Marla Hoffman’s dog, Holly, wears her son’s Halloween pirate hat in 2018. Marla Hoffman/Sun Journal

When Holly came into my life nearly 13 years ago at 9 weeks old, I knew right away she was exactly what I needed at the time.

Marla Hoffman’s son, Jameson, watches TV in 2018 under the watchful eye of Holly, who had a special bond with him. Marla Hoffman/Sun Journal

I had recently learned there was a possibility I would never have children due to an abnormality in my reproductive system. That time had been a struggle, and that adorable little puppy filled a gap. She became the someone I could love and dote on, nurture and provide for. I fell instantly in love.

The way she wined through the night because she NEEDED to be with me. The way she listened so attentively when I was training her to “sit,” “lie down” and “come.” She was a blessed distraction.

When I went through a divorce and a move across 3 states she was my trusty co-captain; when I lived alone for the first time in my life she offered me comfort and calm; through another move and another move and another move, we gave each other the stability we needed. When my car flipped over in a traffic accident, her flying through the air and landing on my head (really), she made me realize how lucky I was to have her and reminded me to never take her for granted.

Marla Hoffman’s infant son, Jameson, snuggles in with his big dog sister, Holly, in February 2014. Marla Hoffman/Sun Journal

She watched over my infant son, my miracle baby, after he was born. I feel like she knew how important he was to me because she hardly left his side.

When her age began to take its toll, her black face turned white, her legs didn’t hold her up as well and she started to move slower. So for the past two years, our rolls switched. It was my turn to take care of her. Doctor visits, pain meds, muscle massages, extra treats and kisses.


Marla Hoffman

That dog was my rock for 13 years — in the end, I had to be hers. It was excruciating, seeing her decline so fast, but I was so grateful for all she’s given me that it was my privilege to be able to give her even a fraction of what she’s done for me.

Holly died on Friday, Feb. 2, surrounded in love by me, her mama, and my husband, Brent, who gave her many years of his own love.

Marla Hoffman’s dogs Shiva, left, and Holly wait patiently for their time with dad, while he tends to baby Jameson. The dogs were besties from the second they met in 2013. Marla Hoffman/Sun Journal

For the first few days after, reminders of her all around the house elicited an open ocean of tears from the whole family. The other pets too. They would come and smell her bed and other areas of the house she liked to sleep. Our other dog, Shiva, would run to the backyard and visit all the spots Holly would go to when nature called. Looking around, sniffing, then looking back to her humans, she must have wondered, “where’s my Holly?”

It’s hard to navigate the feelings of not having my best friend around.

However, it seems Holly left us with a bit of light. Through all this grief, we have discovered something quite unexpected.

In my previous column, you read that my cat, Athena, met the new kitten, Calli — and it was not a graceful transition. That tension lasted up until the week Holly left us. The hissing and moaning … the whole bit. Sometime that week, though, we felt a change in the air between our feline family members.


It started with toleration. Athena tolerated Calli sitting on the lower level of her cat tree. Dangerous territory for Calli, but everyone got through it without a fight.

Marla Hoffman’s dog, Holly, lounges on a rocky beach at Coos Canyon in Byron in 2017. Though Holly never liked water, she enjoyed the view from dry land and camping with her family. Marla Hoffman/Sun Journal

Then, one day we discovered them playing, racing around the house, roughhousing in that adorable cat kind of way. We thought, “aww, Athena is making an effort. Finally!”

Then just yesterday, we found them cat napping together, with Calli’s head snuggled face down into Athena’s side, followed by Athena grooming the kitten on her head.

The past week the new cat dynamic has been such a gift. I have no idea if Holly’s death had anything to do with the peace that’s made its way into our home, but it would be just like her to leave that with us. All Holly ever wanted was to play, and be happy, and to make her family happy. We were all so miserable when she left us, to see the cats start getting along and maybe even like each other has brought back the laughter and smiles we so desperately needed.

Our pets so naturally, but probably very much unawares, give an incredible feeling of love to us. Holly always knew how to make me feel comforted. Her grace was so natural that all she had to do was sit with me or put her head on my knee and I always felt just a little bit better. When I was feeling joy, so was she. When I was down, she somehow knew to come lift me up. While I miss her so incredibly much, I am filled with so much gratitude.

I hope she feels that too, wherever she is.

Marla Hoffman is the nighttime managing editor for the Sun Journal and can be reached at

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