My dad called this morning to tell me that their dog Rocky had two seizures yesterday. He seems to be fine now, even demanded his cookie this morning, and they couldn't get him into the vet until later this afternoon.
My parents got Rocky when I was a senior in high school. When our dog, Sarge, was dying. When my dad was out of work and things were very different. Rocky has been a difficult dog almost from the beginning. He wasn't socialized well, we didn't know that you had to do that. Our other dogs had been puppies when there were kids around all the time, our friends, my parents' friends, a lot more activity. But my dad and the two dogs were alone all day long, two old men and a puppy.
He is the most neurotic dog to ever walk the earth. He is over 100 pounds but is afraid of everything. And he reacts to his fear with barking and aggression. He loves his routine, he loves my dad, he loves to play soccer, he loves for their other dog Maddie to follow him around. When Sargie died my dad would have had to face an awfully lonely world without his best friend if it wasn't for Rocky. Even though Rocky was difficult and still is, it was really fortunate he was there.
We don't talk about the years that my dad didn't work a lot in my family. Those years aged my parents, who even in their late forties looked thirty, faster than anything could have. Their skin turned grey, the got wrinkles, my father sank into a depression that we thought he would never come out of. And the dog was his company.
A lot has changed since then. My father works now. They are more financially secure. They don't look a hundred years old anymore. In some ways my father is a better person now, he is less defined by his job, he is more accepting, he seems to enjoy everything just a little more than he might have before. When I was a kid my dad cared a lot about what other people thought, he cared a lot about money and becoming successful. Now he cares about the fruits of those successes. It is easier to love my father now.
Rocky has changed too. He still lives his entire life as fast as he can but that isn't quite as fast as it used to be. Nine years old is pretty ancient for an animal of that size. And it shows. He is grey. He hobbles a bit. Sometimes Maddie wins when they have an argument. My dad will call and tell me stories about how the two of them get stuck in the door both trying to go first. He isn't the alpha dog anymore.
We know the end is coming. We have been lucky to make it this long. I doubt the vet will want to put him down today, it is much more likely that they will not have any idea why he had seizures or whether he will have more. I just believe we are one step closer.
My father says that he thinks every true dog person has that one special dog, their one true love. His was Sarge, the dog that my family had my entire childhood. When Sargie died my daddy changed. Even now, eight plus years later he can still mist up if he sees a dog who looks like him. Or if we tell a good Sarge story.
When Rocky goes it will be different. He is not the true love. But in some ways it will be harder. The friend who never replaced Sarge will leave a pretty damn big hole. All hundred pounds of him.
I have work to do today, cleaning mostly, some last second packing. But I just keep looking at my Buster and Darla. Telling them that they better live ten more years. That I cannot imagine a world without those faces. That I cannot sleep without the doggy snores. That it is not a bowl of popcorn without their stinky breath in my face begging.
I'm just thinking about my dad. About my mom. About how dogs help make you a family. And wondering how the hell we can be a family without that big yellow monster.