Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

September 20, 2013

Ode to Rocket

By Deanna Kirk
Corsicana Daily Sun

— About February of 2003, an elderly couple walked in to the Daily Sun offices. The woman had a black eye, her hand and wrist were bandaged, and she had various scrapes and bruises. And she was crying.

The man asked for Raymond Linex. Then they drew our attention to this scrappy little canine they brought in with them.

Turns out, the fiesty dog had bitten through the lip of Raymond’s youngest son while residing with their family, so he was given to the elderly couple. He started a fight with all of their dogs, in which the woman was wounded in the melee. Raymond’s family wasn’t his first family; rumor went he’d also lived with the Copes, and perhaps one other family.

Raymond said he couldn’t take the dog home, his wife would have a fit. The couple asserted they weren’t taking him back to their home either.

And it was then that Deanna, Kate and Lily became the proud owners of one young Boston Terrier with an attitude named Rocket.

Oh, he was a cute one. Reminded me of Marty Feldman; he could see East and West without moving his head. He was the same coloring as my favorite food, Oreos. We briefly considered changing his name, as my beloved Grandma Neva had a few Bostons, whose names were all Bootsie. But in the end he stayed Rocket, because it just fit him somehow.

While that dog wasn’t perfect, he was perfect for us. In the early days, Rocket had a habit of bolting every time the front door was opened, especially if there was a trash truck in sight. That improved over time, and he settled into his role as “nanny,” ensuring the girls never came home from school to an empty house. They were always greeted warmly and with great affection, as he happily oversaw any activity in which they chose to engage. We delighted watching his antics with his sock monkeys, which gave new meaning to the term “flying monkeys.”

I’m not sure in Rocket’s mind just how big he thought he was, but I’m thinking at least French Mastiff. He would attack the lawn mower, weed eater, any dog larger than himself (or smaller), teenage boys .... I have no doubt he’d have inflicted damage on that trash truck had he ever caught it.

But he was a loyal, loving soul, too. My girls were 8 and 10 when we moved into that house, and at times chose to sleep together in the same bed (though they had separate bedrooms). If the girls were together, Rocket was in the middle. When the girls went to their dad’s for the weekend, he was in or on my bed. If I was on the couch alone watching TV, Rocket was right there, nuzzled up next to me.

When Mr. Kirk came along, he referred to him as “Old Man” or “Your son, Rocket.” By then, like me, Rocket had mellowed a lot with age. Good thing. After so many years of not daring to let him around small children, along came our grandkids.  I have photos of Zayne sitting on Rocket’s back, pulling his ears backwards, then  moving his thumbs to press on those bulbous eyeballs. “Really?” Rocket’s look said. “Are you kidding me?”

Kylie would shriek every time she first laid eyes on Rocket and mention something about “scared,” but the next time you looked she was letting him lick the spout of her sippy cup.

Our dear old Rocket passed away this week. I have really had a hard time with it. I don’t remember when I cried this much. There’s no way to measure how many of my tears have fallen on his soft hair over the years.

I think about all the great times we’ve shared, and the hard times the last 10 years — multiple surgeries, deaths of loved ones, a few heartbreaks, many heartaches — and Rocket has been there with me through it all. He never judged, never said much, but always listened, at times giving an encouraging lick or knowing look. I never realized how much I talked to him until he wasn’t there.

I’ve thought about how much like God that is. He is always there, usually quiet, but a constant presence. Thankfully, He won’t get old and pass on the way dear Rocket did.

Mr. Kirk tells me that all good dogs go to Heaven. If your theory is different, please keep it to yourself because I refuse to believe otherwise. In Heaven our Rocket is once again young and agile, able to bounce as high as a kangaroo the way he used to. He’s running that fence line, barking at squirrels and wagging his little nub of a tail. And there I will see him again.

Farewell, my faithful companion. You were the best dog I’ve ever had.

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Deanna Kirk is a Daily Sun staff writer and editor of Explore magazine. She may be reached via email at dkirk@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to Sound Off on this column? Email soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com.