Last night my family and I had to make the very difficult decision to let our boxer Rocco go. To say that we are just devastated would be pretty accurate. I wanted to share a little about his story partly to have it out there, but also because at the moment, it seems a good way to deal with my own grief and as I watch my family grieve. This post will be pretty long so just wanted to put that out there. I know a lot of people have varied view on pets and animals. All we know is this: Rocco was dearly loved and knew it. And he loved his family, too. Beyond us, you would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t love Rocco, too, after meeting him. He was a special dog, indeed. He certainly set the bar high for any pet. If every family could experience a pet like him, they would understand what I’m saying for themselves.
Several months ago he started having serious issues with what seemed to be his hips and back and was placed on an anti-inflammatory (and at times aspirin) along with glucosamine which really seemed to help him get up from laying down and move about a little better.
Fast forward to about 2 weeks ago, and his health seem to deteriorate pretty quickly. He had increasing problems just getting up, his legs would buckle at times when walking, the “boxer wiggle” and even wagging his nub were gone (which is unusual if you know boxers and especially if you knew Rocco), he had increasing bouts of incontinence, and would often just stand and have a 1,000 yard stare about him. He would often during the night be circling, walking around. We came to find out that more than likely he was in severe pain in his back. We did some blood tests and although he did have a slightly low thyroid, there were just a number of other things going on that didn’t seem to fit just a low thyroid. The vet and our family had suspicions that something neurological was going on based on his behavior. Boxers at that age often have tumors or lesions in the brain so that would certainly be a possibility. He was placed on several medications to try to help him including a steroid. At first he seemed to be responding well but then seem to deteriorate as the higher dosage of steroid was tapered off. So the vet wanted to elevate that back up, which we did. He seemed to respond okay again. Then two days ago, he again started to go downhill. The same issues he had been struggling with returned and seemed to even be worse. Last night it got to the point where we couldn’t get him to get up on his own although he did at one point when my parents came over (he just loved my dad). He had been heavy breathing and panting for about two days and last night at times started whimpering. We made the decision that it was time and that we had done what we could. After consulting with the ER Vet, we surmised that even with possible X-Rays, surgeries, etc. that there was no guarantee that his quality of life would be better or even good. We all said our very tearful goodbyes, and then Rocco went peacefully to sleep at about 11:30 pm.
Rocco was a big boxer (95 lbs, give or take) and was just so full of life. He was about 9.5 years old, and he lived a very full and happy life. The average lifespan of a boxer is around 9-10 years or so according to the experts. I say that he was “about 9.5 years old” because that’s what we can best guess from when we got him. You see, Rocco was a rescue that we adopted through Carolina Boxer Rescue (CBR). We had been considering adopting a boxer for a while, and had been looking at the website a good bit at available boxers. We had seen Rocco’s photo on the website, but to be honest, he looked pretty bad. In fact, we said to ourselves at one point “That poor dog. We wonder what family would EVEN consider adopting him.” Well…..that would eventually be us. Each adopting family has to have an interview with one of the staff from CBR to make sure that your yard is fenced and probably to make sure you can care for a pet. They would bring boxers that were being fostered with them to get them used to visits even if a family wasn’t going to adopt that particular boxer. We still think that was a setup btw. 😉 So, they had named Rocco already and brought him along for the visit. Rocco had been found wandering the streets and was eaten up with mange before coming to CBR. He was almost 3/4 the way through his treatments for mange when he came to visit us. So the lady from CBR brought Rocco inside, and he looked a good bit different from the photos we had seen online. What a sweet dog he was. We were watching Rocco with our kids as he played with them out back. He was having a blast. Probably the pivotal moment was when Rocco and Spencer were together, and Spencer said to Rocco, “Sit”. On the spot, Rocco sat. One of those moments where both Kim and I glanced at each other like “Hmm, this could be something.” With Spencer being autistic and 5 years old at the time, finding the right fit for him was going to be important, in addition to being a right fit with the rest of our family. The visit ended and the CBR lady left with Rocco. Kim and I looked at each other, and said, “Well, what about Rocco?” We both decided that he was the one we wanted to adopt. A little bit later, Rocco became an official part of our family.
Rocco truly was “Man’s Best Friend”. He was an incredible blessing to our family, and I think that we were to him as well. He was with our family through some really dark days and some really great ones, too. I think that the hardest part is dealing with the reality that I won’t hear his tag jingle as he walks around, I walk into rooms where he would lay, and he isn’t there anymore. I miss my friend. I will miss taking him for walks, petting on his soft head and ears, greeting us when we got home and chasing our fat cat Max around as he played. Last night involved a lot of tearful prayers from our family as we gave thanks to God for the blessing Rocco was to our lives. None of us wanted to go inside last night when we returned home because we knew how that would feel at first: Empty. Yet, we sat down inside and were able to talk about some of the happy times we had with Rocco and what he meant to each of us. He was very loved and will be deeply missed. Sleep well, my friend.