Mom and Dad took me to visit the pound in Pittsburgh, California in 1993. There we found a rambunctious puppy, about 4-months old, pushing around a poor old lap dog. Of course I took to him immediately and thought that I was doubly doing the old dog a favor by getting Rocky out of the cage to leave her in peace. I try not to think too much about the dogs that don’t get adopted.
I’m afraid my heart breaks a little each time I do. I hope we gave Rocky a good life because I know he enriched ours. In his heart, he was always a puppy. Even when he reached a full-grown 50 pounds, I still called him my “Little One” because in my heart, he was always a puppy.
Living in California, we had a house on sloped property and we took advantage of that. Dad and I would play fetch with Rocky by hitting a tennis ball with a racket to the bottom of the property. Rocky could play for hours. He loved to fetch.
He was a maverick though. You couldn’t leave him unattended for long before he’d find some trouble to get into. Not once, but twice we had to retrieve him from a neighbor’s roof. Yes, the roof. Why and how he figured out how to get up there is anyone’s guess, but thank goodness it was a flat roof. He made it easier at other times by breaking out of the fence and going to the vet’s office.
Bill called him the “Escape Artist”, Dad called him a “Constant Traveler”, and I thought of him as a “Heart breaker” because each time I felt as if I hadn’t done enough or had done something wrong for him to run off.
Bill tried to prepare me for Rocky’s death a couple of years ago. He was well past the age we had been told he would live to and he had run off. Bill knew of dogs that had run off to die. When he escaped, he generally returned within a day or two, but it was over a week that he had been gone and we hadn’t seen him.
He wasn’t in any of the usual places, the vet, the neighbor that had shepherds, wandering the trail. Luckily, a neighbor kid mentioned that he’d seen Rocky at the stables across the way. I inquired and found out that he had been there, but that the owner not seeing a tag had given him to her mother to take home. His tag had come off in the scrape under the fence. She brought Rocky back and there he stayed, all too pleased to be home again because his temporary home had been the lady’s screened-in porch.
I found out that during his stay at the stables, that he had not disturbed the children or other animals, but had simply lain off to the side and watched. I think that is one reason he loved this home. He had children up the street to watch and a yard large enough to explore. Before, we had too much land without enough people or animals around to watch.
I tried to take him to obedience school as a puppy once, but neither of us knew what we were doing and he promptly pooped on the gym floor. I read books after that and with Dad’s help, we taught him sit, down, shake, roll over, and sometimes stay.
He didn’t bark often, but when he did, there was a reason. It was usually the middle of the night and he had caught a possum in the yard, playing possum. Dad had to take quite a few away from him and each time the animal wasn’t even injured. Rocky could tear apart any toy and frequently did, but when it came to living things you could trust him with the smallest child. You could pull his tail or put your hand in his mouth and he wouldn’t bite.
My parents cared for Rocky when I could not, in college, an apartment, etc. At those times, he enjoyed walks with them and playing fetch with Dad. Frisbee, ball, whatever was thrown, he couldn’t resist running to get it and bring it back. I think Dad loved him best. He drove Rocky across the country three times for each move and to bring him to me although flying would have been easier on himself. He loved Rocky. I think Mom was his favorite person. He was always thrilled to see her.
Bill knew straightaway that the way to my heart was through my pooch. He showed up at my doorstep one day with a gift for me and a very nice Frisbee for Rocky. He took it very well when Rocky promptly mangled the Frisbee as I’d warned him my pooch would do. Bill would come over to borrow Rocky for runs and trained well enough with him that they won the Families First Doggie Dash in 1998, not just for age or size. They won it outright. They made a great team.
We took Rocky on many trips and he never needed encouragement to get in the car. He played on sunny Florida beaches and always drank too much saltwater when swimming. We took him to lakes and parks across the Southeast. He would swim, chase, fetch, and generally enjoy anywhere we went. It was fun to see him run around at “the farm”. He would disappear into the tall grass and pop up in leaps as he went looking for the stick or ball that was thrown.
When he was younger, I worried that he needed our companionship so I let him inside to be with us, but he was quickly restless to be outdoors. He loved being outside. I think he would have been happiest if we had lived out there with him.
When Ace was added to our pack, he took it well and treated him like a pesky little brother. He could bark and snap at Ace as much as he wanted, but he wouldn’t let any other dog bother his little buddy. Ace, for his part, adored Rocky and would follow him anywhere.
Recently, it became harder to take Rocky on trips. He just wasn’t up to it anymore, but thankfully I never had to board him after finding Critter Sitters. Cheryl has been their sitter since they met her in 2002 and I have not had a moments worry knowing that she was caring for my puppies. It was important to us that Rocky have a familiar face when we weren’t there to be with him and I’m thankful that she kept us on even though we moved further away from her last year.
Living here at the new house, Rocky was as content as we’ve ever seen him. He had woods to explore, critters to chase, and Ace to keep him company. He never tried to dig out of this fence and when I would let him off the leash in the front yard, he’d head straight for the gate to be let back in.
It was quiet and cool Saturday night and we slept with the window open. Rocky went to sleep outside in one of his favorite spots by the fence, about 15 feet from our window. We believe he didn’t wake up and passed away peacefully early Sunday morning. He looked like he always did when he was asleep.
I know he wasn’t a human; I know he was a dog. Still, he loved me without reservation and with his whole heart. I know that and I’m thankful I had him in my life for almost 15 years.
Goodbye my friend. I love you.