Who was my heart dog?
Rocket, also known as my heart dog, was a red tri Australian Shepherd. I’ve known and loved a lot of dogs, but this girl made an indelible impression on my life as has no other. She entered my life when I married my husband. Being one of his dogs, I sort of married her too.
Rocket was about a year old at the time we met and full of energy. I didn’t know her well, but she sort of got under my skin before long. There were so many reasons, but here are a few.
Forgive the poor photography. We lost her about 5 years ago. I knew very little about taking good photos, so this is what we have. You’ll get the idea, I think.
What made her special?
Rocket was very possibly the smartest dog I’ve ever known. But that wasn’t the most impressive part of her. She was a very open, compassionate, giving old soul. She had very few fears and loved adventure, much to her own detriment. And she loved deeply.
A few of the memories she left me with.
Where to start. She was in my life for thirteen years and she was so much a part of it, I could go on for quite some time. I have probably forgotten many episodes that made her my heart dog, but here are a few that come to mind.
Rocket always came with us to feed, do chores, etc. Once, when we were out feeding the horses and cows, she found a kitten in one of our outbuildings.
It was so young, its eyes weren’t even open yet. I picked it up and started looking for the rest of the litter since kittens usually come in litters. We found 5 more in a sheltered corner of the building and took them to the house to see if we could save them.
The next day, Rocket came up from that building with something in her mouth. We couldn’t believe it! She had one more little kitten held gently in her mouth. She presented it to me as if to say “I think you’re collecting these. Here’s another one.” She had been paying attention and was trying to help.
The time she didn’t want the steak
As Rocket got older, all her old “war wounds” started acting up on her and she’d be pretty sore some days. One day when she was about 12, my husband and I were talking about how the day would come when the pain would not be worth it to her.
We talked about how we’d give her a big juicy steak the night before the dreaded day as a “thank you” for all she’d done for us. We proceeded to forget about the conversation. But she didn’t.
A couple of weeks later, we happened to be grilling steaks and had one leftover. We put it on a plate to give it to her. But instead of diving in and enjoying. She backed up and looked at us with a worried expression on her face.
All of a sudden I realized that she remembered our earlier conversation. Once I reassured her that we just had extra and that we weren’t making “that” decision, she immediately relaxed and proceeded to enjoy her steak. I truly believe that she understood what I was saying. It was eye opening. My heart dog was so much more than I realized.
Rocket lived a life of adventure. We live on a farm with a bunch of acres in Wyoming so Rocket was often allowed to go out and explore.
One day she came back with a bad front leg. Turned out she had broken it somehow. We got it set and casted at the vet so she could heal. Of course we were supposed to keep her in and limit her activity. But that was not what she had in mind.
A couple of weeks later, she decided she’d been protected long enough and got out of the house and our care. She came back this time with a couple dozen porcupine quills in her mouth and muzzle.
Of course it was after hours and we couldn’t reach a vet, who was out on another call. We sat down and pulled those quills out one by one, figuring it would be better than leaving them overnight. For the most part, she was very patient with the process even though it must have hurt.
We got her through that one, although the cast was sacrificed in the attempt. It came off during the ordeal. The next morning, the vet said that it was ok to keep it off at that point. Sure was a hard way to do it, though.
Good thing she was tough!
For some unknown reason, Rocket had a terrible habit of lying under vehicles in their shade. Even if the engine was running and people were in them. The vehicles eventually would start moving, but she wouldn’t. Fortunately, it never happened with me. But I was so afraid it would that I always checked for her.
The guys would get distracted and forget to look. It happened a total of 3 times. Yes. 3 times. The driver would start to pull away and run right over her. Luckily for her, it was over her hips and not somewhere else.
Turns out the hips of a dog are strong enough to withstand the weight of a vehicle most of the time. Two of the three times, she didn’t even have a broken bone. The third time, when we took her in, they found she had broken her hip. We were supposed to limit her activity for two weeks. But not my heart dog. She was jumping up in the truck the very next day. It’s hard to keep a good dog down.
When I’d go out to ride the horses, I’d see that red head poking up above the weeds. She didn’t stay with me, but she always kept an eye on me. It especially worried her when a storm was coming in. At those times, she’d do more than just watch. She’d try to get me to follow her in to shelter.
Gotta get approval
Rocket was an excellent judge of character. Most of the time, she was pretty easy going. Always cautious at first, but respectful. She’d warm up to most people eventually.
Occasionally, she’d find somebody that she really approved of and be their new best friend. On the other hand, once in a while she’d pick up something else from her impressions.
If a person was in a bad mood, grumpy or in her opinion had less than good intentions, she would act immediately to drive them away. She never actually bit anyone, but they could never be sure.
A girl has to stay cool
Before we had automatic waterers, we had metal water troughs. Since they were just her size, she could jump in and stand in water above chest level. The water would keep her nice and cool while allowing her to watch the goings on.
As she got older, she could still jump in, but it got harder to jump back out. That last summer, I learned that if she didn’t come when she was called, I’d better start looking at water tanks. Being the smart girl that she was, she’d wait for me to come and help her out. Since she knew I’d always come looking for her, she never worried. She’d always get back in the next time.
My heart dog would have been a great mother.
Although she never had her own pups, Rocket would have been such a great mother. She was such a protector. When we got younger dogs, she’d protect them like her own. One time, she spotted a rattlesnake. It became obvious to her that the pups didn’t realize they were in danger. She did what any protective mother would do. She stepped between the snake and the pups, driving them back and taking the bite of the snake herself. Fortunately, it must not have been a full bite, because she survived it, but her leg sure did swell up.
Coping with the inevitable
As she got up in years, she started losing control of her bladder and eventually her bowels. She had a fair amount of pain all the time, a residual of her war wounds. Some days it was extreme. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was enough for most dogs to just lie down and give up, but not her.
I could tell she felt embarrassed by her failing body. And I could see her hold back because of the pain. I reminded her that I’d help her cross over when it was time.
Shortly before this time, I started talking to a lady who was an animal communicator. I called her to see what her impression was. I’ll be writing a post shortly to tell you more about animal communicating, but I’ll leave it here for now.
I asked how I’d know when it was time to help her. Rocket told her that she’d stop eating when it was time. That’s how I’d know for sure that she was ready to cross.
When that day came, I called the animal communicator again. Rocket told her she was ready to go. She told her to tell us all “Thank You” for giving her a great life. She told us that Sera, another Aussie, should be in charge when she was gone.
Rocket went peacefully, in my arms. She was laid to rest in one of her favorite spots here on the farm, so she’ll always be here. And she will always be in my heart.
What did my heart dog teach me?
She taught me to love fiercely. I thought I knew how, but she helped me take it to the next level with my pets.
Rocket taught me to pay attention. We miss out on the little things if we don’t.
Because of her I learned to give pets a chance to show they understand. They might not speak as we do, but they often understand intention if not words. And there is depth and breadth of being that I discovered once I gave them the benefit of the doubt.
She taught me about being a free spirit. She did what she could when she could. You can miss out on a lot of life if you hold back.
Rocket is the one who made me believe that pets have intelligence and thoughts, as well as feelings. They can problem solve. They can teach us humans a thing or two, too. That is why she was my heart dog.
Pets enrich our lives in so many ways. Read Why do you have pets? for more.