New Year’s Eve 2003: I had talked my then husband into getting a new puppy. We already had a 1.5 year old lab named Gracie, but I had seen an ad online for free puppies in a nearby town. Of course, I was younger and more naive, and didn’t know the dangers of “free puppies” but it all worked out. We drove 30 minutes to the neighboring town, already dark out, and walked up to the house. The people were very nice and friendly, explaining that their son and daughter-in-law had their purebred German Shepherd at the house and she had somehow escaped the yard one night. And here she was with a litter of puppies - except there was only one left. He was the biggest of the litter. As soon as I saw him, I fell in love, though I had no idea just how deep it would go.
We got home, introduced him to Gracie, and debated on names. A friend of mine was over and suggested Rocco - as in Rocco DiSpirito, a popular chef who had a television show at the time. I liked the name and decided Rocko fit my little guy, so Rocko he became.
Over the following months, it was interesting to see how different he was than Gracie. Rocko was mellow, more easy going, not the insane chewer that Gracie was. Gracie had learned house training very quickly, whereas I sometimes wondered if Rocko would EVER get it. He eventually did - and understood it so well, he rarely had an accident in all his years.
When my ex-husband and I split, I took both the dogs for a while, but eventually, he took Gracie and I took Rocko. Rocko had always been my baby, much more interested in what I was doing and where I was going than he was of my ex-husband. In fact, Rocko and I had a bond - it felt like I could look at him and he knew was I was thinking; he knew what I wanted or expected. He also knew what I needed when I was upset or unhappy.
Through divorce, moving to Arkansas where we lived with my sister for a while, then on our own, with a boyfriend and his Belgian Malinois (retired K9), back on our own, and back to Colorado, Rocko was my one constant. Breakups, divorce, cross country moves - he was with me all along the journey. Loneliness, happiness, excitement...my Rocko Beans was there to share it all.
And oh, the memories we made. Like when he somehow got a soup bone (marrow bone) that was hallowed out lodged on his lower jaw, behind his canine teeth. A trip the vet so they could saw it off solved that problem. Or the time it was subzero temps outside, with snow everywhere, so I thought I would keep his little paws warm by putting socks on his feet. I thought it was ingenious to use an elastic ponytail holder to keep then on his feet. That is, until the next day when Rocko started limping, then started not walking at all on one of his rear legs. He would not let me look closely to figure out what was going on. I assumed he had stepped on something or had something major going on. After trying to sneak a closer look for a while, I finally caught a glimpse of what was causing the issue and I was horrified. I had, apparently, not taken off all of the ponytail holders - one was still around his lower leg, cutting into his skin and causing pain and discomfort so that he didn’t even want to walk on that leg! Obviously, it wasn’t the ingenious idea I thought it was and I felt like the biggest pet mom failure. I had to call my best friend to come over so she could hold him down and I could cut the elastic off of his leg. Sure enough, he was back to walking like normal within just a couple minutes. I felt so terrible. I also never used socks or ponytail holders again to keep his feet warm. Lesson learned.
Rocko was in great health for most of his life. As he started getting up in years, I started him on supplements for his joints and hips. When he started to slow down considerably and showed signs of pain and discomfort just getting up and down, the vet explained that Rocko had arthritis in his back end. As it progressed, it spread to his spine and nerves to where sometimes he looked like he was drunk, having a hard time balancing and walking straight. Through it all, he always greeted me at the door. And as he lost some hearing, if he did not hear the door, he would come to greet me as soon as he realized I was home. He was always happy to see Mom. And I was always happy to see my sweet boy.
The hardest decision I’ve ever made was not just to euthanize my beloved boy, but WHEN to do it. He still had good days. He still had days where he wanted to romp around outside and was so happy and smiling in the sunshine. But those days became fewer and further apart. I read article after article online. I talked to friends who had gone through this awful part of having a pet. Eventually, with help from my soon to be husband, I decided it was time. It was clear he was in pain and was not the happy, mellow dog he had been, but instead uncomfortable and showing signs of doggie dementia, barking at things in the middle of the night that weren’t there. I truly couldn’t bear the thought of a life without my Beans, but even more so, I couldn’t bear the thought of him suffering in silent pain because I was not strong enough to let him go, especially after all the years of love and companionship he had given me.
My (now) husband made the vet appointment for me, at my request. I will say that his love for Rocko is one of the things I love most about him. He adored Rocko, would spend time brushing him, spooning with him on the floor, or even cooking rice and hamburger when Rocko’s tummy was upset and I was out of town. The morning of the appointment, I came home from work and laid on the bedroom floor, holding my sweet Rocko. I cried and cried. Waiting for the time to go was torture. I just kept thinking how was I going to make it through? He had been my one constant for over fourteen years. What would life without him be like? As much as I always knew the time would come, I was not prepared to actually have to face it.
At the vet, they took us to a quiet room with a small couch and big area rug, where we could sit with Rocko and be comfortable. We said our goodbyes and I held Rocko, whispering in his ear and hugging him. They gave him a shot to put him to sleep before giving him the fatal shot. I cried like I’d never cried before, knowing he was never coming back. He was not coming home with us. I would never again be greeted at the door by his big pink tongue or his bushy, wagging tail, or those huge, soulful brown eyes.
I walked out of the vet without the love of my life that day, bawling and lost.