When Melissa Elliot Smith of the senior dog rescue organization Old Dog Home in Georgia first met senior dog Holly around Thanksgiving 2019, the circumstances were tragic. Holly had been brought to the vet to be euthanized by a grandfather and his granddaughter for no particular reason.
The reason they gave for wanting to put her down, however, was flimsy at best, and the medical staff contacted Smith instead to see if she would take Holly in order to save her life. Later, Smith wrote in a Facebook post that the “granddaughter looked at me and shrugged—‘We just don’t really like her. We like our other dogs better.’”
This will be my final post of the evening, and it’s the hardest one to write. I get requests for owner surrenders all…
Smith obliged the vet’s heartbreaking request. She took Holly and gave her a comfortable place to sleep. “I whispered to her and promised her that from now on, she will always be loved and wanted, no matter what,” her post read.
Smith had created the charity Old Dog Home to help unwanted old dogs that find themselves dumped in parking lots or being given away for free at yard sales. Working in the Atlanta area and specializing in dogs 30 pounds (approx. 14 kg) or heavier and between the ages of 8 and 10 years old, Smith typically doesn’t accept surrenders but had made an exception for Holly.
Noting that her shelter was already at capacity by the end of 2019, she wasn’t planning to take any new dogs until she heard from the vet’s office about Holly. When she met the grandfather and granddaughter wanting to put the dog to sleep, Smith was shocked to hear about how poorly Holly had been treated.
“The dog was incredibly sweet and seemed to be in decent health. The staff couldn’t bear to euthanize her,” Smith wrote. “The dog had belonged to someone else before … after the original owner passed away, the dog got shuffled from place to place until she wound up with the current family.”
“I tried not to cry,” Smith added. “I felt her all over, and she let me handle her paws and check her teeth. She has a few old lady lumps and bumps. Nothing critical. She’s absolutely filthy, her hair is oily and falling out. Her eyes are goopy, and she’s squinting. Her tail wags and wags and wags. I talked to the vet who examined her. She has a yeast infection—probably why she’s having accidents. The man can’t tell me her age, if she’s spayed, or any else about her.”
“We just don’t want her anymore,” was all her owners said, according to Smith’s post.
After they filled out the surrender papers, Smith noted with dismay that Holly was scared and confused and had no idea what was happening. “She doesn’t want to get off the bed,” Smith wrote, describing her as “a tacky gift no one wanted in the first place.” The goal for Old Dog Home would be to find a forever home for a dog that had never had one.
Smith’s impassioned post about Holly went viral, garnering over 28,000 likes and 16,000 shares. Her supporters donated $20,592 to cover the veterinary expenses of getting Holly healthy and spayed. There was a strong response among commenters toward the callousness of the family who abandoned her. One person wrote, “It’s ironic that this gentleman failed to teach his grandchild a lesson in compassion for the elderly.”
Just before the New Year, after receiving many applications to foster and adopt, Smith posted an update on Facebook, announcing that Holly had finally found “her TRUE forever home.”
The family Holly was placed in had two girls, who were thrilled to have her, and an 11-year-old senior dog to keep her company. The family’s mother is a veterinarian, which was reassuring to Smith. “Going home to live with a vet means that no matter what her future holds, she’ll be in the most capable hands possible,” she wrote.
“[S]he is going to get to be in a small family where she will be doted on and adored FOREVER,” she added. “She fit right into their family like she had been there her whole life.”