Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões | CC BY 2.0 | via Wikimedia Commons

The Heartwarming Tale of Rocky and Rita

Any dog owner knows that their dog is capable of love. This is a true story that is proof of just that. Our story features a 65 pound Boxer named Rocky (aged 3 at the time of this story) and his owner, Rita, an 11 year old girl.

Rocky had been with Rita since he was 10 weeks old, and the two of them had always been incredibly close. She’d taught him basic commands, let him eat from her hand and he even slept on her bed – they spent all their time together.

Rita had been a shy girl, but with Rocky by her side she felt safer and more confident. Rocky was not only her friend and confidant, but also her defender. Whenever Rita encountered a stranger he would deliberately and protectively stand in front of her, even once putting himself between two large careless bikers and Rita and giving his best growl to make sure they kept their distance.

Such was his sense of duty that Rocky seemed fearless when it came to protecting Rita, although he did have one crushing fear – water. During his puppyhood, before he came to live with Rita, he had been briefly sold to another family who had a young boy. The child had emotional problems, and developed jealousy over the attention his family were giving to young Rocky. In revenge he had twice tried to drown poor Rocky, and only the quick actions of the boy’s father on both occasions had saved his life. After the second incident the father had immediately given Rocky to Rita’s family for his own safety.

The emotional trauma caused by these two incidents scarred Rocky and made him truly fear water. If they passed rivers or streams on their walks, he would become distressed and pull back. If Rita went swimming in the lake he would pace back and forth with anxiety until she got out.

One day Rita and Rocky traveled to a shopping centre located beside a lake with Rita’s mother. The entrance could only be reached by travelling along a high wooden boardwalk roughly 20 to 30 feet above the water.  Rita’s mother had traveled further ahead as the young girl was enjoying jumping around on the boardwalk and listening to the amplified sounds of her footsteps. All of a sudden Rita was hit by a boy on a bicycle skidding on the wet surface, and the impact sent her shrieking as she fell through the guard rail and down into the water below. She landed face down in the water and wasn’t moving.

Having traveled further ahead Rita’a mother wasn’t able to immediately help. Rocky stood staring at the water, whimpering as he watched his best friend in trouble in the one thing that truly terrified him and had nearly taken his life twice. He thought for only a moment, facing his fear and jumping into the lake.

Driven by his determination to save Rita (combined with his genetic programming allowing him to swim without any prior experience), Rocky was able to reach her quickly and roll her over by grabbing a strap on her dress. With her face out of the water Rita began to cough and gag, before reaching out and grabbing onto his collar. With all his might, Rocky pulled and pulled until he had dragged them both back to the shallow edge of the lake.

Whilst they awaited assistance Rocky licked her face, whimpering and trembling at the same time. Without question Rocky saved the Rita’s life. It would have taken rescuers several minutes to climb down the steep side of the lake, during which time she would have drowned.

At the time of the incident Rocky’s brain must have thought over the situation, evaluating the costs and benefits of his actions. He would have known that even if Rita had died, the rest of the family would have been around to feed him and take care of him. He didn’t ‘need’ her for survival. The only answer, then, is that he loved her. His love of her enabled him to overcome his greatest fear in her time of need.

Rocky never entered any water again, but continued to be by Rita’s side for the rest of his life. Several years later, in Rita’s graduation photo she can be seen smiling and holding onto the collar of an elderly Rocky, just like she had on the fateful day in the lake. A fitting tribute to a hero dog, without whom she wouldn’t have been there.

Chris Green

About the Author: Chris Green works in the office at Bowerland Cottage Holidays and Devon Dogs, using his technical expertise to assist wherever needed. In his spare time he likes playing guitar and bass, and hiking around Dartmoor.

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