I told you all of this yesterday, when I was holding out hope, while fearing the worst. But, I want the world to know your story and how much you were loved.
When I first saw you, you were in the arms of another tourist leaving Santorini, at the airport. I turned to our friend Stacy and said, “If she puts him back down outside, I am bringing him home.” Knowing the plight of Greek street dogs and the fact that you were unattended and only 3-4 weeks old, I knew your fate was a grim one if I didn’t. So, I did. You traveled to Athens with us, got health-checked and a first round of shots and then came home to the US. Where I broke all the rules. As soon as we got home, I introduced you to Taz, because the thought of trying to keep you separate was more than my naive brain and heart could bear. Fortunately, you were healthy and the two of you became fast friends. You loved nothing more than to cuddle up and spoon with Taz and to play keep away by hiding under the bed to tease him. He groomed you and treated you with a gentleness that reminded me of what was so special about him. The cat carrier I brought you home in? You slept in that until you literally fell out limb by limb because it was too small. I eventually took it away, which was hard, because you loved it so, and that carrier marked the beginning of our journey together.
As you grew up, life changed a lot. We moved to Baltimore, where you made lots of friends, both human and canine (And feline. You were always a friend to the felines.) You had some close friends, like Chuck and Jack and bonded closely with their human, Eric, who ironically, I judged harshly because of his tattoos and facial hair and was quite sure he was the type who wasn’t going to pick up after his dogs in the dog park. Luckily, thanks to Chuck, his exuberantly affectionate pit bull, my opinion was changed and a special friendship was born, based on a mutual love of dogs. Somewhere along the way, Sugar the roaming beagle found us and our family grew. You allowed a wide range of dogs to come and stay with us (though you could have been nicer to the Labs, I’ve never quite figured that one out) and enjoyed our time at the dog park with our posse, which included Eric and Chack and Juck (as I called them when I was talking fast), some great beagles, and a dog named Doc, who I think secretly was your favorite.
We stayed in Baltimore for a while and then came back “home”- you, me, Savannah (the most recent of the needy to find her way to us), Sugar and Zooby the cat. Taz left us 2 years prior, and I remember that you didn’t get out of bed the next day, as if in mourning. But, you soldiered on and accepted both Savannah and Sugar as your new housemates. I always appreciated that about you- your ability to roll with the punches (aside from that first foster dog, who it was pretty clear you thought was the devil. Which is a shame, she was actually quite lovely.) Though you were never much for snuggling with other dogs, you did enjoy a good game of tug and were a true sport about sharing the bed.
Soon after we moved back home, Paul came into our lives. This was an adjustment to say the least. Who was this dude suddenly sleeping in your bed? The change stressed you out so much that you would get up and poop in the middle of the night when Paul stayed over. Luckily, we were in love and would clean it up and laugh it off and eventually he won you over. The treats he brought every time he came over might have had something to do with that.
Paul soon became an official part of the family when we got married. By that point, you were completely sold on him because he would adjust your diet whenever you became finicky. Remember how he used to boil bones down for you? He went to great lengths to ensure your on-going health and I know we both appreciated that very much.
When we moved last December, the thing that I wanted most was to give you space to run again. I hounded those guys to get that fence done so badly because I couldn’t wait to see you out there trotting around. Your legs had grown weaker and I knew this would help. And, boy did it ever. I am convinced having a yard to run in made the last year of your life one of the best. Especially because it included those orange tennis balls that seemed to ignite something in you.
The fact of your eventual passing has weighed on my mind since the few tumbles you took last winter and the bout of pancreatitis you suffered this past summer, but I remained somewhat in denial. You were supposed to live forever. Well, at least until after you turned 14. For some reason, that was important to me and I am sorry you won’t get to see it. But, August 13th will always be a special day because it’s the day we found each other.
I thank you for all the lessons you taught me: like not to leave shish-kabobs on the table, no matter what else was going on, that a whole rotisserie chicken can easily be traded for 3 dry treats if you do it the right way, that Labs, Rottweilers, and any dog with a smushed in face were not to be trusted (ever the breedist you were) and that nothing is better than scratching just the right spot on the neck and that feeling the tickle of the leaves of a dwarf maple against one’s fur was heaven on Earth. I thank you for accepting all those dogs and cats, and for letting me know when you were uncomfortable so I could keep you safe. I thank you for knowing that even when I didn’t know any better, I always tried to do my best by you.
I thank you for giving me 13 and a half years of joy, and barking, and trash can invasions. I thank you for 13 and a half years of tail wags and unbridled joy at my arrival home. I thank you for being a dog and everything that goes along with it. I thank you for accepting Paul as your daddy. Mostly, I thank you for being my dog and for all the unconditional love that goes along with that (Yelling at the TV during election season aside. I’m sure your love for me in those moments was not so great and for that I apologize.)
I loved you more than you can ever know and you will always be my baby,
I read somewhere recently that if you wonder what you will miss when it’s gone, look at the photographs you have taken, which makes it very clear I will miss Rocco tremendously. Laura, the author of our “Growing Up Gomez” series, paraphrased a George Carlin quote this morning when I told her what was happening, it goes a little something like this: “Getting a dog means investing in an inevitable, future personal tragedy.” And, it’s true. We sign on to love these beings, most of us time and time again, knowing they will leave us way before we are ready. And yet, despite the heartbreak, the empty space left in their wake, I know most of us will continue to do it. To love wholeheartedly, perhaps with the hope that we can love them half as much as they surely love us. Because the truth is, there is scarcely another being on earth as capable as being the embodiment of unconditional love as the dog.
Run Free, Rocco-bella. It was an honor to share my life with my own personal Greek god for 13 and a half years. You were very loved, indeed.