Rocky, a very special boy.
No dog could ever have been loved more, nor returned that love in so many ways.
About ten years ago, my wife and I decided that it was time for a new dog. Our regular Tuesday evening dog hike had introduced us to a female Aussie named Annie, and we thought an Aussie might a good choice for us. I went online and submitted a placement questionnaire to Aussie Rescue SoCal. Only an hour or so after I submitted it, the organization called and said they thought they had the perfect match for us. I wasn't prepared to act so soon, and my wife was on the East Coast visiting her brother, but they were quite insistent that some others who had voiced interest were professionals with insufficient time to devote to Rocky. Rocky wasn't technically a "rescue," he was three when his owner died and he was being fostered until a new forever owner could be found. That meant that the organization couldn't deny potential adopters.
There was a photo online which I send to Diane, and we talked over the phone. Diane thought I should drive to Ventura to check Rocky out, and gave me permission to decide whether he was the dog for us.
The couple who were fostering had small children, plus another dog and cat. The young woman had little time for Rocky, and because they didn't have a yard for him, he started having accidents in the house. I made the appointment and drove to Ventura the next day. The woman opened the door and pointed at Rocky. He was super cool-looking and pretty docile as I sat next to him on the floor and he seemed to think that I was alright. I asked if I could take him for a brief walk, and the woman said that was OK. He walked next to me very nicely, and by the time I returned, I had decided he would be fine. I said so to the woman, she said fine, and I left, surprised that she didn't even say goodbye to Rocky.
I had prepared a bed on the passenger seat of the Odyssey, and kept a hand on him all the way home. He was clearly housebroken, and leash-trained. I walked him three times over to the park that first day. The next day, I unclipped the leash and he stayed by my side. It was obvious that he was very well trained, but we were surprised in the first few weeks that his training included hand signals. We would do something with our hands, and he would perform some action. I'm not sure we ever figured out what all the signals were, but we mastered the most important commands together.
One of the biggest surprises to us was his complete reliability off-leash on trail and around other pets and children. He seemed never intimidated by anything but long rides in the car, the one concern we had throughout his life. (Especially for the traveling Eastmans.) But we managed accommodations, and he made 5 cross-country trips with us.
At first, I walked him 3 or so miles a day. Soon it was apparent that he had tremendous stamina, and he started running with Diane almost daily. And, as we were training for various races, including marathons, we found that he was happy running long distances with Diane, carrying food and water in his pack. At the end of each 20+ mile training run on trail, he'd drink lots of water and lie down, only to be ready in an hour or so to go again. (Obviously, we weren't!)
One of our favorite events is an annual teardrop trailer gathering at Lake Perris in March. There is a ten+ mile hike around the lake, and for years we would do it in one direction on one morning, the opposite way on the next. Rocky loved being off-leash almost the whole way, and the 20 miles were a piece of cake for him. We have become known as "the hikers" by some in the group, and it was difficult to acknowledge that he could no longer go with us the last two years.
Rocky's health was exemplary until a few years ago, then he ruptured an ACL and had to have his right rear leg rebuilt. Though he recovered from the operation, he could not do the longer distances, and was content to hike from the Cape house to the creek beach daily with Diane when we were on the East coast. The next year, though, he had a mass on his liver, and another operation. Though the mass was benign, the combination of the operation and growing arthritis in the rear leg was the start of Rocky's decline.
Throughout our journey in the past few years Rocky has been unfailing good-spirited until recently . A year or so ago we started him on arthritis drugs, and have added to them as his difficulties have increased. Last year we started to see symptoms of dementia -- incessant barking, pacing and circling, staring at things until interrupted. Then he started having trouble getting up from lying down, and developing incontinence.
It's been a long journey down this path and Rocky had continued to be a pretty good sport until lately when all systems seemed to be failing at the same time. We decided to make the difficult decision to end his suffering before some precipitous event took the decision out of our hands. We contacted a vet who comes to the home for the goodbye, and on Friday evening we let Rocky go. It was a traumatic week for us, trying to get on with our lives, knowing full well that Rocky's end was near. He died, peacefully, in our loving arms.
Though he is gone, we have precious memories of the part he played in our lives for these ten years. And lots of pictures.
Thanks to Aussie Rescue SoCal, a very special dog came into our lives and changed us forever.
Skip and Diane Eastman