One Big Heart

So typically, Holden writes these blog posts, but he asked me to write this one today, because he said his paws would get tired since it’s a long one . It may not be as funny or as cute as when he writes, but he let me know he’d let this one slide.

On Friday, Nov. 2, I woke up and checked Holden’s Instagram (#dogmomager alert!) and saw quite a lot of noise about the grain-free diets (with legumes) in dogs, specifically what was happening with golden retrievers. One of Holden’s insta furiends, Barley, from @barley.and.stella had shared that she had recently been diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). I learned that Barley had very heavy breathing and was admitted to the emergency veterinarian. This made me think about my sweet Holden.

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Barley’s Instagram post that caught my attention about DCM in golden retrievers.

For several months, Holden has had some pretty intense breathing, but always when playing with Sophie or after a long walk.. nothing too out of the normal. I did notice that he was putting effort into breathing when he was laying down, but this is just what Holden did. He loved to play, fetch, swim, hike, snuggle — just like a normal, healthy dog would. He never seemed to get fatigued from too much exercise. I would have never taken him to get checked out if I did not see Barley’s Instagram post. I did take a video of his breathing that night.

That Friday, I called the veterinary hospital where I actually worked as a veterinary technician throughout college, and let them know what was going on with Holden. I let them know I was probably just being a “crazy dog mom”, but I just wanted to get him checked out to be safe. Better safe than sorry, right? We got an appointment the next morning.

So on Saturday, Nov. 3, I took Holden to see one of our favorite veterinarians and I let her know that I saw a post on Instagram and that I’ve freaked myself out. She laughed and gave Holden lots of love, since she was his veterinarian when he was a puppy. She listened to his chest and heart, and all sounded normal. So I was all like … “whew, I truly am just a crazy dog mom. This is great.” She asked a few more questions about his breathing and said that they would take some X-rays to make sure all looked fine.

And now begins our roller coaster. After they took his films, she brought Holden back in and let me know they found something that wasn’t supposed to be in/on his cranial mediastinum. This could be a few things: lymphoma (cancer), thymoma (fatty tissue) or infection. Of course when I heard the word cancer, I flip out and the tears start coming. I think that there is just no way my perfect dog is sick. We just went hiking last weekend! He is fine! We didn’t know much else and were scheduled for an ultrasound on Tuesday, Nov. 6. I was a worried sick. All I could do is think about how amazing Holden is and that he is just too young to have anything like this happen to him. He is three years old. Like no way. He is my very best friend. I can’t imagine life without him. To get my mind off of things, Holden and I walked to a spot in our neighborhood and took some beautiful shots of him. We had a special time, just the two of us. I would give him treats and pets in between each photo and he was just loving all the one-on-one attention.

My favorite photo from our special photoshoot.

After a VERY long weekend and Monday, Tuesday, Nov. 5 comes around and I take Holden back to the vet for his ultrasound. I dropped him off at 7:30 a.m. and then received a call at 2 p.m. We got some very good and very bad news.

The good news is that the mass on his cranial mediastinum was just fatty tissue. We don’t even have to worry about it. This means no lymphoma. Prayers answered. The bad news was that they decided to do an echocardiogram on Holden’s heart, and found had that he has just too big of a heart and fluid in his chest. She asked if we could pick him up and go straight to the emergency vet to see the cardiologist.

All of this was happening so fast. I woke up truly thinking my sweet boy had cancer, and now I had to wrap my brain around the fact that his heart needed immediate attention. We picked him up from our vet hospital and drove immediately to the emergency/specialty hospital. They let us know that the cardiologist there would do an echocardiogram and an ultrasound to confirm his diagnosis. Several hours later, we got the call that confirmed this diagnosis. Holden was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and Congestive Heart Failure. Holden basically has one big heart (and not because he loves so much, even though this is what I’d like to think). His left atrium is mildly dilated, left ventricle is severely dilated. Systolic function is severely reduced which is indicative of myocardial failure. His posterior mitral leaflet does not move normally. Mild mitral vale regurgitation is present.. It just kept going on and on.

At this point, I was just angry. I couldn’t believe that he was actually this sick. DCM does not typically occur in golden retrievers. By now, I am sure you’ve seen some of the research going on about grain-free diets, specifically with those high in legumes, and the link to heart disease in dogs, with an increase in golden retrievers. Thankfully, I had seen Barley’s post and thought I should double check to make sure he was okay. Unfortunately, he was not okay like we had hoped. I had read up on the research that UC Davis is doing on this link to heart disease, and of course Holden had been eating the one food the main researcher said to avoid, for over 2 and a half years.

Holden’s labs have been sent off to UC Davis to confirm if he has a taurine deficiency. This is very important because it will confirm if it is related to the diet Holden was eating. The lead researcher at UC Davis told Morris Animal Foundation said, “I suspect that golden retrievers might have something in their genetic make-up that makes them less efficient at making taurine,” said Dr. Stern. “Couple that with certain diets, and you’ve given them a double hit. If you feed them a diet that has fewer building blocks for taurine or a food component that inhibits this synthesis, they pop up with DCM.” If Holden has low taurine levels, then we will know his diagnosis is linked to the diet he was on.

Here I was thinking I was helping him by giving him a food that he was not allergic to (he is allergic to #allthethings… chicken, beef, duck, etc.), when in reality, this is most likely what was slowly killing him. Luckily, due to the power of social media, I came across what what happening to other goldens and took action. Instagram saved my dog’s life.

We are not in the clear yet, however. Holden started his five medications last night, including the diuretic to help get the pooled blood out of his chest cavity. We don’t know how long he may have to be on this medication. Forever? Maybe. We don’t know, and we won’t know until we see how he is doing. We have an appointment with the cardiologist in two weeks to see where his levels are and to see if his heart is working any better. Prayers are greatly appreciated.

In the meantime, Holden is going to get SO much love. He already has heard from thousands from around the world who are praying for him, sending good vibes and thoughts, and simply those who want to tell him they love him. Now with his shaved chest, belly rubs feel even better to him, so you know he is already getting so many. Thank you to everyone for all of your kind messages. They have meant so much to us.

If you are concerned about your dog’s diet or health, I highly recommend chatting with your veterinarian. Holden’s life was truly saved by me simply being the crazy dog mom that I am and listening to my gut (even if I just saw it on Instagram!). Feel free to share Holden’s story, as we want to help prevent any other families from going through what we have gone through the past few days and what we will have to face in the future.

There are several people and places that I just have to thank for saving Holden’s life: Dr. Anderson and her team over at The Animal Hospital of Carrboro, Veterinary Specialist Hospital of the Carolinas – Durham, PetsBest Pet Insurance (I truly did not have to worry about financials through all of this thanks to having pet insurance!), @Scoutgoldenretriever and @barley.and.stella, Barley’s mom’s blog about their story with DCM, my friends and family who trusted me through this and supported our decisions, and ALL of Holden’s Instagram family. We are so thankful.


With lots of love for HTG,

Caroline, Holden’s Dog Mom

Tar Heel FURever


Life these days have been pretty PAWfect. My sister Sophie and I have been playing, I’ve gotten lots of love from new and old friends and it’s finally Spring! This means that I get to go on so many adventures. In order to look my doggone best, I needed some new swag.

Luckily, UNC hooked it up. I got home and there was this UNC Play and Heel Box that I just knew had so many goodies in it. And better yet, TAR HEEL goodies! As you can see, my reaction to receiving all of these pawesome products is #classicholden.



Y’all know that I am a Tar Heel pup, so these items were exactly what I needed. I will look fabulous when I rock my new UNC collar and leash when I go to Piney Woods Dog Park. The quality is so nice, and my mom says that I look way cuter than every dog in the neighborhood already. Oh, and can we just talk about this dog baseball hat?! Mom already said shes going to try to steal it. Keyword: try. Sorry not sorry, Mom.This hat is made just for dogs, and looks SO cute on my fluffy head.


Y’all already know I love to play. Thank goodness that UNC has this super sweet tennis ball toy! I already feel like a fancy pup, even while playing. I already told Sophie I am not sharing this toy with her. She has a bad past with tennis balls. I can already picture us going to a fun park on a beautiful spring day and *attempting* to fetch and retrieve this super fun toy. And since I felt bad about not sharing my hat, I did share my new UNC scarf with my mom. She is loving it and told me that it’s so perfect, too. Maybe she will even wear it when we go to the park? Oh yeah! Because who doesn’t want to match their dog?

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My favorite part of every day is seeing my mom. Okay, I lied. It’s actually when she feeds me. Still counts, right? This new Carolina dog bowl is everything that I could dream of — I dream of food, duh. I’m definitely already drooling at the fact that I get fed dinner in a few hours in my new fancy bowl.


In this UNC Play and Heel Box, the coolest UNC shirt came in it. I just knew I had to let me cat brother, Kitty, have it. Even though he is a cat, he is pretty cool in this Tar Heel gear, too. This shirt is made for dogs, but Kitty thinks he is a dog, so nobody has to know.

I can’t wait to be the talk of the neighborhood in all of my new gear. All of these truly are awesome products that are perfect to use for your pup when you go out and about. Which reminds me.. Did I forget to tell you about the second Bark at the Bosh. It’s been rescheduled to a later date in May, and you and your pup totally need to go. I had so much fun at the last Bark at the Bosh. I met so many new friends and felt so cool being able to watch baseball with my mom. And I do have to say that it makes the best photo op, but why wouldn’t you want a selfie with your dog in a baseball stadium?

Now that I have all of this new UNC gear, it’s time to explore. I can’t wait to keep you updated with the adventures to come.

With baseball hats, cool leashes, and love,
Holden the Golden

This blog part is in partnership with UNC.

Bark at the Bosh

Okay, so as a dog, I don’t really know much about sports. But I do know one thing — I love balls. Tennis balls. Footballs. Baseballs. Yep, love all of them. Oh, and I also love the Tar Heels, because well, duh, I’m a Tar Heel.

My name is Holden the Golden, and I’m a Tar Heel.

You want to know something else that’s super cool? There is another golden retriever out there (who may be even cooler than me, but shh don’t tell anyone!), who also is a Tar Heel. You may have heard of him, or have seen him on the news. REMINGTON, trained by paws4People®, works as a Rehabilitative Facility Dog with the UNC Baseball Team, and is definitely the team’s fluffiest member. He is also super smart, knowing over 100 commands. I only know like.. five. It’s fine.

Go Tar Heels. Go Cute Dogs.

REMINGTON and I got to hang out recently, and some cool humans let us wear these super nice Nike baseball jerseys made for two-armed people (Ha! Humans…), so that we could feel like real ball players. As we were just hangin’ in Boshamer Stadium, we got to talking. He let me know that there is this “pawesome” event where you can bring your dog to the UNC Baseball stadium, because why wouldn’t you want to watch a baseball game with your best “furiend”? This event is called Bark at the Bosh, and trust me, you’re definitely going to want to be there. Oh, and guess what? I will be there, too! I am so excited to be back on campus, with lots of new furry friends and their humans. I will be there to take photos and to give lots of puppy kisses (of course!). When is the first Bark at the Bosh? Tomorrow at 6 p.m. Can’t make tomorrow’s game? No need to worry because you’ll have another chance to bring your pup to Bark at the Bosh #2 on April 24 at 6 p.m.

Mom, stop trying to make fetch happen. It’s not going to happen.

I just can’t wait to see you at Bark at the Bosh tomorrow. Make sure to keep your eyes out for my new friend, REMINGTON, who will be on the field with his favorite baseball players. Get ready for a PAWSitively good time. Hey, I did hear that this is the Year of the Dog, so you can bet you’ll be seeing me a lot more over this next year.

With baseballs and love for the Heels,
Holden the Golden

Learn about where you can get my jersey, and REMINGTON’s jersey.
This blog post is in partnership with UNC.



Welcome Home, Sophie

So I think it’s time that I share the news with you. I am no longer the only (fur) child. Yep. This is real. I now have a sister. *rolls eyes* Ok, ok. I’m just kidding’, I’m actually super excited.

Last July, my pawrents adopted miss Sophie girl from a family friend. They had no idea what she was like since they had never met her, but felt that this was the right thing to do. So they left me all alone (seriously?!) and drove three hours (both ways!) to pick her up. And here we are.


When we first met, we both were like “OMG dog, you’re a dog, I’m a dog.. let’s be friends!”, but I don’t think either one of us realized it was a real thing. Like we just thought it was a temporary thing. LOL JOKES ON US because Sophie has been welcomed into the family with open arms (and paws).

The cutest siblings you ever did see

She’s the prettiest girl ever and also the craziest. I try to show her how she should act in public (since I’m like a superstar or whatever), but she still doesn’t understand. It’s fine, she will get it one day. In the meantime, we love to play tug-o-war, stalk each other  and both get all the pets we possibly can. Sophie also likes to make the prettiest of faces..

I such a pwetty girl

She’s not insta-famous, but she definitely could be. She brings my pawrents lots of love and laughs, and she is a buddy for me to have endless play sessions with. Have you adopted a second dog into your family? We’d love to hear your story and share even more of Sophie’s with you!

With cuddles and learning to share,
Holden the Golden


Back to School 2.0

Hey Everyone! *tail wags uncontrollably*

You may remember me from my UNC Bucket List that I completed before I graduated one of the top Universities in the country, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, duh. I did all sorts of fun things, like meeting Roy Williams, the Chancellor and most importantly eating from all the best restaurants (so much bacon, so many hot dogs!). I even got my first kiss on the 50-yard-line at Kenan Stadium. You could say I was living it up, puppy style. *tail still wagging uncontrollably*

However, time continued to pass and my time at UNC came to an end. This obviously meant that I had to graduate. So I put on my cap and ground, and just like that, I received my Bachelors of Science in Food Scavenging with a Minor in Sock Eating and Belly Rub Participation.

Those were some of the best days of my life, but they say the best is yet to come. And I believe it! Okay, I’m a dog. I will believe anything anyone says. Especially if treats are involved. But really. A lot of great things are coming, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

Ever since I was a puppy, I have always been a top-notch comforter. I mean look at me, I’m adorable. *tail wags again like six times*. My mom had this idea of one day making me a professional cuddler. Yep, you heard it right. Just kidding. She wants me to be a certified Therapy Dog. Even as a baby, I knew how to make someone’s day. Mom says I have something towards the elderly and kids. That I just know exactly what to do.

So… I am going back to school! But this time, doggy school. I am on my way to becoming a certified Therapy Dog. I had my first class this past Saturday, where I am perfecting simple commands, such as sit, lay down, stand and stay. These are harder than you think people!


My goal is to be able to visit people who could use a furry friend. I want to bring people out of their shell. I want to show kindness and love. I want to spread joy, and see a child’s face light up, or make a grandmother smile for the first time all time. I know that I can do it. My mom says I am really smart, but I have a long way to go.

I can’t wait to keep you updated on my weekly progress, as I inch one step closer to being able to share my love with everyone I meet. You never know where life will take you, but I sure do hope it will take me to places where there are people who need me the most. *more tail wagging*

With extra treats and love,
Holden the Golden

Tech Savvy Pup

Okay guys, you may think I’m just a dog. And yes, I am extremely cute, fluffy and loveable, but one thing you may not know about me is that I am super tech savvy. I mean how do you think I’m able to write this blog? Lol, anyways. There is something new out there. A new app that relates to everyone. Even me, as a dog. You’re wondering, what is this new app? Hopspot.


Hopspot is a social network app designed to connect friends together in real life. It’s an app for you and the friends you hang out with. One of the coolest things about the app is that is refreshes every 24 hours, so it is always relevant. If I want to find some friends to come give me pets and bring me treats, I can just tell all my friends that I’m connected with, and they will know what I’m up to.


So Hopspot is definitely the new app that you need in your life. Oh, and after you download it, you should add me on it (Holden the Golden), so that we can hopefully hang out! But guess what? I’m hanging out with the people of Hopspot this coming Friday, Oct. 7 at He’s Not in Chapel Hill. You should come say hey and bring your friends! If you bring me treats, I will probably promote you to “favorite person ever”, along with everyone else I’ve ever met, #goldenretrievers am I right? Some come grab a blue cup and pet your favorite pup (and download Hopspot!).

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Can’t wait to see you there!

With technology and the next best thing,
Holden the Golden

Big Dog in a Big City

Born in a small town in the mountains of N.C., you could say that I’m a mountain dog. Well, I would actually say that I’m an “everywhere” dog. I’ve lived in the mountains, visited the beach, lived in an University town and now I am living in a new city.

Ahh, Raleigh, N.C. The City of Oaks. I have lived here for the past few months and I have loved getting to know the great things it has to offer. One of my favorite places I have gone thus far definitely has to be the Dorothea Dix Park. IMG_5280.jpg

Dorothea Dix Park is located right on the edge of Downtown Raleigh, and it overlooks the skyline. Absolutely breathtaking! The best part was, there were acres and acres of land where I could just frolic and play, and be the cute dog that I am. IMG_5298 (1).jpg

As you can see, I had quite the time of my life at this place, and Mom seemed to love it, too. She kept smiling the whole time I was there because she loved seeing me run free and be able to enjoy being a dog, aka sniffing everything, rolling in geese poop and chasing after the ball.

I really want to try other places in and around Raleigh that are doggy friendly, and I would love to meet other Raleigh pups and their humans. I will probably just sniff your butt and then attack your face with kisses, but it’s cool.

I will keep you updated with new adventures in this life of being Holden.

With grass eating and goose watching,
Holden the Golden

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