dogs, NaBloPoMo, Rocco

Getting a dog after losing a dog.

Two years ago, we lost our beloved Vito the Wonder Dog. It was a soul-crushing experience, and one that I’m not yet truly over. That dog was woven so tightly into our family unit, that saying goodbye was tougher than saying farewell to some humans.

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The Little Mister and Vito, a few months before we said good-bye.

In the weeks and months that followed losing Vito, the hole in our hearts was so big, that I often found myself saying, “I don’t think I could ever have another dog. How could I ever love another dog like I loved Vito?”

A year after we lost Vito, we still never mentioned getting another dog. The Little Mister, who was now 4, would bring him up every once in a while, with heart-wrenching questions such as, “I miss Vito. When is he coming back?” and “Is Vito in heaven? When will he be done up there?”

Our lives had changed a little bit in the year since Vito was gone. I had started a new job that allowed me to work from home. My inlaws also lost their dog, almost a year to the day that we lost Vito. And my father-in-law couldn’t wait to bring another dog into their lives. If there was ever a get a dog, we were approaching it.

Yet, we still didn’t talk about it.

Because as much as we mourned Vito, we had a little bit of a new lease on life. We no longer had to worry about getting home at a certain time to let a dog out. We could go away for the weekend and not have to made doggie arrangements. When one of us was away or working late, the other didn’t have to juggle taking care of a 4 year old and walking and caring for a dog.

But even with all that freedom, I still was in the habit of checking the floor for poop when I came around the corner. Or rushing to pick up a fallen M&M or grape or piece of onion from the floor. We didn’t physically have a dog, but mentally, I still felt like we did.

One cold Friday night, while Mr. KK was playing in his monthly poker night, I started scrolling through petfinder.com. You know, just to see what was in our area. We hadn’t really yet talked about getting another dog, but it had almost been 2 years, and I know at some point we would get one. We knew we’d rescue again, and who knows how long it would take to find the right fit?

On that very first night, I came across Rocco – at that time, named Nikki by the shelter. He was a 3 1/2 month old mix, some combination of chihuahua, dachshund and miniature pinscher. He was in a foster home 2 miles from our house. He had the cutest little face. His ears were so big and alert, he looked like a bat. And the clincher: he was black and tan, and looked a lot like Vito.

I emailed the rescue, and 3 weeks later we brought Rocco – formally known as Nikki – into our house, and our lives.

At first, I was a wreck inside. Rationally, I wanted Rocco to be part of our family. Emotionally, I felt like I was betraying Vito. On the third night of Rocco being in our home – and me chasing him around to make sure he didn’t pee or poop in the house – I broke down. “What if I can’t love him like I loved Vito?” I asked Mr. KK.

We had never had a true puppy before. We rescued Vito when he was about 8 months old. I was living in Boston, and Vito was with Mr. KK and his parents (before he was Mr. KK as we weren’t married yet) in Connecticut. My father-in-law house trained Vito in about 3 days.

When we picked up Rocco from the foster home, they informed us that he used pee pee pads and tended to just “poop by the back door”. Um, that would not fly in my house. From the minute he came home, I was in full puppy potty training mode. I took him out constantly, monitored his intake – and output, and made sure he was never left unsupervised. It took a bit of time but eventually we were on a schedule and I didn’t feel the need to freak out if he was out of my sight for more than a few minutes.

As the months passed, I began to feel less like Rocco was replacing Vito and more like he was becoming an addition to the family. Little Mister absolutely adored him, and Rocco was so sweet and gentle with him. During Rocco’s teething phase (that felt like it lasted forever), Rocco would chew on our hands but he would only lick Little Mister’s.

It was no surprise that Rocco was attached to me, mostly because we spent so much time together.

He’s my daytime work buddy, who often sleeps on my desk chair, snuggled up behind me. He’s the ultimate cuddler, often making it hard to get out of bed in the morning.

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Little Mister enjoying a quiet moment with Rocco.

This little boy wiggled his way into my heart, when I thought I couldn’t love another dog again. I can’t imagine our lives without him.

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