“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”
“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”
Even though they are some of my favorite movies, and the title may suggest, this post is not about the movie character played by Sylvester Stallone. As you may have guessed from the picture, it’s about our dog Rocky, or Rocky Balboa which is his full legally licensed name.
I noticed that many of my blog posts spoke about the loss of our second dog Draven, or our new puppy Ulrich, but few of them spoke much about Rocky. I did recently write about his adoption story, but I thought he deserved more. He’s been with me the longest, and is after all my “first born.”
Rescued as a four month old puppy, he was quickly glued to my hip, and we have been inseparable ever since. I’ve always said that if we have an animal soulmate than mine was Draven, but as far as being my best friend, Rocky has that spot all to himself. He’s been with me almost my entire adulthood, and somehow we survived my twenties together. From moves, to boyfriends, to job changes, deaths and births, he’s always been my constant steady love. Always ready to offer up a good face licking, he’s stuck by me through everything.
While I’m sure many would say, “well of course he did, he’s a dog, where is he gonna go?” There is something unexplainable about a dogs loyalty until you’ve experienced it for yourself. It’s a feeling they convey, an emotion. Whether I’m sick or sad, with the rest of his head on my knee, it’s as if he’s saying, “I’m here for you mommy, and it’ll all be fine.” Though it may more likely be, “can we play ball now,” or “can I have a belly rub?” I’d like to believe it’s the other.
He suffers from epilepsy and anxiety, but is a tough boy who’s very resilient. And just like his namesake he is just as gentle as he is tough, maybe more so. While he’s a true lover and not a fighter, he won’t hesitate to protect his family when needed.
Perhaps I don’t speak of him enough because while remembering our life together makes me so happy, I’m also burdened with the thought of the inevitable. That one day when my friend won’t be by my side keeping me safe, or staring at me in the morning when he wants to go out, or having to lick my leg immediately after drinking water.
I’ve been very open about what it was like when our Draven passed, it nearly killed me. And while I don’t mean to lessen the pain of that loss, I don’t believe I even could, somehow I feel like losing Rocky may hurt even more.
I really can’t say enough about my best friend and partner in crime. He’s been with me during the most defining part of my life. He holds a special place in heart, and there will never be another like him. He’s been there for me and I’ve been there for him, and a love like that cannot die. I can take comfort in knowing that when that day comes, I will still somehow feel him by my side, sense those big brown eyes on me in the early morning, and feel the water on my leg from his fresh drink of water.
So thank you baby boy, it’s been a crazy 11 years! And it’s not over yet…..
We arrive at another shelter in a surrounding city from our home, not knowing of course if this will be it or not. We said hello and played and visited with several dogs, and found a puppy we thought would be another great addition to our small family. Wanting an introduction between this puppy and Rocky and also as a requirement for adopting, we drove back home to get Rocky for the face to face. Or nose to nose. Talking on the way home and back about the possibility of bringing a puppy home, it’s pros and cons. We discussed one of the pros being how we had both heard sometimes a puppy can perk up and sort of bring a new life and spirit to an older dog. I guess in our minds imagining that maybe a puppy could somehow turn back the clock on our Rocky’s ageing, and extend the years we get to spend with him. Maybe?
We returned to the shelter, Rocky in tow, and they had a great first meeting. We wanted a few minutes after that to really think it through, as a puppy is obviously a big commitment. Although I wasn’t working at the time, and planned on taking the next few months off, it was still a big job to raise a puppy. And one I haven’t had for ten years.
While I took Rocky outside for a potty break, my husband found out that there was a lady there hoping to adopt the same little girl puppy we were just visiting with. I guess she had been there earlier but left unsure, and was pretty heartbroken when a volunteer staff member mentioned we might adopt her.
During this time a little boy puppy who just turned eight weeks old had caught my husbands eye. Several people were around and paid attention to the other puppies in the pen, but not to him. After Rocky did his business and we went back inside my husband said “hey how about this little guy?” So we took him into one of the visiting rooms.
And let me tell you, he really was a little guy, the runt of his litter with a broken tail, he was a little funny looking and had big ears, but also the most beautiful and sweet eyes. I think my husband was in love right away, but I was unsure about my feelings, until I picked him up…
His head fell right into the curve of my neck and he let out a little sort of sigh. I had started to melt, this little guy felt like home to me. I tried to give him back to my husband for another hold, and he wouldn’t let me let him go. He clenched his little claws into my clothing and I could feel him hanging on with all the strength in his little legs. He hadn’t done that to the girl who volunteered there and spent the most time with, or to my husband. Right at that moment I said “okay, I won’t let you go, you can come home with us.”
Though I don’t know for sure I am guessing and hoping that woman from earlier did end up adopting that little girl puppy. And now each little baby was right where they were meant to be.
I guess sometimes it hits you right away, while other times it takes a few extra moments. But when you know you know, and we both knew he was the one.
That little guy on the right of the picture, named Ulrich, became my godsend. I was so busy with this new little maniac it helped distract me at times from my grief.
After Draven was diagnosed and going through treatment for Canine Lymphoma, there were so many vet trips and medication schedules, and special handling of different drugs. I don’t want to go back into everything again, so lets just say he kept me extremely busy. He was my main focus, my ONLY focus during that time, of course he’s one of my babies, I would have happily done anything for him. Then when he left us, not only was my baby gone, but now what do I do? He’d counted on me 24/7 for so long. I mean our animals always count on us round the clock, but not like this. I was so concentrated on doing everything I could for him that when he was gone there was nothing left for me to do but miss him. Even though Rocky has epilepsy which causes seizures, and also suffers from anxiety and has allergies. He’s pretty self sufficient as dogs go. I mean he’s always by our sides and is extremely loving, he just doesn’t need our constant attention like Draven needed in those last months.
Ulrich being a puppy and the little hellion that he is, really distracted me and kept me busy. He helped keep my going because I didn’t have the choice to stop. He truly is an angel that brought me back from darkness. He reminded me that while life does end, it also begins and goes on in such a beautiful way. He’s still a comfort every day, for my husband and I both see parts of Draven sort of reincarnated within him. He really has such a mix of both Rocky and Dravens personalities and quirks. It’s as if Draven had been directing us the whole time through this adoption, pointing us towards Ulrich and telling us which way to go. It’s fitting because Draven I always said was sort of a bully, but in a cute way. Stubborn as could be, he always let you know when he thought it was time for us all to go upstairs to bed, usually by grunting or poking you with his nose. Or when he wanted to lay around in the garden just a little bit longer, or take one more trip around the block. I feel like he was telling us what to do this one last time. Though I still feel him pushing me around with his nose from time to time, and I hope I will forever…
I’m so thankful for both of my parents but especially my mom, for showing me how to love and care for an animal, and be worthy of that animals love in return. For my husband, being the kind of person who has stopped traffic to help a terrified stray dog out of the street and to safety. He is the best person I’ve ever seen at getting a stray back to their home, and shares my passion for rescuing dogs.
Last but not least, I thank my dogs, my unique special babies, my boys, my unicorns. I can only hope I’m the person they see me as, and am worthy of their unconditional and never judging love. I’m one lucky doggy momma!
If you’ve read all four parts of our adoption stories than I thank you, I know it was a lot. And I’d say you know me pretty well by now. Besides my parents and my husband, my boys are my whole world.
I’ve really enjoyed sharing these stories with you and worked hard at trying to recapture the emotion I felt. And this won’t be the last adoption story I’m sure. For as long as we’re able we will always continue to adopt and rescue.
So Part Two left off with the official adoption of our Draven. One of the happiest days of my life. For this Part Three however, we begin with perhaps the saddest day of my life…
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, that I don’t kiss his picture that sits next to this computer, or rest my hand for a few moments on the cherry wood box which now contains his ashes, and run my fingertips over the imprint of his paw we had made.
Our Draven, so big and cuddly, with a heart that was even bigger than he was. Just like with all our boys, I was so lucky and honored to be his momma. It’s very difficult as I write this. Tears are streaming down my cheeks as I recall that day, the day that broke me to pieces. I cried and screamed out, wanting it all to change, wanting him to just get up and start running around again. But it didn’t change, it wasn’t going to, and I fell apart…..
Back to a happier time, when we adopted our big goofball. The woman at the shelter said that he was approximately 2 or 3 years of age, but when we took him for a check up with Rocky’s vet, she said he was more likely to be around 6 or 7. He already had clouding in his eyes, and we trusted this to be a more accurate estimation of his age. While it didn’t really matter to us that he was older, we were sad and a bit heartbroken, because this meant we would have less time with him. It was also such a shock. He played just like a young dog, as if he had never squeaked a toy or ran after a tennis ball in his life. Where had you been before us baby boy? Did nobody ever play with you? Try not to think about it I’d say, he’s here with us now.
Some time after the loss of our beloved “giant bunny” or “cowbert” which we called him almost more than his actual name, I wanted to look at puppies. Not with the intention of adopting one, I just wanted to feel some joy and happiness. I was so incredibly depressed I needed something to make me smile, if even for a moment. Not that my Rocky didn’t make me smile, he does all the time. I was just falling deep into a dark place, and it was going to take a little more to get me out. So I thought, what’s happier than puppies?
Well apparently when we left that morning headed to our local shelter, my husband knew what I did not, we’d be coming home with a new dog. He was right, I held one puppy and that was it. But “are we ready?” “What about Rocky, maybe we should let him be our only child again.” He seemed to like being the only dog before Draven, but then again he didn’t know any differently. We knew that he did miss Draven, you could tell. He would just sit and cry sometimes, right in the same spot where he had laid down next to his brother right after he passed. “I think we’re all ready.” Draven would want us to open our hearts and home to another dog in need, just the way we did for him. So that’s settled, this is what “Cowbert” would have us do.
Same as before we visited several shelters, and saw many wonderful dogs, both young and old. It didn’t really matter to us, but typically the older dogs weren’t as readily adopted or as “wanted” as a puppy or younger dog, so we gravitated more in the direction of finding an older dog. My husband was really hoping to find one already grown, since like I mentioned it seems there chances were a bit lower of finding a loving home. But I was really set on a puppy. I was so incredibly saddened by the short time we had with our Draven. Every moment we had with him was a blessing, and of course I’m thankful for every second, but it was a way too short only four and half years. I, being selfish I know, wanted more time.
But we were waiting for that dog to pick us, just like with Draven, that said “hey it’s me mom and dad, I’m the one!” Because I’ve said it before, you don’t choose them, you choose each other. So really the age of our “third born” was out of our hands. It didn’t take long before our new baby boy found us…..
Part One left off with me just meeting my baby boy to be, Rocky. Obviously I adopted him instantly, got him the treatment and medicine he needed, and fast-forward to now he’ll be 11 years old October of this year.
But for Part Two of this story let’s back up to March of 2011…
My husband and I, who at the time weren’t married yet, had just moved in together. After a short settling in period we decided to expand our family. Rocky and him fell in love with each other right from the moment they met, and if I’m being honest, Rocky kind of became a daddy’s boy. So their love for each other is strong and unwavering. But even so, he was adopted years before my husband and I had met, so we wanted to rescue another dog together, plus we could have two now where we were living. Both of us share a love and passion for rescuing dogs and would have a million of them on a large no-kill rescue farm if we could. (one of our dreams if we’re ever able) But at this time all we were allowed to have were two. So this led us to find our “second born,” Draven.
We visited several shelters, driving hours away, and we saw so many dogs we would have liked to adopt, really we would have taken all of them home. But we needed to find the perfect fit for our family. Rocky had been an only child his whole life up to this point, so we of course wanted this to be an easy transition for him. Also while there were so many terrific dogs, we just hadn’t yet found “the one.”
Finally one snowy afternoon, at the very last shelter we were going to visit that day, there he was. My husband knew immediately, “he’s the one!” It only took me a second later to agree. He’s the dog pictured above in the middle, and Rocky by the way is the one on the left. He was at a shelter roughly an hours drive away, kept in one of their outside pens. It was so adorable to watch how he sort of hopped around and played in the snow. Draven (a name my husband picked because his face markings reminded him of the movie “The Crow”) was the definition of a gentle giant. Kind and playful, yet relaxed and calm, we knew he’d be the perfect brother to Rocky, and all around perfect addition to our family.
We needed to have a home visit before we were able to fully adopt him, and I was a nervous wreck. We wanted him to be a part of our family so much I was so scared that it wouldn’t work out somehow. What if they think our place is too small, after all he weighed about 125, what if he doesn’t like Rocky, what if Rocky doesn’t like him. A true bundle of nerves, my whole body was literally shaking.
They arrive, and he immediately seems comfortable, jumping up on our couch right away and making himself at home. After a bit of smelling back and forth it appeared him and Rocky were going to get along just fine, I started to relax a bit. And then…..Rocky (who was never neutered, for medical reasons) begins to hump poor Draven. We couldn’t get him to stop! OH MY GOD! I’m losing my mind inside. This poor dog, his first hour in our home and he’s being molested, and right in front of the person who decides whether or not we can offer him a good home. Luckily she didn’t seem too bothered, it was just Rocky trying to assert dominance, I had no idea, having multiple dogs was completely new to both of us. But before this had started they would come nose to nose and wag their tails which was an excellent sign. She assured me that it wasn’t uncommon, and I started to relax again. After the humping stopped we thought they should go outside together, check out the yard, run around a bit. We went to the door preparing to go out, we open the main door and “HOLY CRAP”, Draven (who we find out later on, loves to be outside) bust the screen door right open and takes off! We don’t have a fenced in yard so we all take off after him and Rocky, who of course ran out as well. My poor husband who doesn’t have any shoes on is running around barefoot in 3 inches of snow and it’s late in the evening so it’s already dark. Here we all are in snowy darkness looking for one dog that’s black and another that’s white. Luckily we find them both in under 10 minutes just running around the neighborhood, and get them both back home safe and sound.
Incredibly she believes we’re all somehow a great fit for each other, and can provide him with a very loving home, and lets us officially adopt!…
For as long as I can remember I’ve always lived with and grown up around dogs. Well animals in general. Some of us like to call my mom “mother nature.” It’s as if she’s a Disney princess who can talk to all furry creatures. Whether it was helping strays find a good safe home, or keeping the bunnies in our bushes alive and warm one winter, she definitely taught me how to care for and help any animal in need. We once had 14 animals at the same time. Now it wasn’t as Beverly Hillbillies as it sounds, for they were mostly comprised at that time of Gerbils, Fish, and a Guinea Pig. We also had a dog, 4 cats, and a bird, who now when I think on it was the only animal to never really take to my mother. He was my dads bird and liked to occasionally bite her. In any case, she was always terrific with animals. (well maybe not birds) But still, this is where my love for animals, but especially dogs began…
A few years into adulthood and deciding I wanted to rescue a dog of my own, is how I happened upon my “first born”, Rocky.
I hadn’t even begun looking at any shelters yet when a co-worker (who knew I was interested) told me about this little 4-month old rotty mix, who was in terrible need of a home. He wasn’t in a typical shelter or facility, but simple in a barn this family had converted into a sort of shelter. They took in and cared for as many dogs as they could. They covered the cost of food and everything themselves, except for donations from adoptions but that barely just covered basic vet appointments, vaccines, spay and neuter etc.. So when I heard about this little pup who had become ill and needed some costly medicine they weren’t able to provide, I just couldn’t turn away from going to see this little guy. He had an uncertain and probably short future as most people don’t often look to adopt a sick puppy. But all I could see when I looked into his eyes that first time was that he was meant to be mine, my baby boy……
How do you get a sweet little 80-year-old lady to say the F word? Get another sweet little 80-year-old lady to yell “BINGO.”
“Friendship is like peeing on yourself: everyone can see it, but only you get the warm feeling that it brings.”
Okay so after yesterdays rant about feeling overwhelmed and extra anxious, and just basically complaining about my boring woe is me life, I’ve decided (after a good cry and break down) to look at the positives.
I had to smack myself in the face and say “why the hell are you complaining!” You are fortunate enough at this point in your life to be able to stay at home everyday and take great care of those you love. So maybe I’m not exactly where I was hoping I’d be in my life right now. I’m taking care of furry four legged babies instead of a tiny human, I’m not a super successful lawyer, and we don’t own or even live in a large house with a huge fenced in yard. I have to remember that my family loves me and is (somewhat) healthy, I get to spend all the time in the world with my boys, all the bills are paid, and at the end of the day I’m happy.
I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, I can guarantee I’m not the first person to feel like my plate is too full and I want to scream. But I’m really rather lucky. I must say I can contribute my quick turn around to this blog. Even if no one besides myself ever reads it, just typing it out and reading it aloud to is somewhat therapeutic.
Now that doesn’t mean that an hour from now I won’t be elbow deep in a vat of ice cream, but I think it does mean I can look ahead.
So kudos to you anxiety, I tip my hat, you got me this time. You may have won the battle but I will win the war!
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”