I really didn’t want a dog.
It was January 2011. My friend Ed showed up to watch wrestling at my house with a spunky little stray miniature pinscher named Roc. I’d been living on my own for a couple of years and I was enjoying the carefree bachelor life. I knew how much work would go into having a dog. I knew the financial and the time commitment it would take. I loved dogs but I wasn’t really ready to jump into all that.
I especially didn’t want a dog like this one. A min pin – this dog was maybe 15 pounds soaking wet. I’d never seen the appeal of small dogs like that. They just seemed like overgrown rodents.
Then I heard about the dog’s story. My had gone for work to help clean up a house that a couple had recently been evicted from. Inside the house underneath some dirty blankets was Roc. The couple had abandoned him, left him to die cold and alone.
Ok. I’m not heartless. My heart broke. It wasn’t in my plans to get a dog – especially not this dog – so I told my friend to keep looking for someone to take this dog in. But if he couldn’t find anyone after a week to let me know and the dog could stay with me.
As the week went on I kept thinking about Roc. I just couldn’t believe someone would abandon a pet like that. My heart broke for him and how scared he must have been, wondering where his people were. Secretly I was hoping my friend wouldn’t find a home for him and that he’d end up with me.
So about a week after meeting Roc he officially moved in. Since he was starting a new life I decided he needed a new addition to his name. He deserved better than just being Roc. From now on he would be The Roc.
As it turns out The Roc and I would spend the next 6 years together. He would be one of the best things to ever happen to me.
When I first adopted Roc I was in a bit of a funk in my life. I wasn’t having much luck in the dating department. I enjoyed my job as Youth Pastor but wasn’t sure where my future was headed. There were a lot of days where I didn’t really feel motivated to get out of bed.
Having Roc in my life gave me a reason to get out of bed every morning. He was a hyperactive dog with a hyperactive bladder who needed to be walked 3 or 4 times a day. So whether I wanted to or not I got out of bed every morning and walked him. Getting a few minutes of fresh air first thing in the morning really helped me get my mind in the right perspective for the day. Our walks were routine but carried a lot of meaning.
Our morning (and afternoon and evening) walks turned into many more adventures along the way. I quickly learned that small dogs could be just as fun and adventurous as big dogs.
I also quickly learned Roc was not as young as he appeared.
At first I thought Roc was 4 or 5 years old because of his energy and athleticism. He would bounce off the furniture, leaping from the floor to the couch to the chair and everywhere in between. He could jump freely up and down off my bed, an impressive task considering his minuscule stature.
I was shocked to learn when I took him to the vet for his first checkup that Roc was actually at least 10 or 11 years old. The vet could tell from the condition of his teeth and the beginning signs of cataracts in his eyes. My new puppy all of the sudden became a senior dog.
The vet said dogs of The Roc’s size can often live to their late teens, which meant we’d hopefully get 5 or 6 years together. Still, I knew our time together would be limited. So ever since I learned his true age I began preparing to say goodbye to Roc.
I made a point that we would live deliberately – that we would make the most of every opportunity before us. I took Roc with me everywhere I could. We went to the beach, the mountains, the grocery store, restaurants, and everywhere in between.
Over the years he lost a toe, faced the cone of shame, and faced a few other scares and surgeries. He even endured a new dog coming into the picture. Yet he was so resilient and strong. He kept recovering, kept fighting, kept cuddling, kept living.
He was just a dog, but he taught me a lot over the years about persevering. He didn’t let his infirmities overcome his desire to explore.
Unfortunately The Roc, just as we all eventually do, faced one last battle he could not overcome. The final days of his life were sad and hard on him and us. He became unable to walk. He was still able to move all his limbs and was still eating and drinking well so we continued to hope he would push through. It finally became clear last weekend that he would not. Kate and I tearfully made the painful decision to say goodbye.
We took The Roc to a park over by our old apartment where we’d had some good picnics and good walks at over the years. We sat. We smiled. We cried.
The next day I stayed home from work. I sat with The Roc snuggled up in a blanket on my lap until it was time to head to the vet. We stopped at Starbucks on the way to get him a “pup cup” – a tiny cup filled with whipped cream. Roc gobbled it right up – those were always his favorite treats.
We didn’t spend more than 10 minutes at the vet. The whole process was a blur. I sobbed as I bent down and looked at my little buddy on the operating table in his final few moments. He was weak, barely breathing, but he did what he always did when he saw me crying. He licked my face and took the tears away.
In my favorite devotional from “My Utmost For His Highest”, Oswald Chambers writes about a concept called loving spontaneously:
The evidence of our love for Him is the absolute spontaneity of our love, which flows naturally from His nature within us. And when we look back, we will not be able to determine why we did certain things, but we can know that we did them according to the spontaneous nature of His love in us. The life of God exhibits itself in this spontaneous way because the fountains of His love are in the Holy Spirit.
I think The Roc was pretty good at loving spontaneously. He was the definitive lap dog. All he really wanted was a friend to snuggle up with. He’d cozy up to just about anyone he met. He really didn’t discriminate. He’d drop whatever he was doing to cuddle up with someone.
His appearance in my life 6 years ago taught me how to love spontaneously. It would have been far easier to say no when my friend asked me to take Roc in. It would have saved me a lot of pain and heartache and money. But I also would have missed out on the walks, the car rides, the adventures, the nights on the couch. The moments of joy far surpassed the ones of pain.
Yes, it is far easier to walk away when God puts an opportunity to show spontaneous love before us. We want to plan out our lives. We don’t like the random interruptions.
That’s the thing though. We don’t always get to plan out the people we’ll come in contact with. We don’t get to plan out the strays who wander into our living rooms.
True love is spontaneous. It is not premeditated. It responds with a selfless heart to all the creatures God places before us.
It’s still weird to think Roc is not here anymore. I miss him the most in the littlest moments. I miss taking him out on my lunch breaks and when I come home from church. I miss bringing him up into our bed at night. I even miss cleaning up his messes.
The past few weeks, months really, haven’t been easy. Taking care of The Roc became an exhausting task for Kate and I. Yet I would give anything to have him back again, even in that state.
I really didn’t want a dog. And now I can’t imagine my life without him.
I’m so thankful for the 6 years I got to spend with The Roc. And I’m at peace that he is no longer with us. I believe he’s no longer in pain and that he’s running free. And I hope I’ll get to have him in my lap again someday.
Until then I’m going to make the most of my time here. I’m going to make the most of my time with my wife, with my family, with our other dog Rosalita.
I’m going to live deliberately and love spontaneously. For The Roc.
I wrote about The Roc a few times over the years on Pop God. Click here to check out some of the many lessons I learned from him. And if you feel like loving spontaneously and adopting a dog or donating to your local shelter, click here to find one near you.