I grew up afraid of dogs. When I was in elementary school, I told my friends that I was allergic to dogs because one of them had a feisty little Yorkie whose bark was worse than his bite but nonetheless scared the shit out of me. I thought if I told her I was allergic to her dog, I would have a valid reason not to go over to her house and deal with her scary dog.
So I grew up being more of a cat person. I kinda wished to become a Crazy Cat Lady and have at least a dozen cats when I got older. My parents found my love of cats amusing, as evidenced by a lot of cat-themed gifts over the years. I couldn’t get a cat growing up because my younger brother was legitimately allergic to them (unlike my fake dog allergy) so I typically got my cat fix through friends who owned them.
My fear of dogs waned as I grew older but I would never call myself a dog person. It’s not like I didn’t like them; I didn’t have any particular feelings towards them. Sure, I found puppies adorable, but I was largely indifferent about dogs.
When my sister-in-law Rachel announced that she’d adopted a dog named Rocky, I was happy for her but not overly excited. She sent us pictures of him and I thought he was cute. Then I didn’t think about him because I was still indifferent about dogs.
Then in the summer of 2009, Mark and I went to visit Rachel in Seattle and we met Rocky for the first time.
He was full of energy and incredibly friendly. I stayed behind while Mark and Rachel went to pick up dinner because Rocky had terrible separation anxiety and would bark for hours if left alone. Having very little experience with dogs, I wasn’t really sure what to do. The easiest thing I could think of was to play fetch with him, which he did with zeal. I’d throw a ball or soft toy down the hall and he would come trotting back with it proudly clenched in his mouth.
I think that was when that tiny little spark of dog love formed inside of me.
When Rachel got too busy with work to take care of Rocky, he went to live with my in-laws, thus becoming our “family” dog. We would see him during family trips and when Mark and I went to visit his parents. Rocky would greet us excitedly when we arrived every time – as soon as we rang the doorbell, we’d hear Rocky bounding down the entryway, all the while barking loudly.
For a couple of years, my in-laws lived in Calgary (FIL moved for work). We saw Rocky more often then. I loved taking him out for walks (he liked to sniff everything and was terrible at heeling) so I got to have my dog fix by hanging out with him.
Slowly but surely, I had become a dog person. I loved Rocky as if he were my own.
My in-laws eventually moved back to Edmonton, but we visited them as often as we could.
Then last June, on a Saturday morning, we got the call that Rocky had died. He was killed by a coyote. Rocky had been let out to do his business but had gone wandering a bit farther than usual. When he didn’t return, my in-laws went out to search for him. My MIL found him, barely clinging to life. He died in her arms.
He was cremated with his favourite toy, a Lamb Chop doll.
The grief I felt (and still feel) is deep and cutting. Rocky wasn’t my dog per se, but his loss crushed me.
I don’t have a lot of good photos of Rocky because he hated being photographed. Whenever I pointed my camera at him, he would turn away defiantly. It was best to catch him in candid moments when he was distracted by something.
The photo above was taken at our old apartment on Mark’s birthday in 2014. We had both sets of parents over after dinner for birthday cake. I played catch with Rocky in the living room and tired him out. I snapped this perfect photo of him while he was laying on the floor taking a rest and it’s one of my favourites. It perfectly captures his happy-go-lucky nature. He was a joyful, gentle, loving dog – a true treasure.
Through Rocky, I fell in love with dogs. He’s the reason I volunteer at the local animal rescue shelter as a dog caregiver. He’s the reason I’m indifferent about cats. He’s the reason I now want to own at least a dozen dogs and become the Crazy Dog Lady.
This post is part of Blogging U’s Photo 101 Class, where I’ll be posting a photo each weekday with an interpretation of the given theme.