Rocky was our problem child. He didn’t want to be our problem child, but it is what it is. He came to us by accident, if there is such a thing.
Rocky struggled to find a home where he was accepted. His original parents tried hard to give him that, but they didn’t really know what giving a good home to a dog meant. They loved him, yes, but that love meant Rocky living outdoors in the northwest where life can be very cold and wet for the better part of a year. Rocky got the cheapest of foods, and no regular baths.
I first met Rocky after he was found in the middle of the road, sleeping, on pavement made warm on a sunny day. He was taken by animal control to the shelter where I was Executive Director. I was called by our shelter manager, Shari, because she knew I loved basset hounds, and when I met Rocky, I was seriously inclined to adopt him. However, his owner showed up and claimed him and that was that. Shari released Rocky, telling the owner about me, and advising her that should things change, she could call.
A few months later Rocky’s owner indeed did call. She told Shari she was ready to give Rocky a home. She didn’t want to surrender him to the shelter, but if that woman – me – still wanted him, she would meet up with me.
So, I met Rocky again. In a Walmart parking lot, that is. The woman told me that she was beginning to worry because Rocky kept wanting to come inside and she couldn’t allow it. She knew Rocky needed more and she couldn’t provide that more. Naturally, after that awareness, I gave Rocky a bed and full range inside.
Up to that point, I had only my lab/rottweiler mix Tucker and two wayward cats to think about. Rocky was afraid of Tucker almost immediately, and for a brief time cowered in his presence. Two weeks went by before Rocky had enough of Tucker’s dominance, and let out a deep, bolting bellow that made Tucker cringe and me along with him. Life was not the same after that.
That was 2005. Fast forward to now.
Rocky died this week, unexpectedly. Okay, he was about 13, but there were no real clear signs that his end was near. His ailment came on suddenly, but then you never really plan death, do you? Merlin sensed Rocky’s distress, following him around the yard. Of course, Merlin followed Rocky all the time, checking in on him as if he were Rocky’s guardian angel. Merlin licked Rocky’s eyes every day, and got up each morning, quite early, to make sure Rocky went outside to do his business.
The pack is adjusting. Jim and I also. The house is not as noisy. Rocky hated the rain, so when it came this week, we didn’t have the mess Rocky often created in defiance of the weather. Still, he is missed. The problem child had a good heart. He loved a good petting, and cleaned up awfully nice after a visit to the groomer. He especially loved heading out to Merlin’s Garden on a good day, sniffing away at the smells abundant in his surroundings.
Rocky particulary loved the Hibiscus tree under which he laid often. He dug his nest there. I stopped bothering to fill it because I knew he would return. It still is there.
I don’t know where dogs go after they pass, but I am a betting woman and suspect they live on in some way, not only in our hearts but in the world most of us believe lives beyond despite our lack of proof.
Perfect dogs don’t exist. Neither do perfect humans. I would have liked Rocky to be a little better than he was, but as I feel his loss and what he gave our family, the lesson tells me that love does not come from perfection, but in finding the beauty inherent in the variables of life. Rocky’s variables challenged us, but we have no regrets because each variable made us appreciate the many facets of our own less than perfect existence.
Saying goodbye is never easy, but goodbye, I say, Rocky, goodbye. Thank you for the gifts you gave us — your mighty roar, your love for affection, your beauty as you graced Merlin’s Garden. You were a lion in our lives and we will miss you so!