Rocky, the Dog of the World, came to our household in 2005 in the most convoluted way possible.
The Dog Search
We don’t use the H word at our house. Though we regularly get money requests from the Humane Society, we shudder at the memories. After all, we tried once to do the Humane Society a favor, but they shunned our help.
My husband Tim and I didn’t realize what an ordeal it would be to get a dog for our daughter Audrey. We were entirely new to this world of dog adoption. Yes, adoption.
The process is akin to what prospective moms and dads must have to endure to get a human baby, except that they don’t have to list their vet’s name.
We had visitation with Scooter and met for our first interview. Yes, interview. The lady brought Scooter in and took notes on everything we said and did. My husband had to bite his tongue before answering questions like “How do you plan to make your first week a smooth transition for Scooter?”
I filled out pages of paper work on our family and pet history. I knew they’d do a background check to see if we were worthy. I hoped it didn’t matter that I hadn’t taken our two cats to the vet for a while.
The next day the Animal Shelter lady called. “Did you know that the veterinary clinic you listed has not existed for three years?”
I swallowed hard. “No, I didn’t know that. Our cats have been perfectly healthy and happy indoor cats.”
Silence. I sensed our tenuous relationship with the animal shelter was over. Finally she said, “If you want a dog, you will have to take your cats to the vet and bring us the receipt as proof.”
I did the math: two cats, vet visit, shots, purchase dog, another vet visit, more shots, etc. Over $350 just to get a dog. It defeated the purpose of going to the Animal Shelter to begin with.
$$$$ $$$$ $$$$ $$$$ $$$$
We tried another shelter. I took five-year-old Jeffrey to meet Spunky. The dog nearly knocked Jeffrey over, so Jeffrey found solace behind the cat cage. The lady noted, “Your son doesn’t seem interested in a dog.”
When Tim visited later and gave his name, the receptionist paused, looked over her glasses at him, and said, “Are you the Tim Moore on Lake Street?”
We’d been blacklisted in the entire county.
We put up an ad at school, but it led nowhere. I pored over the want ads but the only dog ads were for purebreds, which was out of the question. There were no leads until spring, when Tim’s friend Ken in St. Louis said he knew a dog rescuer with thirty dogs. Tim called her; Carla said that Misty would be a good fit for us. (Name has been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.)
So during spring break, Tim took Audrey, 13, and Colin, 8, on a six-hour road trip to pick up Misty. In the meantime, Carla called me.
Carla wanted to make sure I was just as excited about a dog as Tim and the kids were. I assured her I was. She asked if we had a fenced-in yard and a dog door for easy access into the yard. We did not, I said, but we planned on taking lots of walks.
She complained that the car ride from St. Louis was long and that Tim sure seemed to be in a hurry to leave. I said they’d make several stops and they wanted to have ample get-acquainted time before school resumed.
Then Carla mentioned that her father was dying of cancer and she didn’t know how she could handle any more separation anxiety. Red flag. I empathized. I asked several questions about her dad, and shared how I had to give up a dog once.
I alerted Tim the minute I was off the phone. “Be on your best behavior. Agree with whatever she says, don’t rush at the house, and bite your tongue.”
It didn’t matter. Carla decided that she could not part with the dog. Did I mention she already had thirty of them? Did I mention that she and her husband push king-size beds together at night and all sleep together like one big sick happy family?
I wrote that dog lady a nasty letter I never mailed, billing her thousands of dollars for gas, time, my kids’ irreparable emotional trauma, and Tim’s headache and the paternal anguish of having to listen to crying kids on the way from St. Louis to Milwaukee.
Two months later, my friend June said that her future daughter-in-law Patty had to give up her two dogs because she was moving into a new place. It seemed that Rocky, a Basenji-Jack Russell Terrier mix, would be a good fit for our family. They planned to bring Rocky over on Friday morning.
Friday morning came and went; no dog appeared. We called and June was in tears. “Jim and Patty had a big fight over her dogs and Jim gave her an ultimatum—the dogs or him.” June wailed. “She chose the dogs!” So Patty and the dogs were on their way back to Chicago.
I had trouble feeling sympathy for June’s plight when I had to break more bad news to my own kids.
We were done pursuing a dog. I was not going to set Audrey up for any more disappointment.
A week later, June called. “I’ve got Rocky. Jim and Patty are back together and agreed to give away the dogs. I’m coming over right now.” June showed up an hour later with a crate, a bag of dog food, dog dishes, a leash, and an adorable two-year-old brown and white dog, Rocky.
Rocky would be a surprise when Audrey got home that afternoon. Only Colin and Jeffrey were with me as we played with Rocky outside and walked him on the leash. I couldn’t wait to see Audrey’s face.
In the meantime, Rocky somehow got loose from the leash and dashed away. He tore down the driveway and raced around the corner. My heart plummeted. In tears, the boys and I took pursuit, screaming.
We yelled to every passer-by to point us in the right direction. Envisioning a smashed dog, I prayed like mad. If anything happened to Rocky, I would never be able to look Audrey—or June—in the face again.
Our neighbor Rick heard our plight and whizzed by in his truck. He caught up to an exhausted Rocky a mile ahead and commanded him to get in the truck. Fortunately, the dog jumped right in.
Later, since he bonded to us, Rocky never ran away again. In no time he became part of the family, romping with us by day, dreaming away nights in Audrey’s bed. Above all, he was her dog, a great dog—even worth all the trouble it took to get him.
But we still shudder at the H word when we get those money requests in the mail and promptly drop them into the wastebasket.
Above: Audrey and Kaia with Rocky in 2005. I’m holding white-haired Rocky in his old age (2016).
This is only one fragment of Rocky’s long life with us. After all, he was the the Dog of the World, so there’s plenty more I could say.
Do you have any Pet Tales (pun intended) of your own?
I invite you to send them to me. They can be funny or poignant. Not just an image, a summary, or vague memory, but an anecdote or full-fledged story. Not the pet’s entire biography, but a slice of it. From 300 to 700 words.
Think slice of life. Zoom in on special moment, hour, day, or aspect of your pet’s personality that you’ll always treasure and love to tell others.
Since this is a blog that celebrates imagination, use your imagination to decide how to bring your pet’s story to life with words on a page.
Submit your narrative via email to email@example.com by October 1. I’ll edit them as necessary and share several on the blog later. Include a relevant picture or two.
Any questions about what or how to submit? Ask me below. Or share any other pet comments.
I’d love to hear from you!