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Dave Holmes has established himself as a TV host, actor-comedian and pop-culture writer, but through a heartbreaking Esquire essay, the former MTV VJ has endeared himself to a new audience: fellow dog lovers.
Published just hours after his dog, Junior, passed away Monday, "I Said Goodbye to My Best Friend Last Night" chronicles the joyful, hilarious and devastating times Holmes and his longtime boyfriend, Ben Wise, shared with the Wheaten Terrier.
"A dog introduces you to a simple, honest, new kind of love," Holmes writes in the poignant story. "Or maybe an old one: the one you felt when you were a kid and the world was full of wonder and affection and possibility and you only knew a couple of people and they were your everything."
Holmes, whose TV and film credits include "Total Request Live," "Reno 911!: Miami" and "MOCKpocalypse," told TODAY.com he'd wanted to write the piece for catharsis. "It's one of those things that happened [Monday] and [Tuesday] is somehow worse," Holmes said Tuesday. "But I wanted to get out some thoughts and some quick memories, and to do it fast."
Wise, a composer and member of the folk trio Tiny Goliath, told TODAY.com that Junior had a profound impact on their lives. "He made our lives so much better, and taught us so much about ourselves that we didn't know," he said. "We'd only been together [as a couple] for nine months when we got him."
Added Holmes, "And he glued us together."
Their time with Junior began and ended with tears.
"We had pulled him away from his mother and siblings, the only life he'd ever known, to live with us and do … what exactly?" Holmes wrote in Esquire. "Could we manage this? Are we the right guys for this job? What if we break him? We named our dog Junior because we imagined him as our practice kid."
The dog practically passed for human at times.
"Our friend Irene said, 'I keep expecting him to unzip his dog suit and a little boy to step out.'" Holmes wrote. "Everybody said things like this about Junior, and they were right. He had people eyes.'"
Wise confirmed this account. "[Junior] loved being a person," he told TODAY.com. "Whatever we were doing, he was a huge fan of, and wanted to do with us."
Holmes offered more evidence. "If you mentioned going for a ride or a walk, he was like a Showcase Showdown winner on 'The Price is Right,'" he said. "He loved long road trips, and he put up with us."
That joy was shattered this weekend, when Junior's spleen ruptured. Blood clots resulted from surgery complications, and Junior stopped breathing. On Monday, Holmes and Wise rushed to the vet and kissed Junior's head one last time.
Many Twitter users, including fellow entertainers and/or dog owners, praised Holmes for his eloquent eulogy, offered condolences, and shared photos of their own canine companions who'd passed away.
Holmes, whose memoir "Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs" is slated for publishing in June, told TODAY.com he appreciated the support he and Wise have received. "Strangers on Twitter have sent me so many emojis of crying people and broken hearts and dogs," he added. "And it's very sweet."
In his Esquire piece, he realized his story was not unique, but that didn't make his experience any less powerful. "You might have had your heart expanded and broken by a dog yourself," he wrote. "If you have, you know what's happening right now. If you haven't, I can tell you this, even now, even as we wander this house looking for pieces of our shattered hearts: It was worth it."
Holmes told TODAY.com that as painful as it was to say goodbye to Junior, he and Wise are strongly considering adopting another dog after they grieve and the holiday season comes to an end.
He added, "If you've got a dog, pull it tight — and don't let go for a little bit."
Follow TODAY.com writer Chris Serico on Twitter.