Rocky came into our life in the spring of 2000. He was born on Valentines Day, and we got him when he was 8 weeks old. We already had Cloey, a female lab puppy who was a week or so younger than Rocky, and she needed a playmate.They were best friends, and made a happy family. Rocky was the man of their household, as long as Cloey was ok with that. We had them on the leash early, and they loved to go for walks, and later runs. Our son Jason loved Rocky, and I HAD to post this pic. Hope it doesn't get censured! Rocky and Cloey were water dogs. Our pool was laden with dog hair. Rocky is resting up. At this point, he had retrieved the rubber chicken at least 20 times. The coolest dog in the world. There was never a better trail dog. He lived to run trailz. Sometimes I kept him on leash, and he would pick the way. We had some of the most interesting runs, and I'm sure he knew every trail on Turkey Mountain as well as I did. He was a great duathlete. Always had to get a few swims in. He also was a big ham--just like his dad. Didn't take much to make him happy. Rocky always had a smile. Mile 5 in a run. He'd lie down in the water and rest a bit. A quick shake, and he was ready to go for more. When he was younger, I tried to take him out once a week. At first, 3-4 miles was the most I'd take him. But for a while, we were going 10, 15, and once 25 miles--almost always on trailz. We'd make road trips. We ran the big loop at Devil's Den, 12 miles at Greanleaf (he HATED the swinging bridge--I had to carry him across it),we ran in the Ouachitas, and once on the 25 miler, got off course, and decided to climb a power-line easement up a huge mountain. It ended up being way harder than I ever imagined. We ran out of water but found a stream and refilled bottles and drank liberally from it. After 2 hours of scrambling, we made it to the top, and the road that I thought we'd find WAS NOT THERE!!! But, after bush whacking another 1/2 mile, we eventually came to it. We were so tired, I flagged a pick up down, and we got a ride back to my truck. Rocky had never rode in the back of a pickup, and must of thought God had rescued us. He was not happy to have to get OUT of the truck, but relieved that we loaded back up in his truck and were headed home. He was instantly asleep in my lap, but the smell of a drive-thru hamburger woke him--his usual treat after a trail run. Turkey Mountain in the snow is a paradise. Well, any trail was a joy for Rocky. Shin deep snow. This snow was so deep, his belly must have froze, but he loved our time out there. A goofy pic of a great dog. And yes, even in the cold of winter, he still had to swim. We were on the west bank of Pepsi Pond one winter when it was partially frozen, running. I had no idea he'd plow right out into the ice, but he did--broke right through the thin ice, swam around a bit, climbed out, and shook water all over me--as usual. Not our last run, but one of our last. This is Jake with him, Rocky's son. He is very dear to me, as I see so much of Rocky in him. Dana and I are at Lake Bixhoma, and we got an easy three in. Happy times.
A few days ago, Rocky acted like he was zapped of energy, and was not greeting us, wagging his tail, and when he got up to walk around, he was wobbly on his feet. He has had a bit of hip displasia, and after out recent short run/walks, he would hobble around a couple of days like a beat up ultra runner. Our trips were greatly curtailed due to this. But this was different. He was not eating, and it really seemed like he was going downhill. We took him to the vet, hoping for the best, but fearing the worst. The vet felt around on his belly, and told us she thought he had a tumor, or maybe was bleeding in. His color on his underside and in his mouth was very pale, and his temperature was down. He felt abnormally cold. We asked that they x-ray him, and the x-ray showed a large cancerous mass in his abdomen wrapping around his liver. It was so hard to make a decision. Surgery in his weekend condition was not a good option, and had no guarantee of success. We could bring him home to suffer and die, or have him put down. I have not cried so hard since I was was a kid. My last picture of my best buddy. He went peacefully.,It hurts so bad, but he is finding new trailz in dog heaven.
I am deeply sad, but I'm also choosing to be joyous remembering the best of times we had. He had a great run, this trail dog.