together Featured

By / Local News / Tuesday, 19 April 2022 16:15

Editors Note: On the almost 2 year anniversary of Holly the Great Pyrenees coming back home all of us at the Gazette wanted to share this amazing short story by  Shirley Aycot who wrote about the escaped pup, her adventure, and how she united a community. At April’s Town Council Meeting April 18th was officially proclaimed April 18th as Holly/ Love Where You Live Day.”

Holly’s Home. A story by Shirley Aycoth. Hi! My name is Holly and this is my story about how I got lost, found and finally settled into my forever home.   First, let me tell you a little bit about myself.  I’m a Great Pyrenees, which means I am a big dog with thick white fur and I am protective by nature.  I wasn’t born in Carolina Beach but on a small farm a few hours away, in a little town called Bailey.  All of the pups from my litter were named after towns in North Carolina and I was named after the town of Holly Springs.  

I wasn’t born to be a pet, but to be a working farm dog.  As soon as I was old enough, my farmer human started training me to be a guardian for the other animals on the farm.  It didn’t take a lot of training as I am very smart and I learned a lot from my older dog family.  We took our duties very seriously and watched over goats, mini pigs, ducks and chickens.  We were ever watchful for hawks, coyotes, foxes and any other signs of danger.  We worked day and night to keep all of the animals herded together and safe.  Nothing was a match for me and my family of Great Pyrs!  Especially when most of the time all you needed was a big bark and a fierce growl.  It was wonderful.  

One day the farmer noticed that I was losing weight and didn’t seem as energetic as usual.  I stayed with my guard duties as best I could, but I was feeling so tired.  I was only a year old, so something seemed wrong.  The farmer took me to the vet who ran some tests and found out I was sick.  Not like a cold or anything, but I had something called Addison’s disease.  From what I could understand that meant that my body stopped making something that it needed to stay healthy.  The vet said I could take medication every day for the rest of my life which would help me feel better, but I needed to take it easy and avoid stress.   It was decided then that my farm guard dog days were over.  

I was so sad.  Even though I was tired, protecting the animals and being on the farm with my family was all I had ever known.  The farmer told me not to worry because she would make sure I found a new home where I would be cared for and loved.  But I couldn’t help but worry just the same.

A couple of people came to look at adopting me but said things like, “She’s so big!”, or “She will need medicine all the time!”.  I couldn’t help but feel more and more sad.  I was gentle, loving and protective.  Didn’t anyone want me?

One day a Nice Lady came to the farm to see about another working dog for her parents.  She met me, heard my story and fell in love with me.  Because, let’s face it:  I’m adorable.  I was hoping she would take me home with her but she said she couldn’t.  Her family already had six rescue dogs and they were all little.  I just wouldn’t fit in.  I understood.  It’s a big commitment to adopt a dog and tell them you will protect, love and care for them forever.  But Nice Lady couldn’t forget about me.  Six months later she called the farmer to say she wanted to take me home to live at Carolina Beach.  I was so excited to be wanted and wondered what kind of farm they had at Carolina Beach.  I was a little scared but Nice Lady was so sweet and I was willing to give this new home a chance.  

Once we got there, it was chaos!  I was going to live in a house with a big fenced-in backyard and six yapping small dogs.  I was so much bigger than all of them!  We had chickens on the farm that were bigger than most of them.  Some of them seemed friendly, but others weren’t so sure.  But worst of all, there was no job for me.  No farm, no farm animals, nothing to protect.  Everything felt strange, new and confusing.  New Family understood since they had adopted dogs before and knew it would take time and lots of love for me to adjust.  They knew it would take a few months for this to feel like home, but I just felt lonely and scared.  

One day, shortly after I arrived at Carolina Beach, I noticed the front door had been left open.  I decided to go out and have a look around.  I started sniffing the grass, checking out my new surroundings, just enjoying the breeze.  I was feeling so much better with my new medicine and I started running.  It felt so good!  I looked around to go back to my house, but they all looked alike.  I wasn’t sure how far I had run, so I tried to retrace my steps, but nothing looked familiar.  Probably best to just keep going and I would find it.  I eventually did, but it took about a month….

I wasn’t there, but I’m told that my New Family panicked when they realized I was missing.  They had a lot of friends so they put out the call for help.   They asked everyone they knew to look for me and please let them know if they saw me.  An alert went out on Facebook and suddenly all of Carolina Beach knew about me!  Soon there were people in cars, golf carts, bikes, mom’s pushing strollers, walkers all looking on every street, yard and trail for me.  That was pretty nice of them since I was just a big fluffy dog that none of them had met, but still I was missing.

One day turned into two, then three, and just kept going.  I didn’t really go very far and there were lots of sightings of me, but any time someone would get close to me, I would run.  People I didn’t know would call to me and try to coax me to them, but I didn’t trust them.  It just seemed like a good idea to keep running.  But I was getting hungry, tired and lonely.  I had been gone for weeks now.  Anytime someone let New Family know they saw me, I would be gone before they got there.  

I developed my daily routine:  I would start out early in the morning by going past the lake to check on the ducks.  Then I would go past the Boardwalk, through some neighborhoods, past the fire station, into the state park, into the forest and finally rest on a little hill I found when the sun got too hot.  It was a good spot because I could see all around and there was a little pond just below for water.  I had dealt with coyotes, ground hogs, fox and raccoons on the farm, but never this many and never by myself.  I was really scared.  Would I be safe when I slept?  Would I be able to find anything to eat and drink?  Would I be okay without my special medicine?  I really wanted to go back to my new home but I just couldn’t remember where it was.  Every day I looked up and down all of the streets but none of the houses looked like home.

A lot of people came up with ideas of how to help me get home, but none of them worked.  By now everyone in Carolina Beach knew about me and wanted to help.  Some people put out food and water, others continued to search for me and try to call to me, but I just kept moving because I was scared.  But the whole time I was thinking more and more about how to find my way back home.  Because I didn’t have my special medicine, I started feeling weak.  I was hungry, I hurt my leg and it was getting very lonely.  I missed New Home and New Family, wherever they were.  

New Family was so worried!  Had they done the right thing by adopting me?  How could they get me home safely?  Fortunately, they were about to meet some new friends who would help make that possible.  

A lady who lives in Carolina Beach reached out to them.  She told them she was an expert in Animal Rescue and had helped other lost animals get home.  She offered to help and they gladly accepted.  Another gentleman contacted them and said he knew a lot about drones, gadgets and cameras and that he would like to help too.  Yes, please!  Still another guy offered to help as well.  He said he was good with maps, computers and dealing with the community.  Even though none of them knew each other before, they agreed to work together to find me.  Team Bring Holly Home was born.  

They all met nightly to come up with a plan and discuss their strategy.  Rescue Lady said that while everyone was just trying to help, it was likely I had gotten spooked by everyone chasing me.  So, Computer Guy put out a message to the community asking them to not chase me, but just to call whenever they had a sighting of me.  (Did I mention that by this time I had my own Facebook Page and lots of followers?)  Rescue Lady also told them that dogs like me will likely establish a pattern of where they travel each day and they needed to track my path.  They set up charts, graphs, maps and sighting reports to figure out what I was doing each day.  Gadget Guy and Computer Guy set up motion-activated cameras along what they thought was my path.  They caught glimpses on me and would sometimes sit out all night along my path, but I was still wary and would run if I saw them.  

Besides my health problems, the Team had two big worries for me:  Cars and Coyotes.  I didn’t have a lot of experience with cars from growing up on the farm and they knew from tracking my movements that I was crossing a very busy road several times a day.  Coyotes I was familiar with but never this many by myself.  The Team could see I was getting thinner and weaker from the camera and worried that I might not be able to protect myself.  They walked all along the paths that they knew I circled every day.  They looked for paw prints in the woods and Rescue Lady taught them to tell which prints were mine and which ones belonged to other animals.  They learned to tell how old the prints were by how dry and sandy they were.  They launched drones in the air to try and find me.  They even found my secret sleeping spot on top of the hill.  They tried setting a trap on the path where they knew I passed by every morning.  I wasn’t falling for that old trick!  The Farmer even came to Carolina Beach with my Grandmother Kinley and my sister Charlotte to help look for me.  Since I had been on the farm with them all my life, they hoped I would smell their scent and join them.  It didn’t work.  

It had now been about a month that I had been missing and everyone was getting more and more concerned.  A month is a long time to be alone, no regular food or water, no special medicine or care, no shelter.  I’m told that Team Bring Holly Home and everyone who was following my story in Carolina Beach was getting quite discouraged.  

Then one day the Team got a new idea.  Why not use my natural instincts of guarding and protecting?  They knew that I sometimes passed by the neighborhood where New Family lived, so they set up a Chicken Coop in the back yard.  Yes, a chicken coup, complete with live chicks and everything!  Next, they set up a contraption to close the gate if I came into the yard.  Now I’m no engineer but this thing looked like it was put together with rubber bands and bubble gum, but Gadget Guy who invented it insists it was a technological marvel made up of a drill, light switch, five extension cords, 12-volt battery, computer backup, picture wire, a carabiner and some zip ties.  All that had to happen was for me to wander into the yard to check out the chickens, they would trigger the gate to close and voila!  I would be home safely!  To entice me, they threw out bits of beef jerky along the way leading to the yard.  High tech gate closure, beef jerky and live chickens?  It was a solid plan.  Now all they had to do was wait.

The next morning New Family got up early and looked out the back window.  There I was in the yard, looking after the chickens.  They didn’t want to scare me away and carefully pushed the button to close the gate…  It worked!  I was finally home!!  I tried to act like nothing had happened but I was very happy to be there.  I was dirty, hungry, weak and thin.  I was covered with burrs and ticks and my beautiful white coat was matted with mud.  Fortunately, New Family was so happy to see me they didn’t care!  Families are great like that.  

Things moved pretty quickly after that:  I got food, water, a much-needed bath and a check by the Vet.  Even though I had been through a lot, with rest, good food, special medicine and love, I would be okay.  It was the best day ever.  Word spread quickly that I was home safely and everyone at Carolina Beach was so happy!  Everyone had been pulling together and helping the Team to find me.  People who never met before were now talking, becoming friends and working together.  Even though I couldn’t do my farm job anymore, maybe it was my new job to help bring people together.    At that moment, I was definitely the most famous dog on Carolina Beach.

That should have been the end of this happy story, but it wasn’t.  I was back home safe and sound.  I was getting my medicine, feeling stronger, and putting back on some weight, but still, I felt sad.  The chicks went to their new home on a farm.  (It seems that baby chicks and seven rescue dogs in a backyard do not mix well together.)  After that first day home, I wasn’t really interested in the chickens anymore.  They didn’t need a guard dog.  Would I ever fit in?

Over time I got to know the other dogs in the family.  All of them had stories about how they had been rescued and how terrible their lives had been before.  There was tiny Trip, the chihuahua who only had 3 legs and no teeth, but was still feisty, playful, and loving.  There was sweet Jimmy and Missy, both Cavalier Spaniels.  Jimmy was blind so I started helping him navigate the backyard.  Missy was cute, but knew it, and only wanted to be petted.  There was Charlie Bucket, a Welch Terrier, who thought he was the favorite.  Before coming to live with New Family, most of them had been kept in cages and not treated very well.  Once I heard the stories of the other six dogs, I realized how lucky I was to be in such a great pack.  Here we were all protected, fed, loved, and cared for.  I vowed never to get lost again.  

A couple of months later a new rescue dog came to live with us:  Joey.  He was a lot smaller than me, with some really crooked teeth, short brown fur, tons of energy, a mischievous personality, and a very short attention span.  He could chase a ball in the backyard for hours, bark a lot, try to wrestle the other dogs, and jump up on folks.  He became my new best friend.  At first, I actually thought his name was “Joey, NO!”, but decided if we stayed close, maybe I could keep him out of trouble. I liked his excitement for everything and Joey liked that I was so calm.  We became inseparable.  

With Joey as my new best friend, I started playing, relaxing, and feeling much more like my old self.  The Vet was happy that I was recovering so well after my adventures with being lost and New Family was happy that I was back and seemed to be more comfortable in my new home.  I decided that my new job was to be the protector of our little pack.   I am always the happiest when everyone is all together.  Thinking back to how scary and lonely it was when I was lost, being here with my pack seems like the greatest job I could have.  So I realized I am finally and forever home.  Home is where they love you unconditionally.  Home is where it doesn’t matter if you are big, small, bark a lot, need special medicine or can’t see.  It doesn’t matter if you’re different.  It only matters that you love and help one another.  

Footnote:

April 17, 2022 will be my Three-Year Anniversary of being returned home safely!  I still live at Carolina Beach with my New Family and my pack.  Special thanks to Laurie Rouse and Wayne Rouse for taking a chance on adopting me and never giving up on finding me.  Also thanks to Rescue Lady (also known as Beth Bernstein) who continues to breed dogs and assist with rescues, Computer Guy (also known as Lynn Barbee) who is now the Mayor of Carolina Beach, and Gadget Guy (also known as William Carew) who with his wife, fosters rescue dogs.  

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