This is the story of our dog Rocko.

She wasn’t our dog to begin with.  My mother, father and sister got her when she was just a few weeks old.  She was the smallest dog in the litter and had to stay a while before she could go home with them. Rocko was their fourth dog and the smallest by far.  The only full breed.  A short-legged short hair Jack Russell Terrier.

My sister named her Rocko after the Nickelodeon show “Rocko’s Modern Life“.  The main character was named Rocko and he had a dog.  My sister just combined the two.

She was so tiny.  We purchased a cat collar for her and still had to add another hole so it wouldn’t slip off her neck.

My dad was getting sicker.  In the past, my parents had never let any dog upstairs in the house.  But Rocko came up to keep my dad company and slept on his pillow.

She liked to burrow and seek our warmth and we’d find her under blankets and in laps.  She would just curl up and sleep, resting her head on your feet or your leg.

Over the next year my mother and sister got two more dogs, rescuing them from shelters.

My dad died the November after they got Rocko.

I moved back home.  It was my mother, my sister, me and six dogs.

As she aged, Rocko became more aggressive towards the other dogs.  Apparently this happens sometimes with Jack Russells, but we didn’t know.  We spent a lot of time making sure the dogs were separated when we were out.

I came home one evening.  My mother and sister weren’t there.  All I saw was a trail of blood that looked like something out of a horror movie.  Somehow the dogs had broken through the gates meant to keep them apart.  Rocko had attacked three of the other dogs, two severely.  My mother came home and took the injured dogs to the vet.  The next day, Rocko went there to be sequestered.

She needed to go.

I couldn’t take her.  I was in the legislature living in a hotel half the year and half the year I was home.

Tim and I were dating at the time and in his true white knight fashion he agreed to take her in his house in Massachusetts until we could find a home for her.  A “foster dog” situation.

On a cold winter afternoon, I drove her down to be with Tim.

I called a bunch of Jack Russell Rescue places.  Had a few leads on places with our requirement : no other dogs.

But I couldn’t pull the trigger to let her go.

So she stayed. For 13 years.

There when I moved in…

There when we got married…

And there through the arrival of all three of our children.

Pregnant with baby number one

Rocko would sleep wherever we were but she was particularly fond of under the covers at the foot of our bed.  Until I found a tick in our bed and moved her on top of the covers under her own special blanket.

She was part of my favorite new parent story ever.  Gerry was a terrible sleeper when he was a baby.  I had finally nursed him back to sleep after a long middle of the night awake stretch.  He had fallen asleep on my arm and I had to pee. Not wanting to move him, I wriggled out of my nightgown and went to the bathroom naked.  I tip-toed quietly to the bathroom, did what I needed to do, and walked quietly into the dark.  As I made my way to the bed I heard a huge THUD.

I screamed and flipped the light on, thinking it was Gerry falling off the bed.

It was Rocko hopping down to find me.

Staring at naked me in the bright light was Tim and now a wide awake – and now crying – Gerry.

She is also part of one of my scarier moments as a parent.  A now toddler aged Gerry was jumping around on our bed and landed on her tail.  Rocko turned around and snapped at him.  Not biting, but enough of a reaction that we started the search again for another home for her.  Again, we couldn’t pull the trigger.  But for the next seven years, she was never left alone with any of the kids.  And she never slept on the bed again.


We said goodbye to Rocko last week.

She had dementia.

She would sleep all day and walk around all night.

She had “dry eyes” meaning her eyes didn’t produce tears.  For several years Tim put drops in her eyes to ease the pain, but she was now completely blind.

And deaf.

She had fallen down the stairs too many times because she couldn’t see.

She slept on Tim’s side of the bed on the carpet under his nightstand and never left that spot.

We carried her out to pee. And even then she would pee or throw up in the house.  She peed on her water bowl and barely ate.

She didn’t know when we were there or even sensed where we were.

She was getting worse.

I shook the whole time that Tim was away with her at the vet.

We know she went peacefully.

Her last picture. Excuse my knee in the way.


When Tim got home and the kids were asleep, I sat down with him on the couch and sobbed.  I didn’t even know these tears existed for her.

“It’s like I have nothing left of him now,” I cried into Tim’s lap.  “I have the green chair and the coat and that’s it.  That dog…she…”

I just curled up in Tim’s arms and cried.  Just as I had 14 years ago at the cemetery after burying my dad.

“We’re never getting rid of that chair, are we?” Tim said.

I shook my head no and laughed through the tears.

“I loved her too, you know.” Tim said quietly.  He had been her primary caregiver for 13 years now.  As we had more children, more dog responsibilities fell to him.  This was his pain as much as mine.  We sat together on the couch quietly remembering Rocko.


Telling the kids was one of the hardest things I’ve done as a parent.

I googled “how to tell your autistic child about the death of a pet” and didn’t get much.  The “Rainbow Bridge” poem just doesn’t work for our not very religious, incredibly literal family.

So we told them the truth.

Their reactions matched their personalities exactly.

Gerry said he wished he didn’t have feelings so it didn’t hurt so much.  Howie went between being very sad and saying “poor Rocko” and then saying he was happy he wouldn’t be annoyed by her toenails clicking on the floor anymore.  Lewis got very very sad and kept saying “I am sad that Rocko died.”

They all wanted another dog instantly.

This will be a process.  For us all.


Goodbye Rocko.

You weren’t a great dog.

But you were our dog.

Our memory dog.

I slipped your collar into the pocket of Dad’s coat.

We will miss you.

A huge thank you to the incredible doctor at the Northern RI Animal Hospital for being there for us all. You were my lifeline.

Goodness no
[High-Pitched Voice]
Rocko’s Modern Life
[Deep Voice]
Rocko’s Modern Life
{Silly Sound Effects}
[High-Pitched Voice]
Rocko’s Modern Life” – Theme Song to Rocko’s Modern Life