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My Little Love Bug

by Trish Paciulli

Trish is an avid quilter. For the past twenty-three years, she had been making quilts for friends, family and disabled dogs across the United States. Her love of dogs has inspired her to add writing to her creative endeavors. She lives in a small coastal town in New England and enjoys traveling by motorhome with her husband and their dogs.

On Thanksgiving in 2016, someone threw a Chihuahua out of the window of a moving car onto a heavily trafficked road. A good citizen saw it happen but was unable to get the license plate number. The person rescued the little dog and took him to Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Massachusetts.

I was a volunteer at the shelter and would sit in the special room he had all to himself. He was under a green, fleece blanket in his bed. He growled at anyone who entered his room. The dog was given the name of Rico and it was soon discovered that he was blind. Rico refused to eat or drink and was very traumatized. After a week of starving himself he was considered a hospice rescue. I asked what would happen to him. The staff told me he was going to die. I immediately called my husband and asked if I could bring him home to die in our house. Tony responded with a big YES! I brought him home and turned my sewing room into Rico’s own little room.

Our dogs, Amelia and Trixie, were curious about him and looked through the gate to see him.

My husband changed his name to Rocky. He wouldn’t eat or drink for us either and would growl and try to bite us when we got near him. We decided to take him to our vet, Dr. Maher and have him medically evaluated. In addition to his blindness, he had three rotten and infected teeth, needed medication for his thyroid and the top of his tail had been burned. Dr. Maher pulled his bad teeth and left two good teeth. She said his heart and lungs were strong and that he could live several more years.

“What are you going to do with him now?” asked the vet.

“KEEP HIM,” we replied. “We’re already in love with him!”

Now we had three dogs by default and were so happy to take care of him. Initially, we had to pick him up with a big blanket so he would not bite us. He was successful many times. Ouch!

Eventually, Rocky warmed up to us and began to put his two tiny front paws on our shins, signaling us to pick him up. We learned very quickly that his head and neck area were NOT to be touched. However, he did enjoy being held and talked to. Amelia and Trixie would watch him move around. They were puzzled by his behavior of bumping into everything.

His blindness prevented him from sleeping in our bed with Amelia and Trixie. Worried that he might walk off the bed and get seriously injured, we got a small hexagon shaped enclosure with a nylon bottom for him and put it upstairs with us.

Rocky barked and barked at bedtime. We decided to let him sleep downstairs in a white plastic play yard. He seemed to adjust to that quite nicely. When he barked during the night, we took turns going downstairs to check on him. That led to sleep deprivation for Tony and me. The vet recommended Gabapentin to help settle his restlessness. Rocky got a tiny dose at 1pm and 7pm and we noticed a big difference with less barking.

We purchased a small animal stroller with a zippered front and made it comfy with his fuzzy blanket. At first, he wasn’t sure about riding in it but adjusted pretty fast. He would bark when he needed to pee or poop. Rocky wore a blue harness in case he wanted to get out and walk on a leash, but due to his handicap, it was difficult for him to navigate the outside world. He memorized the first floor of our home and our back yard. We had a custom ramp built with sides for Rocky so he could get on and off of the deck. It was amazing the way he memorized the location of the ramp and enjoyed the independence he had developed.

We also had a ramp built for the platform where our dogs hung out to look out the front window. He enjoyed the sunspots. Once he walked up the ramp, Rocky would sit and bask in the sunshine. We had to be with him to make sure he didn’t fall off of the platform.

We decided to take him to a canine ophthalmologist in Andover to investigate if anything could be done for his cataracts, but it was to no avail. His retinas were barely functioning enough to allow for only a shadow. Tony and I brought him home and continued our lives with Rocky.

His other senses were excellent, especially his hearing. He recognized and memorized the sounds in the kitchen and knew if food was a possibility. He’d get out of his bed that was in the kitchen in front of a small electric fireplace with a gate surrounding it. The ding on the toaster oven meant bagel with peanut butter. The microwave ding indicated food of any kind. The sound of us scooping kibble for Amelia and Trixie equaled mealtime. Rocky would bark until he got his meal. He ate with such gusto, making sure not a morsel was left in the dish and checking the floor for any food that might have fallen out. The opening of the dishwasher or the sounds of us putting away clean dishes meant don’t bother getting out of bed. When we spoke to him, he followed the voice and looked at us. His ears would rotate with every word as if listening very intently.

Later, we bought a jogging stroller for him because he no longer cared for the small one. He could walk around in it as we pushed it, tilting his tiny head with every sound. He developed sea legs for the bumps in the sidewalk. If Amelia and Trixie barked at another dog he would also start barking. It was as if to say, “I’m with you guys.” Protecting his mommy and daddy. If he wanted out of the big stroller, Tony would carry him under his arm with a small brown blanket to keep him warm.

Rocky adapted to traveling in our motorhome and memorized that floor plan with the slides in and out. The first night of a trip he would bark more and would settle down when we reassured him that everything was ok by picking him up and putting him back in his bed in front of the built-in fireplace. Later on, we talked to the vet about his new restlessness and she recommended a small dose of canine hemp oil at bedtime. That additional calming medicine worked nicely especially, when we were at a campground. Other campers were pretty close. We didn’t want to disturb them.

We purchased a therapy bed for Rocky. It was a large gray pad with coils inside of it for helping senior dogs with health issues. The technology re-arranged his ions to create less strain on the heart murmur and failing kidney. These new problems were discovered by a vet in Florida while visiting family members. It was then that he was put on kidney care rx food. Dr. Maher agreed with the diagnosis and scheduled an echo cardiogram to evaluate his heart murmur. Luckily, he didn’t need medicine for it. We kept a close eye on his heart by checking his heart rate during sleep at home.

Rocky enjoyed exploring the living room especially, lying in front of the gas fireplace we had installed. On occasion, he would wander into the living room and lose his way back to the kitchen and bark until someone helped him. Barking was his only way to say, I’m lonely, where are my people, I need affection or where is my Daddy? When someone came home through the front door, he barked and wanted to be greeted like Amelia and Trixie. Oh, and he loved scratches on his butt near his tiny tail. He would arch up as if to say don’t stop I love this!

He knew when Tony was home and preferred to be carried around by him. When he wasn’t home Rocky would embrace being held by me. When I held Rocky, I always complimented him…”Is a good boy, I love you, you are smart and loveable, I love your kisses.” (He would lick my fingers.) “You are tenacious and adorable. You’re my baby boy and I admire your courage.” Zach and my sister, Pam, were the other people who held Rocky.

I began to notice that Rocky was slowing down. Not enough energy for the ramps we had built for him. Not interested in climbing up the stairs. He began sleeping more and more during the day.

He still had gusto when he was awake. He would roam around in the kitchen during the middle of the night and wasn’t using the pee pads with much accuracy. Every morning I had to wash the kitchen floor due to his accidents. I would get a bit flustered having to wash the floor but knowing at the same time that he was doing his best. After all, hitting the pee pads (blindly) when he did was amazing enough!

On March 10, 2020, I took Rocky to the vet for lesions that had developed over parts of his body. I was told to give him baths with a medicated shampoo for two weeks.

On March 22, 2020, I had been giving him baths for two weeks with a medicated shampoo and cream on the worst lesions. The vet said he looked much better and we went home.

March 23, 2020, he started to vomit clear mucus. That warranted a phone call to the vet. They asked if he was coughing. Since he wasn’t’ coughing, they recommended a tiny dose of Pepcid to settle his tummy.

March 24, 2020, he started to cough at 4:30 a.m. I alerted Tony. Rocky vomited, then staggered out of his bed, not getting far before he fell over sideways on the tile floor. I quickly got a blanket to put under him and we laid down on the floor speaking softly to him, stroking his back. We decided not to take him to the vet hospital because his breathing was very labored by then and wouldn’t survive the thirty-minute ride to Woburn. Rocky began gasping for breath and three minutes later, when he took his last breath, I was holding his tiny sweet head. Tony came right over (he had been feeding the dogs) so we bundled him up in his favorite blanket (gray fleece with dogs on it), put him into his bed and brought him upstairs to Tony’s Manland. We took turns staying with him and holding him. The sun was streaming through the window on his handsome face. He loved being in the sun.

We brought Rocky to the vet office and were greeted at the door by Dr. Maher who was openly crying. We said our last goodbyes and he was transported to Angel View Pet Crematory in Middleboro, Massachusetts to be cremated with his favorite blanket and fluffy bed.

The next several days were heart wrenching. The void in our lives was overwhelmingly brutal. We never lost a pet before and didn’t realize just how painfully his loss would hit us. Later that week, we picked up his ashes in a very small cedar wood urn with ROCKY engraved on a brass plate. We picked cedar because it is one of the stronger woods and Rocky’s personality was strong. We placed his urn on our mantle, flanked by his 8 sympathy cards. Tony put a tiny superman doll on top of the urn. He was our brave little boy and had super-powers to live past his traumatic event, of being discarded like trash by a terrible, ruthless and sad excuse of a human being. We loved him like a king for 3 ½ years.


To further memorialize Rocky’s memory, we donated some of Rocky’s belongings to many other dogs.

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