Rocco my first heart-dog.
When I was 12 years old I met my first Bullmastiff. I remember walking down the drive and seeing these magnificent majestic creatures. The pure size and strength of them had me speechless. I couldn’t take my eyes off them and I fell in love straight away. I made a promise to myself that day that when I grew up, my first dog would be a Bullmastiff.
Many years later I was in a position to own my first dog and that promise I made became a reality when Rocco the Bullmastiff graced my life. So many words I could use to delineate Rocco; splendid, spectacular, glorious, breathtaking and beautiful. He had the most kind and tolerant nature though he never took any nonsense. He would do anything for me as I would for him. We were an insepratable team.
When Ralph came on the scene they became instant best buddies. These two characters where the reason I picked up a camera. Rocco and Ralph had this amazing bond and I felt I needed to capture their story in pictures. Ralph absolutely adored Rocco and was his little minion. He loved licking around his mouth for drool. It was quite the delicacy for Ralph.
Rocco had a genetic condition called hip dysplasia. It was an extreme case. He had no hip sockets in both hips. This diagnosis pretty much broke my heart, well, actually I fainted because I just couldn’t deal with what this meant. He grew to a very large dog and I knew things were never going to be easy for him. Pain was going to be something he would always live with and manage. I did everything I could to keep him healthy and semi-pain free.
His hips were slowly becoming progressively worse as he aged and his mobility was getting less and less. Then a terrible accident happened were Rocco took a fall off a car ramp that was out of my control. A friend was helping him and as I saw it all unfolding I couldn’t reach him in time. I knew this wasn’t going to be good and it was almost like time stopped and all I could hear was my heart thumping as I was running towards him. I have never forgiven myself for letting this happen.
I rested him, medicated him, massaged him and tried everything to get him back on his feet for weeks. His hips had just had enough. He would walk and collapse; they just couldn’t handle all his 85kg weight. I knew he was a proud dog and would never want to lose his dignity. He was not himself anymore.
After hours sitting with vets, looking at x-rays and seeing how deteriorated his hips were I knew what I had to do and made a heart-breaking decision to put Rocco to rest and be pain free.
This is something I have never been able to speak about. Saying goodbye was the hardest thing I have ever done. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach and ripped out my heart. Watching Rocco look at me confused as he went to sleep will be a sickening memory that will stay with me for life. I held him tight, told him I loved him and reassured him everything will be OK as he fell lifeless into my arms and his big kind heart stopped beating. I was screaming inside because he was mentally healthy but his body had given up. It was so unfair and I wanted rip that room apart. As I walked away from him I actually felt myself shutting down – I was numb and broken – he was my every thing, my rock, my best friend and my angel. Now, I had nothing. I would never put my arms around that big neck and kiss his giant smoochy head again. It took me a very long time to recover from losing him. I’m not sure if I have ever recovered, I just think every hour, day, year that passes you find it gets easier.
Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I’ll miss you, until we meet again.