In today’s blog, I’ll be talking all about Rocky; the dog that made a huge difference in not only our lives, but apparently the whole neighbourhood!
Last week when we were at the farm, Brad and I took Willow for a walk to the stream between first and second field. You know the one; the one where we planted irises and cedars that miraculously haven’t been eaten by deer yet?! As of just recently, we have been able to have Willow off leash. But this time around we actually went the whole week without having to put a harness on her at all. It was incredibly liberating for all of us.
If you’d like to read the story about how Willow escaped from her leash one evening and Brad had to track her down, at night, in the dark, with bears and swamps, go to my resource library! I have the original story, as written for the Northern Sun newspaper, stored in there for you to check out!
So when we got to the stream, Willow submersed her whole body in the water, laying down and drenching her thick husky fur. That’s when Brad exclaimed, “We should name this ‘Willow Creek’!” It’s a nudge to not only Willow’s delight in chasing the water bugs in this creek, but the prolific amount of willow trees that surround it as well. As is my nature, it made me weepy as I thought about how Willow will be forever a part of us because of the connection to the land, and how much I miss my other fur babies.
It wasn’t long before we named different parts of our land “Sandy Ridge”, “Boober’s Bluff” and of course, “Rocky Road”. Oh Rocky. You were a good boy. Let me tell you all a bit about our buddy Rocky…….
This upcoming March will mark five years since we bought that chunk of land down past the Dryden airport, a spot that we have come to call “The Farm” over the years. (As a side note, the reason we decided to call the whole area The Farm.House.Studio is because we couldn’t imagine not having the word “farm” in the name of our land and upcoming new business.)
Our first weekend adventure there was in mid-April of 2015, as soon as the snow had melted. We packed up a portable heater and slept in the “love shack” (because you have no choice but to snuggle when it’s cold, damp and wet on a blow up mattress with a portable heater to warm up the whole place). It was on this weekend that we first met a dog named Rocky, but at the time we had no clue where he came from and certainly didn’t know his name. We just called him “The Mouser” or “Buddy”, or whatever affectionate name we could come up with at the moment because in two seconds flat, he had won our hearts.
If I opened up a door to a building, he would saunter in, check out the mouse situation, flop down on the ground and fall asleep. It didn’t matter where I went, there he was. One night we stood in the middle of our yard in the pouring rain with a massive bonfire. We had a literal mountain of scrap pieces of wood to burn and used the cool April weather as an advantageous opportunity. Rocky, although shivering and soaking wet, laid on that pile of wood and stayed by our side. When bears came to the property, he pushed them away all weekend.
Whenever I went to do my duty in the outhouse, he also stayed close by on sentry duty, ensuring I was safe at all times. Where ever I turned, there was Rocky.
It was because of Rocky’s incredible demeanor that I knew I was ready to get a dog of my own. It had been a few years since that passing of my beloved Sandy the Wonder Dog, and Rocky told me it was ok to love again. I saw a picture of “Grace” on the Lucky Mutts Facebook page, and she was a spitting image of Rocky, albeit female.
I said I would do a trial adoption and basically kept her from that moment on, changing her name to Willow and giving her the middle name of Grace. Now whenever Willow is in trouble, I do the typical thing that all mothers do; I use her full name as in saying, “Willow Grace! You stop that barking right now and get in here!” Rocky and Willow became fast friends and lovers. Rocky killed a mouse for Willow and gently gave it to her as a gift. It was true love.
This romance sometimes got those two in trouble, as Rocky taught Willow how to jump over her fenced in area and run around in the bush in the middle of the night. If you don’t know the stories of Willow’s escape episodes, you’ll want to read the story I wrote for The Northern Sun newspaper about Willow’s “great escape” one late August evening in 2017. But even through these episodes, Rocky always came back to let us know he was ok. We can’t say the same for Willow! lol
We eventually got to know Rocky’s owner; our neighbour, John. He’s an older bachelor who works hard and took Rocky home after noticing that Rocky had been tied up in someone’s garage for years. John has an affection for German Sheppard’s, and even though Rocky has some Sheppard in him, he’s also got a bit of wolf in him too, we figure. John allowed Rocky the freedom that he never imagined possible. Suddenly, after years of being confined to a cement floor, the world was his oyster to explore: mice, rabbits, porcupines (which had adverse effects, and again, will be a blog I’ll leave for some other time), streams, trees, hills and fields. Everything was at his disposal. As John put it, Rocky had a trap line. He had at least a 10 to 20 kilometre radius of bush that he knew very well. He knew all the neighbours and visited them just as he visited us. Everyone was madly in love with this affectionate galoot. He would sleep over at our house and sometimes sleep over at the neighbour’s house. He was fed by all of us and snuggled all the time…such a great snuggler.
A few Thanksgivings ago, I headed down to the farm with my friend Deanna for some weekend r n’ r. To my dismay, Rocky didn’t come to visit us that whole time we were there. I found it very odd. Our friend Gabe sent us a photo of him a couple weeks later saying, “Look who came to visit!” with a photo of Rocky. That was the very last time Rocky was seen at the farm. The last time anyone saw Rocky was early November of 2017. I had talked to many of the neighbours and we were all collectively heartbroken that Rocky had been gone for months. There was a rumour that he had meddled in a tourist camp’s deer season and may have been accidentally shot, but we communicated with camp owners and they too were distraught at not seeing Rocky for a while. He was just simply gone, and in this wild world that Rocky was exploring, maybe he ran into some trouble that he just couldn’t get out of. Even though he’s as fast as the wind, he may have pushed his luck. Brad said it well when he said that Rocky came into our lives to welcome us to the land. He protected us and showed us around. He taught us to open up our hearts to dogs again and brought Willow home to us. Brad calls him Saint Rocky because of it.
About a year after Rocky went missing, we heard another story that I like to keep in my heart instead of the scary one of being caught in a trap, mistakenly shot by hunters, or taken down by a pack of wolves. We learned that his owner became quite frustrated that Rocky was being fed by others. When Rocky kept on going out to a certain property that had hunters there, John went and asked if they had been feeding him. They supposedly acknowledged that they were, and in frustration, John said that they might as well keep him then, because there’s no way he’ll ever want to come home now. John said that every time he opened the door, Rocky would go back to the same place. It came down to yummy sandwiches vs. regular ol’ dog food. Rocky was liking the ham and cheese on rye. So with that, there is new hope that Rocky is actually with another loving person somewhere. We know that John misses Rocky too, but we’ve all succumbed to the fact that he’s not coming home.
Even though John took ownership of Rocky, Rocky really was never his. Rocky was never really anyone’s because he’s everyone’s. Right now, I truly hope he is snuggling in with someone and making sure they are protected, doing sentry duty as the strong, protective dog that he is, and enjoying many delicious sandwiches in a new land. That’s what I have been telling myself anyway.
If anyone reading this blog knows where good ‘ol Rocky boy might be today, we’d just LOVE to see a photo of him at his new digs. That would make us truly happy. This was one of those blogs that I have been dreading writing because I knew it meant going back and looking at old photos. Just as I expected, I did a lot of ugly crying today. These furry critters sure do a lot for our hearts, eh? I will walk down Rocky’s Road and think about him as I always do. I am picking the road that goes from the garage at the top of the hill down to the barn and sheds as Rocky’s Road.
When we used to drive down Keatley Road, he was usually sitting up at the top of the hill by John’s garage. We could see his big ears perk up from a kilometer away! haha We’d pull into the first road to the farm, and he’d boot down the top road, meeting our truck in the driveway, jumping at the windows, anxious to say hi to all of us (but especially Willow). He’s a good boy, that Rocky, and we love him dearly.
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