Holly – from rescue pup to emotional support dog

14th Apr, 2021

Written by Judy Strickland

Professional photography by Des Featherstone Photography

We adopted Holly from TEARS six years ago. We chose TEARS as we’d already adopted both a dog and a cat from them previously and were thrilled with the animals’ natures.

The intention was always that Holly would be a family pet – she still is – but we noticed that she never had much interest in other animals but rather preferred humans, especially children.

Then one day a friend who’d just been held up at gunpoint arrived at our home and Holly immediately reacted strangely. As soon as the friend began to cry, Holly went to her and just sat with her head on her knee. I thought, “Wow, I’m sure if I can find someone to train her, we could use her in our counselling centre.” (https://hopehouse.org.za/)

So, I contacted Lucy Breytenbach at Just Dogs, who trains medical assist dogs, to see if they could assist. Lucy said they’d assess Holly to see if she’d be suitable, and if so, then they’d train her to be an emotional support dog. 

After a two-hour assessment, Lucy said that Holly would be perfect as she had the right temperament. So began Holly’s journey of training.

Now she’s not used as much in our centre as I moved the office to home, but she loves to give cuddles. Whenever my grandchildren cry, Holly immediately goes to give them a cuddle and comfort. When my five-month-old grandson cries, Holly gets agitated and tries to nuzzle him. She snuggles with the children at night and will sleep with them in whatever way they need her to – as a pillow, a comforter or just a presence.

Holly loves people, is very friendly and adores children. I’ve never seen her get irritated or tired of being petted and cuddled.

She’s now almost seven years old and still the same – tolerant of other pets and animals, but she definitely prefers human interaction. Holly is one of the most affectionate dogs we’ve ever had. She brings joy and comfort to so many people, especially traumatised children.

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