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One June day in 2006, I opened the door to our back deck to take my marvelous mutt, Furio, for a walk. As soon as his paws hit the wooden slats, his hair raised and his body froze in fear. Then I saw what Furio was looking at: a big black bear underneath the deck. I rushed Furio into the house and came back outside to make sure my eyes weren’t fooling me. Sure enough, there was something very large and black hiding out under our house. Living in Asheville, N.C., it isn’t unusual to see a bear crossing through your yard, but I certainly didn’t want this one hiding under my deck. Just as I was opening the door to go back inside, I caught a glimpse of the big brown eyes looking up at me and realized I wasn’t dealing with a bear at all. Just a very large Rottweiler!
After chasing him for two hours, my boyfriend and I managed to put him in a crate and called Animal Control. They informed me that a Rottweiler would be highly unadoptable and would probably be euthanized upon arrival. I didn’t have to think about what I would do with this big “bear,” I knew that he had found us for a reason and he would be spending the rest of his life with us. He had an embedded collar, he was severely emaciated (80 pounds) had roundworms and a staph infection. After a few visits to our vet, he was in great shape and weighed in at 120 pounds. We named him Rocco and he became a member of the family. Everywhere we went with Rocco, he touched people’s hearts by showing them how much love a big dog could give.
In February of 2009, we took Rocco to the vet to check up on a cough he had recently developed. We weren’t prepared for what the vet had to say, “Rocco has lymphoma.” The treatment would run close to $10,000. Without treatment, he would be lucky to live for four weeks. With treatment, the average time would be six months. We didn’t have the money but we began fundraising and were able to put Rocco through chemotherapy. He loved going to chemo, and even cried in the office if he wasn’t the first one to receive treatment. We took him hiking at least twice a week, and he continued to live his life as a normal dog.
In August, we realized our time with Rocco was running out. He came out of remission and stopped responding to chemo. We felt blessed for the six months we had been given to enjoy with him, but we weren’t prepared for losing him. On August 30, I was informed about a Rottweiler on death row in North Carolina, scheduled to be euthanized on September 2. Although we wanted to rescue him, we knew Rocco needed us throughout his final days. Later that evening, I kissed Rocco goodnight, told him how much I loved him, and went to bed, while he slept with Furio. I prayed that he wasn’t in pain and that he would pass quietly and quickly when the time came. When I awoke the next morning, I knew something was wrong. Before leaving the bedroom, I turned to my boyfriend and said, “Rocco is gone.” And he was. He had passed peacefully in the night, next to his best friend, Furio.
Although we were devastated over the loss of our sweet Rocco, we felt that by some miracle he had left us just in time to save another dog. On September 2, we drove to pick up the Rottweiler about whom we knew nothing. We didn’t feel prepared for another dog, but we knew he deserved a chance at life. When we arrived at the shelter, we were led to the back room and introduced to a beautiful, big Rottweiler. “His name is Bear.” I couldn’t help smile and look toward the sky, thanking Rocco. Our bear in the backyard couldn’t stay with us forever, but he made sure to lead us to the next one.
Photos by Blair Meeks.