Our Family Dog - Our Rock
If you know me well or have followed us for quite some time you may remember the story of my first German Shepherd named Max. His story can be found here: Strength & Honor
I don’t think you can ever truly replace the void that special dog leaves as they are all unique in their own way.
After Max passed I was faced with the decision of continuing my journey with dogs or walking away from it.
I’ve loved being a student of dogs and watching how they interact through their life as they grow old. They seem to have a remarkable way of showing us how to handle aging and set-backs with grace. Their innate ability to move forward through adversity and sorrow is what I leaned on when making my decision to push forward with another dog after Max. Max was the glue that held his pack of 6 together. I didn’t ever think I would cross such another dog.
And this is where Rocco’s Story Begins …
Long ago I had visited my sisters family in Italy and got the opportunity to meet some top level kennels and trainers. After losing Max, my newlywed wife Linsey and I had made the decision to import two young dogs from Italy. We had some ideas and plans of the future but were more focused on a new fresh start.
Rocco’s beginning didn’t start as planned. As a vaccinated 6 month old pup he still caught parvo about a month after arriving. He was faced with the fight of his life very early. For nearly 10 days he was given sub-Q IVs on our living room floor where he rarely moved and refused to eat and of course everything ugly that comes with the parvo virus.
It’s a helpless feeling knowing that all you can do is pray and hope that healing would come fast. We found ourselves constantly laying on the floor with him so he knew he wasn’t alone.
Linsey and I still talk about the celebratory phone call I received from her after he took food from her hand for the first time after being so sick.
He slowly regained his strength and never looked back after that day.
Rocco was the link between two major chapters with our dogs. As a young dog he grew up with my 5 remaining GSD’s. As time went on, the others walked that rainbow bridge. He was the constant and solid energy here.
Our journey with dogs and relationships abroad continued. Somewhere along the way we made a decision to abandon our original breeding plans for Rocco and just make him ours, our family dog. Make no mistake, aside from being our family’s dog he had a very special place and roll at RRK9.
Rocco met every single dog that has ever stepped paw inside of Red Rock K9’s gates. And it was that simple for him. If you were a stable dog, on the inside of the fence with Sam or Linsey standing watch then you must simply be a guest to Red Rock K9. That’s how he viewed it anyway.
It was his place. They were just visiting. And of course, he was happy to show them around and remind them of who was boss. But ironically if you know of that dog in a pack, he / she rarely demands anything more than a tall posture or a faintly low growl if you were to get out of line or attempt to take their space or prized possession.
He did the same with puppies but with a keen understanding that they would take more than one gentle reminder. The patience and restraint he showed pups was remarkable and something that can’t be taught.
If you were with a dog on the wrong side of the fence Rocco was a force to be seen and you would never know his relaxed disposition with the dogs at RRK9. It made me stay on high alert when he was young as our neighborhood walkers were sparse and difficult to predict nevertheless I didn’t like to allow fence running and barking when there was no real threat.
If there was ever an example to be made about the difference in aggression and territorial behavior, he would have been the poster dog for it.
Having an adult that knows the ropes, routines, and expectations while other young pups are present is invaluable. Rocco was the best big bro to Kobi which made for the easiest pup I have raised. Kobi and Rocco remained best buds for the remainder of Roccos life.
Rocco went on to continue “raising pups” that stayed for longer periods. He was the perfect energy to show them that constant jumping was not going to garner his attention. He was stable and fair with his corrections. I never once worried about having Rocco around the littles ones.
The little ones came in many forms here. I think this is the part that really tugs at my heart and makes me see Rocco for what he truly was for our family. Knowing what I knew about Rocco’s very assertive drive when working I was very methodical and delicate when first bringing home our first born baby. There weren’t going to be any rushed and over humanized emotional meetings of bringing him face to face with baby as I saw it as dangerous and unnecessary. It was never going to be left to the “let’s see how he does with her.” We took it slow and her presence was obvious as her smells and cries filled the house. We took countless walks with Rocco and our first born daughter in the stroller and then let the meetings come naturally. We continued our responsible rolls as parents as our next children were born and he was always close and never reacted one way or the other which is what we were after.
After all, those kids were “inside the gates of RRK9” and they must have been guests of ours.
Somewhere along the way we had developed a deep trust with toddler feet amongst Rocco and he went on to watch a total of 5 babies be brought home. The same cries, the same smells, that filled our home with one were quickly recognized with the next.
As I looked back through the archives of pictures with Rocco I was reminded just how intertwined his life was around our kids. All of the stages of school, early morning rush, bus stops, sporting practices, and countless hours of play in the yard…. He was there. Stoic and calm as ever, he was our most trusted Shepherd at watch with those kids.
My kids favorite dog and energy. This fierce energy and strongly driven dog that once had given me pause about transitioning to “just the family dog” proved me wrong. He was the epitome of what I consider a working dog to encompass. Versatility that is unmatched. A dog that can go from work to leisure in and instant. And that was Rocco.
Through his life I liked to occasionally square up to him in challenge and it was presented as obvious play but he was always ready to accept. He would take it pretty easy on me at first until his lightly placed mouthing and touches grew firmer which would cause me to start laughing saying, “no more…. I’m done… you win.” As quickly as it started he was pleased to end it as if to say “I still got it Dad why do you even try.”
I am grateful for the time Linsey and I had with Rocco. I am grateful for the countless hours he spent in the yard with my children.
I always knew that Rocco was the bridge between two major eras of my dogs.
But, I had never looked back and counted the dogs that Rocco met.
Over 175 dogs between adults and puppies. Rocco met every,… single,… one of them.
The energy he shared was part of each pups experience here. Those will be tough shoes to fill.
When I went to make sure I had his correct birthday in mind after his passing I logged into my AKC site where I can see all of my past and present dogs. As I scrolled the alphabetical list I didn’t see his name in the “R’s.” And then I remembered… Probably before online registrations and handling was prominent I had sent in his foreign dog registration with export pedigree. The name that was on his Italian registration must have been simple as it was taken and his registered name came back to me already assigned for me.
His AKC registered name came back as : “Vivona’s Rock.” I had kinda forgotten about it until recently seeing it again.
It’s kind of surreal how some things come together. I think back to having some plans but not knowing where they would lead. Some dreams but not knowing how it would start. Rocco’s start came before Red Rock K9 even had a name. Maybe there was more to the Red Rock name than just that large “red” rock in the yard. Because right there… between the “Red” and “K9” you will find the name of the dog that was the bridge that links the dogs of the past, present, and now future.
Sometimes it’s only possible to connect the dots when looking backwards.
Our Rocco will forever be a part of Red Rock K9.
He was Our Rock. Vivona’s Rock –
Thank you Rocco.
Forever Loved, Forever Missed. Wait for us on the other side.