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A Laudation of Rocky

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You never know how you will be affected by someone who enters your life. Especially someone who is mature and has a defined way of being.  Even though we only had a short time together, losing Rocky has a left a major hole in my life.

You, as my reader, met Rocky when I wrote about the loss of my best friend, Cookie.  Rocky had just arrived in our house.  He was being given away by a family who only had him for a short while after getting him from their friends where he had been since he was a puppy.  I called my kids who had picked him up and asked if they broke the news to Rocky that he was going to where all dogs wished they could live -- our home.   In the previous column, Rocky had just jumped on the couch and decided to nestle himself on my lap as if it was his pre-ordained spot in his new home.  We soon learned we had merely existed in this world, but now we had entered Rocky’s World.  

Rocky had no special talent.  As a 10-year-old he was not preciously cute though he was quite a handsome Jack Russell Terrier.  It quickly became apparent Rocky was an enigma.  He gained his first nickname – the Rock Star.  But then he gained his next nickname -- Steve McQueen.  He was the King of Cool. His two much-younger sisters would be running around like maniacs if someone came to the house, but Rocky would not flinch. He would watch them and then assent to join them if it suited his fancy.

But he wasn’t lazy.  If somehow a workman left the side gate open or the door to the garage stayed open too long, it was almost never the girls who would make the great escape.  It was Rocky.  We would get a call from the down the street about finding our dog on the loose. We had to run down the street and get his old carcass back in safe confines and for him it was a week in the cooler.  We thought of getting him his own little motorcycle.

When you get a rescue dog that is mature you begin to wonder what made this dog be this way?  What was he like as a puppy?  What gave him his certain je ne sais quoi?  Whatever happened, Rocky had it.  

My most endearing and enduring memory of Rocky came on a most challenging day.  It was about a year after Rocky had graced us with his presence.  The morning was going along as normal with me watching the morning business news, reading email and the WSJ.  A big commotion was going on in the backyard (which could be a normal day with three dogs).  This one lasted for a prolonged period.  There were no workers scheduled so I got up to calm the savage beasts.

I looked out the back and saw what looked like a German Shepherd and wondered how it got in our backyard.  I quickly realized it was not a German Shepherd, but an extremely healthy looking coyote.  I had no idea how it had gotten in since we live in a fenced encampment, complete with barbed and razor wire, ever since the city of Los Angeles caved and stopped protecting domestic pets from these vultures.  

Our uninvited guest had Winnie -- the sweetest being on the planet and our most docile doggie -- in her clutches.  Maisie, who had earned her nickname of “Crazy Maisie,” was making a commotion to rock the neighborhood.  What was Rocky doing?  Literally chewing on the hindquarter of the coyote.  He was not letting his sister be taken without a fight and he was going at the coyote with every ounce of his energy.  The sound of my yell and the sight of me caused the coyote to drop Winnie and it exited from where it came.  The legend of Rocky grew.

Rocky was my bud.  When my wife went to bed at night, Rocky would hang with me while I was reading and listening to tunes. He would plunk in front of the treadmill while I was on as though guarding me.  When we went to bed, he would jump on the chaise to the bed, then walk his way through the girls to snuggle next to me with his snout in my armpit saying, “This is my spot, and this is where I belong; good night.”

A year ago Rocky started hacking.  We found out he had congestive heart failure.  We thought only humans got that.  But his heart did not give out.  He prodded on as the tough guy he was.  Last May I told my daughter (the master of everything dog) that he may not make it much longer.  After a short interlude though he perked up.  He went on our Saturday walks insisting he join his sisters.  He made it up the big hill without me needing to carry him or stop to give him a rest.

Last Saturday we started up that big hill and he stopped.  I had to carry him and he looked at me and said “You are my human; this is what you do for me.”  I could tell he was near the end.  He struggled his way through the next two days. His medication doing nothing. On Monday morning, I put him in his bed and he soon left us.  We lost this magnificent being we had for only four years, but four unbelievably loving years.  

I will know if I get to heaven, Rocky will be there waiting for me. If he is not waiting for me, then I did not make it.  I miss you every day, buddy.  God Bless.

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