Life With Rocky

January 28th, 2008

It was more than 10 years after the death of my last dog before I was ready for another one. After his death, I moved around a lot, spent years traveling, and time living overseas, all of which are not conducive to having a dog in your life. When I finally decided I was ready for another dog, I discussed it with my husband, who had never before owned a dog or a cat for that matter, something I found hard to imagine. I wanted to make the experience a pleasant one for him, so I researched breeds to find just the right one that I felt would be a good choice for a “first time” dog. I found it – it was a golden retriever, the quintessential family dog.

Long before we had even decided on a breed, our dog had a name – Rocky – after Rocky Balboa of the movie fame. You have to understand, my husband is Italian, born there, raised in New York City, and he wanted our new dog’s name to be Italian. So Rocky it was. We researched and found a great breeder outside of Tampa, Florida, and after several months, brought our new bundle of joy home. He immediately worked his way into our hearts and became a beloved member of our family.

Our life with Rocky since then has been such a joy; with lots of love, smiling, laughter, fun hikes, playing at the beach, long walks, romping in the back yard, etc. He has such a love of life and of people, especially children that he will just sit down and watch what’s going on, waiting for the opportunity to go greet whoever wants to say hello. It’s people he cares about, not other dogs. He has the perfect personality of a service dog and has shown his helpful nature to my husband and others. It was because of his unique personality that I decided to pursue training with him as a therapy dog. When Rocky was about 2 years old, we completed this training together, and now he lifts the spirits of all those that we visit. It’s very gratifying to witness the emotional healing that occurs as he just sits there and lets people pet him.

I can’t recall the number of times I would come home from work, upset, down, and generally disgusted, only to be greeted with such love and happiness that my foul mood disappeared. It’s the delight he feels when he sees you that gives you the greatest happiness. His ability to change your mood goes beyond what I have experienced with dogs in the past. He is a caretaker of feelings, I think because he is so in tune with them, both his and ours as humans.

After many years, I noticed that Rocky was starting to exhibit some signs of arthritis, general soreness, inactivity, and general aging symptoms, something to be expected of a dog his age. He still had the personality, loving us, loving life, loving everyone, and I wanted to figure out a way to help cure or relieve any issues he may have. I wanted him to be as healthy and comfortable as possible for as long as possible. That’s when I had the dream.

I’ve been in private industry for many years, and over the last five years, my company has been downsizing. In the past I was stressed about this, so I spent time in earnest looking at other career possibilities in case I decided I no longer wanted to do software design. I even started a part time business with a friend and after a year or so doing it I decided I really didn’t like the business, so I got out.

One night, I had an incredibly vivid dream about what I should be doing as my life’s work. It was so vivid that I awoke the next morning and announced to my husband that I was going to do “canine massage”. I knew nothing about the mechanics of it at the time and fortunately for me he didn’t laugh or tell me I was crazy. He simply said, “Go for it.” And so I did. Over the next couple of months, I researched canine massage schools, and found a good one to attend. I enrolled and became certified in September 2006.

Sometime shortly after that, I had another dream, this time, what the name of my business should be. The dream told me “Rocky’s Retreat” in honor of Rocky, the special soul who started me on this path. This is where and how my new business began. Since then, my practice has evolved to include Acupressure, Aromatherapeutic Healing and Reiki. I’ve studied and continue to study Traditional Chinese medicine, canine nutrition and other means of keeping your dog healthy, both emotionally and physically. I also give workshops on canine massage to people who want to positively affect the lives of their own dogs. I’m the volunteer wellness practitioner with Greyhound Ranch Adoptions, a wonderful local greyhound rescue organization that finds permanent homes for retired racing greyhounds. I work on these dogs on a weekly basis to prepare them for their final loving adoptive homes.

I also work on Rocky on a regular basis. He gets regular massage, acupressure and Reiki, careful diet monitoring, and all the love we can give him. After all, he is the one responsible for me going down this path. He pointed me in this direction. I truly believe that he knew how to guide me and let me see that my feelings are so important. It is so important to be happy and enjoy life, and to be grateful today and every day. If I do this, then life will bring me everything I could possibly want. That’s something I didn’t really realize before, but now I know it and live it daily.

This new path has so changed my life for the better; it is filled with joy and purpose, positive people, new experiences, and the knowing that I can help so many people and their dogs have a better quality of life. The reward is beyond description. Having Rocky in my life has truly blessed me.

I wrote the above story sometime in August, 2007 so it could be included in a book entitled “From Wags to Riches” (www.fromwagstorichesbook.com), written by my dear friend Kim Kapes. The story just poured out one evening after I sat down to do something else on the computer. My fingers could barely type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. Apparently, it was a story I had to tell.

On September 19th, 2007, however, life changed suddenly – Rocky passed away. He was only nine years old. We had just been out of town for my hands-on training for Aromatherapeutic Healing, and during that week, I could tell by the way he was acting that he wasn’t feeling well. After returning home, a visit to the specialist revealed he had a cancerous growth on his Spleen that had aggressively spread to his lungs. It came on so quickly, one day he was fine, the next day not. Based on the test results, the specialist told us he would only live another day or two. A difficult decision, we elected to have our wonderful vet come to our home to help Rocky pass peacefully, so that he wouldn’t have to endure the needless pain and suffering that would have ensued over the remaining couple of days. We gave him lots of love and parmesan cheese (his favorite food) and a short while later, he was gone. We were completely devastated and totally unprepared to lose him.

My mentors believe that Rocky was sent to me for the purpose of getting me on this wonderful path of healing animals, and after completing the Aromatherapeutic Healing class, the last of my training, his mission was fulfilled. He was able to go on his way to other things. As painful as the loss was, I found comfort in this thought. Gone physically, but never out of our hearts, his spirit and legacy will live on in Rocky’s Retreat.

On December 16th, 2007, ready or not, we welcomed a new golden boy into our lives – Yankee – Rocky’s great nephew. Kim’s book was still in rewrites at the time, but I chose not to change the story for her book. It was inspiration that wrote it to begin with and instead, Kim chose to add in her own feelings about Rocky’s death and Yankee coming into our lives.

And so the cycle begins again – a puppy to fall in love and grow with, and a new soul to join Rocky in that special place within our hearts.