|Rocky was born August 20th, 1980 in Koga, Ibaraki and came to our home when he was about three months old. He was the runt in the litter and was the skinniest puppy I'd ever seen. In fact, he was so sick that no one expected for him to live long enough to celebrate his first birthday. He was just a weak little puppy who wasn't meant to have a long happy healthy life, or so everyone believed, except for us.
It was my father, who picked him out of a bunch of shiba puppies, because Rocky peed on his face when my father lifted him up to check the puppy's sex.
"The puppy's got a lotta guts." He said as he wiped the pee off his face with his handkerchief and laughed out loud. --That was it. We found the puppy, my own very first canine companion.
Rocky had instantly become the center of our lives. He just fit into my family so perfectly that I couldn't even imagine what my home was like before he came to live with us. Even my mother, who isn't a big animal lover, fell in love with him right away and Rocky often spent his lazy Sunday afternoons in a pocket of my mother's apron like a baby kangaroo in its mother's pouch while she cooked and cleaned skillfully.
And of course, Rocky and I were inseparable since day one. I was a latchykey kid; both my parents had a full-time job and I was their only child so everyday after school, I went home to Rocky and we waited together until my parents would come home in the evening. I was only ten at the time. Was I ever scared of staying home alone? --Not really. Because Rocky was just so incredibly intelligent and brave even at that very young age and he quickly learned what his primary duty was. He also had the very strong instinct to protect his family and its instinct and bravely had saved me from danger I encountered from time to time. I had complete trust in him and felt safe as long as I was with him. He was always there for me good times and bad -- even the worst times. I still wonder every now and then about the most difficult times my family had in the past; what could have happened to me if he weren't there to save me and what I would have done if he weren't there to comfor me.....?
As far as his health was concerned, he was never in a perfect shape. We nursed him back to health after my father and I first brought him home, but that was just a beginning of our long battle with Rocky's poor health. Whenever we thought he seemed to be doing better for awhile and felt at ease, he would do something to make himself sick or injured and it was just never-ending. To make the matters worse, Rocky was diagnosed with a heart worm disease at eight and the vet delivered the devastating news to us, that in a worst case senario, Rocky would die within 6 months. The vet put Rocky on medication for his weakening heart and we just hoped for the best, though we all knew what a disease such as heart worms could do to a dog. --Again, Rocky proved us wrong. He miraculously came around. Even though he wasn't completely the same after his diagnosis, he still outlived the disease and had eight more happy years with us.
But unfortunately, even Rocky couldn't cheat his own death for the third time. His aging body was taking its toll on him and by the time he was turning 15 years old, he was suffering from bad hips as well as arthritis and his mind was no longer as sharp as it used to be. The dog who used to rule the neighborhood and kept other dogs in line then became the target of younger, more lively dogs. Rocky started to get bullied by our neighbors' dogs who weren't properly chained in their yards or confined in their kennels. And the roles we played for so long were reversed: we became the ones to protect him and that realization was bittersweet and not an easy one to accept.
In the early fall of 1996 after sharing so many tears and joy together, Rocky passed away quietly at the ripe age of sixteen. He now rests in peace in my parents' yard and is at the rainbow bridge, having gone back to his old duty that he'd always done so well. I know he watches us from heaven now and forever.