Clay and Lilia Hollis have six dogs: A German shepherd, a Scottish terrier, a Keeshond, a Shih-Tzu, a basset hound, a boxer/Rhodesian ridgeback mix and a mutt named Tina. Oh wait, make that seven.
“I lose count,” Clay says with a chuckle.
For most people, seven dogs would be akin to a hairy, slobbery nightmare, what with feeding time, walks, brushings, shedding and, of course, nearly constant ball tossing and wrestling sessions. But these seven dogs are only the ones that live with the Hollises full time.
Then there are the dogs that come to visit.
“In the last two years, we’ve probably had 15 [other dogs],” Clay says. “Sometimes one at a time, sometimes two.”
Are they crazy? Well, perhaps a bit, but they’re also obviously generous and loving people. Why? Because the pets coming to stay with them belong to others: Pet owners who have to go to the hospital for a few weeks, who need drug or alcohol rehab, or women who are trying to leave an abusive situation at home.
The Hollises are part of an SPCA program called Pet Haven.
“The SPCA realized these are temporary situations, and that these people are taking great care of their dogs. They’ve just got into a position that’s not conducive to owning a pet,” Clay says.
So the Hollis household serves as a foster home until the dog owners can get back on their feet.
“The shortest we’ve ever had a dog was three weeks, and the longest was eight or nine weeks,” Clay adds. “It’s really to give people a hand when they’re in between situations.”
In addition to their work with Pet Haven, the Hollises also volunteer with SPCA in other ways. Lilia works with offsite adoption programs, and they both go to the shelter to walk and play with dogs.
So the couple, who’ve lived in Lake Highlands for about 15 years, must be lifelong animal lovers, right? Not really. Lilia didn’t own a dog until she was in college, and until 10 years ago, they had only two small terriers.
Their love of animals, Clay says, “kind of grew over time.”
In was kick-started in 1994, however, when they moved to a house on Lanshire. Since then, Lilia says, they’ve found about 25 dogs dumped in the field across the street from their house, in Flagpole Hill.
“It happens all the time,” Lilia says. “It’s such a huge problem, and people aren’t aware of it.”
It’s one of the things that motivates them to continue their work with Pet Haven.
“We really love animals, and they’re the ones that get mistreated the worst. There’s some really horrible things that happen in Dallas,” Clay says, “and nobody stands up for them.”