Dear Rocky – A Year Later

Dear Rocky,

It seems like forever ago since I last saw you. It has been a year since you crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I still call your name… I still feel the void where your ample presence should be. My heart still feels broken. I still miss you so very much. It has been so hard not to collapse under the sadness of losing you. I have wanted to fall apart many, many times. But I made a promise to you – I promised that I would go, do see, and explore in your memory. I promised to live life every day. And while some days I’m more successful than others, I try every day.

In this past year, Daddy and I (and sometimes Jacques too) have traveled to numerous places around the globe. In each city and each country, we raise our glasses and toast you. At the end of each day or each new adventure, we say, “We think Rocky would approve!” and, my furry buddy, I really do think you would approve.

Whether it’s summoning the courage to wander around a foreign city alone, finding the strength to make it to the top of a volcano, or facing medical challenges with an “it’s going to be what it’s going to be” attitude – I find myself channeling my inner-Rocky often. I try to face life’s challenges with your light heart and your determination. You might not be here in the fur, but you are definitely with me in spirit.

I miss you every day. Every. Day. And I still cry. A lot. But I wouldn’t trade the experience of having you in my life for anything. You brought me such happiness and sheer joy… in life and now in memory. I promise to keep trying, to keep doing my best, and to never stop exploring.

Mommy loves you so much. Forever.


rockyThis is one of my favorite pictures of Rocky. It always makes me smile. He was 5 years old but still acted like a puppy – so goofy and uncoordinated. That was just one of the many things I loved about him.

Furry Flashbacks – Big Toys for Big Boys

A number of years ago (like 7 or 8), I helped with a garage sale that benefited some local animal rescues. As we were loading up the unsold items to take to Goodwill, I noticed a very large stuffed duck. I thought it was hilarious and brought it home for Niko who had a thing for stuffed animals.

Niko was VERY excited to receive this new, giant baby. He quickly grabbed the duck and headed for the back door. He tried to push it out the partially open sliding glass door but instead fell over it and out the door. He didn’t let that deter him… He grabbed the duck from the outside and tugged with all his might over and over before it finally popped loose and sent him somersaulting backwards. He then proceeded to trot back and forth across the yard with the duck in a victory parade of sorts before he settled down to gnaw on the toy.
niko&duckAbout a year later Niko was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, a very aggressive form of cancer. After surgery to remove the tumor, he underwent chemotherapy. One of my co-workers (who was an ovarian cancer survivor) told me about her chemotherapy experience, so I knew that it was going to be a rough road for him. One week, he was having a really hard time. My boy, who was normally so full of life, was a shadow of his former self. He seemed so down and depressed. I remembered how happy he was when he saw that giant duck, so I set out to find him another one. Luckily for me it was right around Easter and the local pet store was overflowing with giant sheep, ducks, and bunnies. I grabbed a duck for Niko and a sheep for Rocky and rushed home. Though I could tell he still felt awful, it was so wonderful to see the flicker of happiness in his eyes when he saw me with that duck. He grabbed it and dragged it into the back yard where he proceeded to slobber all over it. When he could, he would drag the duck through the house with him and would often sleep with it. When he couldn’t move it, I would bring it to him and watch him almost sigh with relief. He finished his chemo soon thereafter and was cancer-free for another almost two years. He loved that duck so much that I had to sew the silly thing up THREE times and wash it countless times (he LOVED to drag it though the backyard).

Niko with his duck in 2008.

Niko with his duck in 2008.

Niko with his duck a month before crossing the Rainbow Bridge in 2010.

Niko with his duck a month before crossing the Rainbow Bridge in 2010.

Though Niko is no longer with me, I still have the giant duck. He sits atop the bookcase in my office and looks down on me while I work. I look at the duck and think of the silliness that was Niko and how much I will always love him.
duck(For the record, Rocky’s sheep lasted about 30 seconds before he had the head ripped off and stuffing strewn across the backyard.)

A few weeks ago, I saw a bin of giant ducks, sheep, frogs, and cows. I couldn’t help but think of how much Niko would have loved those. I started to get one for Jacques but couldn’t bring myself to do it. I wasn’t ready. About a week ago I saw the bin again and knew what needed to be done. I picked out the biggest, plushest frog I could find and brought it home. Jacques was overjoyed and though the frog was bigger than him, he didn’t let it stop him from dragging it around the house, cuddling with it, and even sleeping on it. It made me happy. In fact, I laughed hysterically for a long time. It was a reminder that loves comes in all shapes and sizes – we just need to keep an open heart.

IMG_2851 IMG_2854Jacques may not be big in size like my other boys, but his heart is every bit as big. And his ego… Well, his ego is much, MUCH bigger.

Furry Flashbacks – Shining Lights

As Rocky got older, he started having more and more “senior moments” – you could see it in his eyes. It was as if “the lights were on but nobody was home.” I never really understood that expression until I experienced it with Rocky. When “nobody was home,” he was always friendly (he never met a stranger!) but would often just look through you. But when the “lights were on”… I don’t know how to describe it. It was just so wonderful and filled my heart with joy to know in that moment he was right there – really there – with me. His light was shining so bright.

I’ve been missing Rocky quite a bit lately. These are two memories from the not-too-distant past that really make me smile, so I thought I would share.

One morning, Rocky and Jacques were outside. I went to call them inside and found them on the far side of our backyard. I watched them as I called their names. Rocky looked up and saw me, and – I swear – he smiled from ear to ear then started galloping towards me with his tail wagging and jowls flapping the entire time. Once he reached me he started circling me (like a cat does when they’re rubbing up against you) and smiling. In that moment when he first saw me, he genuinely looked so happy to see me. It made my heart melt. And watching him circle me while “smiling”… brought me sheer happiness.

Rocky... circling and smiling (while getting his butt scratched, of course)

Rocky… circling and smiling (while getting his butt scratched, of course)

A few weeks before Rocky crossed the Rainbow Bridge we had to confine him to the carpeted portions of our house because his legs weren’t strong enough to walk on the tile floors, meaning he could no longer greet us at the door when we came home. One afternoon I came home and saw Rocky behind the makeshift barrier that kept him off the tile. He spotted me and started barking like crazy. As I moved closer to him I could see that he was really there, really in the moment. And at that moment he was so happy to see me and I was thrilled to see him. I stepped over the barrier and was almost knocked over by his exuberance. He was so happy to see me – he whimpered and kissed my face as though I had been gone for years. His tail wagged – something I hadn’t seen in a while. I hugged him and told him how happy I was he was there and he continued to whine and kiss me in return. It was an absolutely beautiful moment. I wish that moment could’ve lasted a lot longer… but I guess that’s what makes it so special. His light was shining so bright in that moment. I am incredibly thankful that I was there for it.

My handsome boy.

My handsome boy.

Live in the moment and let your light shine. Life is doog!!!

Happy Rocky-tober!!!

Because Rocky was a rescue, I never really knew when his birthday was – though through the loss of his baby teeth and some complex math (carry the 2, divide by Pi), I was able to determine he was born sometime in the month of October. Not long after that, the month long celebration known as Rocky-tober was born.

Rocky’s rescue was traumatic (you can read an abbreviated version of the story that was featured on the ASPCA’s Success Stories webpage in 2007 here). I actually saw him get hit by a large truck – twice. As he got older, he seemed pretty goofy and I sometimes wondered if his head struck the pavement when he was hit. His “specialness” became a running joke with my friends and family. (For the record, I believe that he was just a big, goofy oaf who had no idea how huge he was.)

After I rescued Rocky, there was a span of about 7 years where I seemed to constantly come across lost and wounded animals (specifically birds, turtles, cats, and dogs). A lot of them were “special” too. I was jokingly dubbed a “patron saint of lost, wounded, and ‘special’ animals” by my friends. (Some would even argue that I seemed to attract lost, wounded, and “special” boyfriends… but I digress.)

Rocky-tober eventually became not only a month to celebrate my wonderful, goofball Rocky – who was once lost and wounded – but one to remember those animals who are or were lost and wounded… and to love them in all their “specialness.”

This is our first Rocky-tober without Rocky. This year “remembering the lost” has a little different meaning for us, but we will remember all of the love, silliness, and “specialness” that was Rocky. And we will certainly enjoy the “specialness” that is Jacques!

So, Happy Rocky-tober!!! Be kind to the special furry loved ones in your life, and remember to be kind to the lost, wounded or “special” furry souls you encounter. You may just find yourself asking, “Who rescued who?”


Dear Rocky – A Letter

Dear Rocky,

You were “special” in so many ways. Those who knew you thought you might have been a few fries short of a happy meal. I knew you were just happy go lucky and goofy and that you were smarter than most people gave you credit for. Sometimes. Occasionally.

You were my kindred spirit. We both liked to explore but were just as happy to relax and take a nap. We were both a little out of shape and a little lazy.  We were silly and goofy. We were fighters and could survive tough times. We might have been a little stubborn too. Maybe just a little. We were never very good in social situations – though you seemed to do better than me and made friends almost everywhere despite your crazy antics (or maybe it was because of them).

On my good days, you celebrated with me. On my bad days, you were there to comfort me. And I could always count on you to do something to make me laugh. During your 14 years, you were with me during most of my life’s biggest events – graduating from grad school; moving cross-country (and then moving home because it was too cold up north); moving to a new city where I knew no one; three major operations; buying my first house; meeting the man of my dreams; losing our beloved Niko; getting engaged (I love how you patiently waited during the actual proposal and then how you barked and jumped around after I said yes); getting married and starting a new life – new jobs, new city, new home. Regardless of where we went or what happened, I was happy and “home” as long as you were with me.

Your wet sloppy kisses and bear hugs were some of my favorite things in life. Some of the things I didn’t appreciate as much – your loud booming bark, the trail of water on the kitchen floor after you drank, you hogging the bed, head butting the back door when you were ready to come in – I dearly miss now. I miss YOU. I miss the essence of you – all the crazy, annoying, hilarious, sweet, wonderful things you used to do. I miss them all.

You were such a good boy – so full of joy and happiness even in the end. It was so hard watching you slip away from us. That brilliant light in your eyes started to flicker and then would only shine occasionally. But when it shined – it lit up my heart.

My Rocky Doodles… I love you so much. I miss you so much my heart hurts. But through the pain, I can feel the happiness and joy you radiated as I think about the silly things you did. I also feel extreme gratitude – I am so thankful that the universe brought us together. You were my constant companion and my snuggle bug. My life has been so much better because of you.

I don’t know if there’s a heaven, but if there is, I hope you and Niko have been reunited and that you’re able to run, play, go and explore like you used to. You are always in my thoughts and forever in my heart.

I love you buddily boo.


Rocky_July14_2014 Jacques and Rocky on July 14, 2014. Rocky crossed the Rainbow Bridge later that day.

I have way too many pictures of Rocky to pick a favorite… but here is a glimpse of Rocky through the years.