In the early morning hours of Dec. 30, my 16-and-a-half year-old female dog Rocky — an 11-pound, white cockapoo — died next to me in our bed. I held her in my arms and prayed for her until the sun came up.
As any pet owner can attest, it is very difficult when you lose a family friend. Especially one that has been with you for nearly a third of your life.
I knew Rocky’s end on Earth was coming for some time. In March, a small bloody mass developed over her left eye. I took her to her veterinarian, who prescribed antibiotics. It was also during that visit we discovered Rocky had kidney disease. Her vet recommended I change her diet and have her blood work checked periodically.
Over the course of the next nine months, the mass grew to completely engulf her left eye. Her kidney disease also worsened. On the morning of Dec. 29, I took Rocky to the vet and made an appointment to have her put to sleep on Jan. 2. But as day moved into night, it was evident Rocky would not make it to that appointment.
The house was still when she passed. My immediate thoughts raced to the final weeks of her life and how dreadful they must have been for her. There was a lot of sadness in her eyes and a lot of tears in mine. My heart was broken as I wept in my bed holding her, petting her and kissing her tiny head.
Rocky was a vibrant, fun-loving dog who absolutely enjoyed life. She loved cuddling, playing fetch with her tennis balls, her daily walks around our block and in the park, hikes in Garden of the Gods and other local spots, her chew toys, and being chased around the house after her bath.
I got her as a gift for my then 8-year-old son, Garrison, in August 2002, when she was barely 6 weeks old. She looked like a little lamb and fit into my hand.
Like all puppies, Rocky was adorable. She immediately became a member of our family. Almost overnight, her things began appearing around the house. Toys, small sets of stairs, her own special bed, her place in the food cabinet for her treats. If you left a piece of clothing on the floor she claimed it as her own.
Rocky loved to run and play in the deep snow of winter and thick grass of summer and lay on the back deck soaking in sun rays. She was the happiest and best dog in the world. I know that her love for me was stronger and more real than any love I have received from any human.
Rocky was my constant companion. As a divorced father, I had my son on a half-time basis. When he left to go to his mother’s, I was never alone because Rocky was by my side. You could see the joy in her eyes when Garrison returned to us.
It was heartbreaking to see Rocky’s relatively quick decline, but a joy to serve her. She showed me what it means to truly love. In early November, a friend and I talked about the meaning of I Corinthians 13 in the Bible. This verse is well known and is often quoted at weddings. I read it over multiple times, with conviction, and decided to apply the 16 principles of the love it talks about into the way I cared for Rocky, as well my daily interactions with people.
I learned to be patient with Rocky as she moved a little slower each day. I learned to be kinder and did not come to anger when she began having accidents in our home. I learned to protect her on a deeper level and help her persevere when she was weak.
Mounted on a wall in our living room, behind our favorite chair, is a framed print of the “Footsteps” poem. It popped into my thoughts the last time I took Rocky for a walk about a week before she died. She only made it to the end of the street that day before stopping, looking up at me with her deep brown eyes, and asking me to carry her the rest of the way.
As I walked the 7/10ths of a mile on our journey, I was reminded of all the fun she used to have running and playing and leaving her messages for other dogs. As we returned to our home, I was overcome with emotion and thought of the last paragraph of the poem.
“The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
I know Rocky is in heaven, running and playing with the energy she had most of her life. I know this because the Bible makes it clear.
God spent a lot of time creating the animals in Genesis. Later, during the great flood, He showed his love for animals by asking Noah to save thousands of them from destruction. Only eight humans were saved. In Revelation, John talks about Jesus returning to earth on a white horse.
I miss my little girl terribly. My heart aches. Sometimes the tears stream down my face and I can barely see. I call her name out of habit.
I had her cremated. She’s the only one of my dogs I have ever had cremated. I am glad I did. Now she will be with me all the time.
I wish you could have met Rocky. She would have brought a smile to your face and joy to your heart. She is now my guardian angel.
Danny Summers has been covering sports at all levels in the Pikes Peak region since 2001. Send your story ideas and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.