Monday, February 28, 2011

Holly and Shanna: Giving Each Other a New Lease On Life!

Shanna & Holly
I like to say (and I often do) that my new book, A Dog's Way Home, celebrates the unique bond between dogs and their people. That bond between Abby and her sheltie, Tam, reunites the two after many trials and tribulations. But the story I created in my book doesn't hold a candle to the real-life bond between my friend Shanna Wilkinson and her sheltie, Holly. The connection between these two has literally saved their lives! In this interview, you'll see what I mean.

Shanna, how did you and Holly find each other?  I was fourteen and was allowed to pick a puppy from my mom's champion sheltie. This puppy would be my companion and partner in agility and herding and obedience. There was one particular puppy that was having a hard time, and everyone didn't think she'd live. I stayed up and watched over her, making sure she nursed. I assisted my mom in tube-feeding her too. I refused to give up on this pup! I had a strong connection with this little sheltie; I knew she was the one. I kept her and named her Holly.

Had you had shelties before?  I grew up with shelties and golden retrievers. So, of course, I played with and "trained" the family dogs. When I was in second grade, I had the pleasure of taking care of and training a very special sheltie boy named Tye. He, in his own way, changed my life and showed me to look at things in a different way. But Holly was my first dog. She was all mine to train and take care of and make decisions about.

You and Holly have a very special relationship. Tell our readers how Holly saved your life:
When I was seventeen, I had my first seizure. Even before I was diagnosed with epilepsy, my amazing Holly started warning me something was wrong. As a result, she has become my certified service dog. She is one of the few dogs in the country to become certified as a seizure alert dog. Holly has given me
Holly in her work vest
the courage and confidence to still follow my dreams despite my epilepsy. She has given me the independence and security to live a normal life. We've traveled all over together! In 2007, Holly was awarded the AKC Award of Canine Excellence for her life saving ability and work as a service dog. Holly also recently won the Petco Extraordinary Dog contest!

And I happen to know you donated your winnings to Sheltie Rescue of Utah. What else do you do to "pay it forward"? Together we go to elementary schools and teach kids about service dogs and how to take care of their own dogs.
Over, Holly!
When I am stopped when we're out and about and asked about service dogs, I always explain what Holly does. Holly has given hope to so many people with epilepsy. My mom and I also put together a huge raffle every year to benefit sheltie rescue. Last year we raised $2,000.00 and hope to raise even more this year!

What do you and Holly do for fun?  When Holly was younger, we competed as a team in agility, obedience, rally, and herding. Now that she is ten years old, her favorite activity is going out to lunch and going to class with me. I have Holly's daughter, Alaska, who is also a trained and certified service dog. She also alerts when I have an oncoming seizure and will take over for Holly when the time comes. Alaska and I compete in agility, herding, obedience and rally.
Alaska and friend

Shanna, in five words, tell us what Holly means to you:
Holly is my guardian angel.
Holly is more than just another dog. She is my life, my love, my protector, my everything. I believe everything happens for a reason, and Holly was sent to watch over and protect me.

Wow. See what I mean? Thanks so much to Shanna and Holly for sharing their inspiring story with us!

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