The Dog Project, Part I: Rocco
Over the course of the past two years, both of my sisters have moved back to New York, which means that my entire immediate family FINALLY lives in the same state for the first time in twenty years. It's so much fun when we all show up at my Dad's house, because there's always lots of banter and laughter, kids running around, telling jokes, game nights, and DOGS. So. Many. Dogs.
A few years ago, my Dad converted the small covered porch in the back of the house to an enclosed workshop, and it's where he spends a lot of his time sitting, reading, and enjoying retirement. It's a very small space, so we're always laughing about how we all end up cramming in there - five adults, two kids, and our collective five dogs, who have to be within an arm's reach of their people at all times. They're such a big part of our lives, and I've been wanting to do a photo project with them for quite some time and FINALLY (with the invaluable treat-wielding help of my sister, Carrie) I did it. It's among my favorite projects from 2017, and one I'd love to carry forward with other pups at some point this year.
Originally, I was planning on posting all of their stories and photos together, but it ended up being a very LONG post, so I'm going to break it down. First up: Rocco, and be sure to check back for the rest of this series, coming at you over the course of the next few weeks.
Rocco and I found each other almost eleven years ago. I was nineteen and living in Statesboro, Georgia. I was working as a bartender, and my friend and favorite DJ was devastated when he learned he couldn't keep his six month old puppy in his new living situation. He tried desperately to find a home for him, but to no avail, and right before he went off to the shelter, I snatched him up. In that area, the shelters are maxed out, and everyone was really concerned that he may end up euthanized. Especially my friend, and apparently, especially me.
Those months in Georgia had been eventful for me, to say the least. I had struggled with so many random health issues that I had become a regular in the ER and could most commonly be found trying to heal in bed. Add on top of that the inevitable nineteen year old identity crisis and over-complicated personal relationships, and you can understand how that dog and I bonded pretty heavily. One day, I returned home from work to find that Rocco had dug a hole in the laundry room wall of the house in which I had been living, and I was told he had to go. At that point, I think I knew that I would also be leaving soon, but was having a really hard time admitting it to myself, let alone articulating it to a bunch of people who expected me to stay.
My sister, Carrie, was down visiting, and I was set to drive with her back to New York for a visit. I was told Rocco would be gone by the time I got back, so when she got there and met him, the thought occurred to me, "he's actually for you! Happy Birthday!" I said to her. Rocco made the trip back to New York eventful, to say the least. We stopped in North Carolina to see an old friend, and after letting him out in the dark backyard, Rocco took off at a full sprint - not realizing there was an in-ground pool right in front of him - and had to be fished out. It was November. By far, my favorite memory of that trip was arriving home at my Dad's. We still had our two family dogs, a black lab mix named Jolie and a dalmatian named Kansas, and hadn't told my dad that we were bringing Rocco back with us. When we got home, we let him onto the porch with the other two, and when my dad came outside to greet us, he brought treats for the dogs. He handed one to Kansas and one to Jolie and then stopped with the most baffled look on his face, realizing there was another dog standing directly between them. "THEY'VE FORMED A HYBRID!" I exclaimed loudly in faux astonishment. Further proof that my dad is the best: he laughed, shook his head, and went and got another treat :)
I was back for good within a month and a half and reclaimed Rocco as my own, much to Carrie's disappointment. Over the course of the next eight years, Rocco was my sidekick throughout everything: he was my roommate and protector at my first apartment, saw me through every relationship, rode shotgun on countless road trips, moved to Virginia with me, was embraced, loved, and adopted by Sean, and was a guest of honor at our wedding. He was there to keep me company when Sean was out to sea for weeks at a time, and offered us comfort and peace of mind after our home was burglarized. He was right next to me at my mom's bedside as she grew sicker and would always make her laugh when he'd leap - all four feet at once - into my lap ("if I fits, I sits!"). He was with us when we moved back to New York, where we spent some time staying with my Dad before finding a place of our own. By that time, we had accumulated two more dogs and Rocco became really attached to my dad (and vis versa). When it came time for us to move to our apartment, we decided it was best for everyone if Rocco stayed with my dad where he'd have plenty of space to run around, a generous amount of daily bacon, and his favorite human companion. It also made me feel better to not leave my dad by himself, even though my dad would definitely roll his eyes at that (hi, dad!).
I love Rocco's giant Newfie head, and his spotted paws, and the turkey noises he makes when he sees a dog he doesn't know. He's known for his Eeyore temperament, always groaning and sighing, and whenever he gets his summer haircut, he looks completely embarrassed at being so exposed. He can be a little funny around people he doesn't know, but when he likes you, he'll excitedly bring you one of his stuffed animals - or once, hilariously, a roll of toilet paper. Mostly, he's very loved by everyone in our family.