We wish to thank Rita and Barry for sharing their touching tale starring “Rocky”, who lived a beautiful and rich life, thanks to his devoted parents and a stuffed pig named Neal.
With heavy hearts we wanted to share with the Muttville family the news of the passing of our beloved Rocky. It was over abruptly for our magnificent Rockstar—he went from fine and frisky to mortally ill in just 24 hours. It was inoperable cancer that had caused internal bleeding, and, no matter our hopes or prayers, there just wasn’t going to be any more good time left.
I think one of the greatest gifts on earth is knowing you’re happy as it’s happening, and one of the greatest tragedies is to only know what good thing you’ve had once it’s gone. By any measure, we were among the luckiest dog parents on earth for the past four years, because not a day went by when we weren’t aware of how wonderful a dog Rocky was and just how much joy he brought into our lives. We were grateful for him every day, but even more so now that he has left us.
From the moment we got him—at least 10 years old and all beat up and covered in scars, half his teeth gone, the other half ground down to nubs, ears bent two different ways, with a cigarette burn on his tail that had been broken in three places—he was a profoundly gentle, affectionate, grateful soul.
We named him “Rocky” because he looked like a beat-up prizefighter. How it came to pass that a dog that had been so visibly abused and neglected also came to us housebroken with perfect manners is a mystery we’ll never know the answer to. What we do know is on the way home that first day, he fell asleep in his new dad’s lap. It was as if he had once known a good life, enough to recognize he could relax. He was once again in a safe place with people who were going to love him, right from the start.
And love him we did!! Rocky had magnificent life skills, such as always sitting in the middle on the sofa, getting people to pet his ears, getting people to rub his belly, getting people to fall in love with him. Infinite patience with children, no matter how loud or rambunctious they got. Never barking, only groaning like an old ship, and sharing long, meaningful, soulful stares with what his dad called his “Bette Davis eyes.”
But his life’s masterwork was his relationship with his pig, Neal. We had tried toys when we first got him: a Frisbee, a tennis ball, a kong, to no avail. A friend came over to our house to meet our new baby bringing a pink stuffed pig as a gift. We prepared her to be disappointed: “That’s so sweet, Irene,” I said, “but we’ve tried—Rocky doesn’t like toys.”
Boy, were we ever wrong! Irene bent over and handed Rocky the toy. Rocky began to tremble all over, closed his eyes, and as gentle as could be took the pig into his mouth. He never went anywhere without it ever again.
Neal was his lover, his toy, his friend, his baby. I would wash them together in the kitchen sink, and then Rocky would stand over Neal, licking and grooming him for hours until all of his pink pig fuzz went in the same direction. Rocky loved Neal so much, he felt a bottomless need to rip his face off. It’s a good thing Rocky hardly had any teeth left. Even still, I was only able to keep that pig in something resembling one piece by patching him up dozens of times. By the time Rocky left this earth, Neal had just one front flipper left and not much left of his head. But like the Velveteen Rabbit, Rocky’s love made Neal a Real Pig.
Rocky and his dad had an incredible bond. If you ask me, they were soulmates, dog and man made of the same stuff: gentleness without end, sweetness incarnate. I’m going to finish the story of the life of Rocky with words from his dad:
“Rocky freely gave us his unconditional love and trust.
He made us laugh every day. He snuggled and cuddled and loved having his belly rubbed. He made our lives richer. He traveled with us as far as Argentina. He had admirers everywhere. He loved his pig named Neal. He tolerated his sister Lily, as long as she did not touch Neal.
We feel so sad and know we have lost something very precious."
Barry & Rita
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