The American Legion 119 in Linden, along with her adopted family, of Douglas Hickey and Marianna Ziegler-Hickey will be saying goodbye to a furry friend Saturday.
Ola, the official post mascot for the American Legion in Linden, has died and will be interred Oct. 12 a 12 p.m. at the Michigan War Dog Memorial, 25805 Milford Rd., South Lyon.
Ola’s owner/handler, Per Holthe, a Vietnam veteran, died in December 2016 and she was taken to continue her service at the American Legion and other therapy work.
Friends who knew her are invited to help the Linden American Legion and the Hickeys and family to honor Ola for her service to the veteran community as they lay her to rest.
According to a Times article by Staff Reporter Hannah Ball in 2015, Holthe took Ola, his then-6-year-old black Labrador, to area hospitals and care centers to help patients.
Ola, who was born March 22, 2008 in Byron, received her Mid-Michigan Therapy Dog certificate and Holthe received his Mid-Michigan Therapy Dog handler certificate in 2009 after a 15-week course.
Ola graduated with honors.
Holthe took her around town and into stores. He loved going to Alpine Foods and The Home Depot because the employees recognized and welcomed Ola. As a retired vet, Holthe worked with the American Legion in Linden, which supports local vets, having been a past vice commander of post 119. Ola, as a post mascot of American Legion, helped sell Poppy flowers.
“She sells more poppies than anyone of us,” Holthe said in 2015. “I’m teaching her to take money out of somebody’s hand and put it in the American Legion post. She does it probably four or five times out of 10.”
Holthe kept her vest, collar and leash on a low shelf so Ola could get to it.
“When I say go get your vest, she’ll go get it off the shelf,” he said in 2015. “I’ve never had a dog that was that sharp.”
When they visited Genesys Hospital (now Ascension) “everybody brightens up when we go there,” Holthe said at the time. In addition to Genesys and the American Legion, Ola became part of the inaugural therapy dog team from Hope Lutheran Church serving Linden schools.
Holthe and Ola also worked with autistic kids. In 2009, they met an autistic child at an event who punched Ola in the nose. “She somehow knew inherently this girl had problems,” Holthe said. “She was pulling on her ears and punching her. Her parents came over and told her not to do that. I said let me show you the tricks she does. Once she saw Ola could shake hands, Ola must have shook her hands 200 times. She’s so good natured.”