Originally posted: July 2016
Updated: July 2019
I had a good cry last week and many tears as the week went on when I was reminded that he was gone. Those who have experienced this will fully understand what I mean. As I came home from work he no longer came to greet me at the door. I especially noticed him missing when I was making my morning shake. My two sidekicks were always there waiting for their peanut butter and banana (how quietly they use to wait behind me as I made it, hoping they would get some). When the banana came out and the peanut butter jar was opened, I turned to only see Kiara. I told her she should appreciate that she now gets Rocky’s as well as hers. Truth be told, I’m still raw with emotion when I think about losing Rocky. I’m still grieving. I know I’ll get past it but he will never be forgotten.
Dogs and humans develop special bonds. It begins with the desire to ‘get a dog’ that sets off the emotional roller coaster. Rocky was adopted at 1.5 years old, approximately 1.5 years after I lost Spike. Spike was adopted at 1.5 years old as well, and was with us for 13 more years like Rocky. Spike was an amazing dog – his only issue was a very great fear of thunderstorms. A story for another time. It is almost eerie how alike Rocky and Spike looked. Perhaps it was fate….Rocky was actually called Spike many times from relatives.
Rocky was adopted at an adopt-a-day through a local rescue. Something that I now know is the wrong way to go about adopting a dog. He was bit on the day of his adoption by a dog. Ironically, I was walking that dog to see if he was suitable for adoption. The volunteer who was with Rocky came to me after they settled everything and said he was a good dog, didn’t seem to be reactive to the other dogs, and was just was in the wrong place. I walked him with no issues among the many dogs that were there and signed the papers and took him home. The following day at the vet’s office started our journey into dog training. He reacted immediately when we saw another dog in the reception area. The vet said although he was like that with the dog in the waiting room, he seemed to be amazing with him as he poked him, shone lights in his eyes, and noticed the puncture on his face. Rocky was that type of dog who loved all his humans so much.
Rocky and I had many ups and downs but his unconditional love was what kept me going. “I suggest you give him up” said one trainer. Sorry, giving up isn’t in my vocabulary. Those of you who know me will attest to that! I have faced many challenges in the last couple of years and he taught me how to be strong and keep going no matter what we were faced with, as he would always be by my side. He helped me grow as a person, both personally and professionally. Every dog has a unique personality and character. Sometimes it takes time for the full personality to be drawn out, but over time it will come out. As we ‘come to terms’ with each other, we develop deeper bonds, trust, and love.
Rocky and I spent so many hours together as we trained at different schools, both private and group classes, during the day and evenings. Several times I wondered whether I was doing the right thing as I was very emotional when leaving class especially when he had more than one blowout. I specifically remember one incident when we went to our first class, and the trainer thought it was best to introduce him face to face to each dog in the small church basement room. I didn’t have time to say I didn’t think it was a good idea…I am sure you can imagine how that turned out. He reacted to several and we finished the class outside working on our own. It is why as a trainer I empathise with those that have reactive dogs. Like humans, every dog is different and sometimes you don’t have that perfect dog. As long as a client is willing to put in the time, I will stand by them. I know for me, I even took a couple of breaks questioning whether I was doing the right thing after a blowout. I realised on my journey, and as I became a trainer, that it is hard work, but if you fall off, or are occasionally inconsistent, don’t be afraid to get back on! There will be good and bad days, but even if you feel like giving up, don’t…they give you unconditional love like no human can. It is so worth it!
As Rocky got older, and was slowing down, I learned that calm was the best way to deal with his reactions. He became even more of a sweetheart with relatives, friends, and his vet (whom he loved!)
We know in our minds that there will come a day…but in our hearts we do our best to put those thoughts aside. I shared this on our Facebook Page last week and it will stay with our family:
He was loved by many and shared his unconditional love with those who met him. I will miss his smile and sweet nudges for attention, Kiara will miss his quick bursts of play at our home. We will all celebrate the 13 years of joy and learning he brought.
Goodbye my heart dog. You taught me so much, especially that unconditional love does exist even though it is hard for humans. It’s why dogs come into our lives, to teach us through the good and the bad that they will always be there.
One year exactly after saying goodbye to Rocky, I received an email from a former client….after saying no initially, I took over ownership of Sadie one month later. Sadie is a totally different dog than Rocky was, but I know she has come into my life to teach me and remind me about the unconditional love that dogs provide.
To all who have felt the pain of losing a dog, remember to smile for the love and joy that they shared with you throughout their life.
“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” ~ Josh Billings
The Dog Stop