The Story of Rocky Junior's Dog Training Service
There are moments in life that define us, that change the very core of our being and bring new passion to our lives. October 4, 2006 was such a day for me.
After 16 years in law enforcement, during which I did my first professional dog training (helping train police dogs for agencies all over southwestern Oregon), I moved on to owning and operating small businesses in the Puyallup, WA area. That fateful October day I was the owner of Crusty's Transportation, a taxi company named after my cat, Crusty, and was spending the afternoon working on a taxi parked in my driveway.
I am a lifelong animal lover, and had already shared my life with many different, wonderful dogs and cats, doing some training with my own dogs before I learned how to professionally train dogs in 1980. Yet I'd never considered becoming a full time dog trainer - I trained and worked with my own dogs and those of friends, achieving very good results, but remained focused on other life pursuits.
What happened that sunny, beautiful October afternoon was a moment that would profoundly define and change me.
A handsome, yet fearsome looking stray Rottweiler had shown up and laid down in my front yard. He had no collar or tags, and was frightened, hungry, dehydrated and in very poor physical condition. Quite obviously, he'd been neglected and seriously abused. The poor guy could hardly stand or walk, and didn't want to make eye contact with me.
To say he was wary would have been a gross understatement. Everything about him spoke to me, pleaded with me - he needed help, desperately.
Honestly, I didn't want this dog at my home. He scared me - but I also knew I had to help him. A shelter would euthanize him. So I took him in, naming him Rocky without even thinking about it - the name just came to me.
Rocky had many serious physical problems. He limped badly and could barely walk, he was seriously underweight and dehydrated, his eyes were badly infected and he had open, infected wounds all over his body. Needless to say, this poor dog had been seriously neglected and abused. Why he chose my house out of the hundreds of homes in the area is beyond me - good luck, it was meant to be, or maybe that canine intuitiveness we've heard about? I guess the latter made the most sense - Rocky came to me because he knew I'd help.
Not only did Rocky have serious physical problems (which cost $1000 to treat at the vet the next day), but I soon found out he had severe behavioral problems. Rocky was fine with me and my dog Roxy, but anyone or anything else he saw would cause a violent reaction, including growling, snapping and lunging. Even though Rocky was very sick, he was also a big, powerful dog, and his behavior literally scared me to death.
When Rocky saw my cats through the back sliding glass door he charged, growling and barking, and tried to break through the glass to get at my cats. It was obvious he wanted to attack and kill them.
Rocky wasn't potty trained; in fact, he didn't want to come inside, and didn't seem to know what the dog house was for. I honestly didn't think that this dog, who was about 6 years old and starting to go blind from central progressive retinal atrophy, had ever been inside a home or any type of structure.
Most would've labeled Rocky as "aggressive" and had him put to sleep. But I'd already learned enough about canine behavior to know that dogs are a product of the humans in their lives, and that his behavior was a result of what people had done to him and failed to do for him. I was determined to help Rocky.
But how? Honestly, I had no earthly idea. An extensive search for Rocky's owners had been fruitless, so I began to teach him some basic training behaviors, and spent a lot of my free time contacting trainers I knew in the area. I figured someone would be able to help.
None of the trainers had advice for me or felt they could help Rocky. No one wanted a big, aggressive Rottweiler in their training classes. So I began exhaustive research on "aggressive" dogs and the means to "cure" them, if you will, of their inappropriate and scary behavior, at the same time learning all I could about the Rottweiler breed.
I combined my new-found knowledge with my previous knowledge and formed a plan to use counter-conditioning training, in both indoor and outdoor environments, to turn around Rocky's frighteningly aggressive behavior towards strangers and other animals - including my cats.
We worked for one hour at a time, three times every day, with no time off, for four solid months. I saw progress in Rocky every few days or at least weekly - he was slowly but surely becoming desensitized to his fears, and was even starting to think of the things he previously responded to in an aggressive manner as good things.
Then, one spring day, a switch was struck in Rocky's mind and he became a 115 pound Teddy Bear of a Rottweiler. We succeeded!
Rocky spent the rest of his life being a true ambassador for his breed, dispelling myths and fallacies about Rottweilers for the thousands of people who met and fell in love with him.
Rocky was my constant, ever-present companion. He wanted to meet everyone he saw, animal or person, and show how much he loved them. Legions of people were literally amazed by Rocky's calm, friendly and outgoing nature. I can't count the number of times that The Rock put his head in a total stranger's lap, then proceeded to slobber all over their pants. No one ever complained!
I'd never really stopped training dogs since my experience with police dogs, but it was my experience with Rocky that led me into dog training full time, in January of 2009.
Rocky couldn't work with me because
he was now totally blind, but Roxy,
my wonderful Lab-Mastiff mix, took
the job and performed incredibly well
as my assistant and helper.
It was hard not being able to take
Rocky to work with me, but we still
went on daily outings. Many more
pants were slobbered upon; many
more kisses were delivered. Rocky
became a celebrity in the area - it
seemed everyone knew, recognized
and loved my big, handsome Rottweiler.
Helping Rocky recover from his life of abuse and neglect and become one incredible dog was a mutually shared experience that is simply too powerful to put in words, and there is no way I can explain how strong and profound the bond and love was between us. The four and a half years I got to spend with my Rocky were the most wonderful years of my life.
On March 18, 2011, at the age of 11, Rocky became suddenly ill and I rushed him to the vet. I stayed at his side, thinking he'd be okay - but Rocky died within 45 minutes of arrival. I was devastated. I couldn't stop crying. My Rocky was gone. To this day I am overwhelmed with grief when I think of that day, the day my beloved best friend, my oh-so-special Rocky, left me.
Thankfully, my equally wonderful Roxy, who'd given up so much of her time with me so I could help Rocky, was there that day for emotional support, as was a good friend. But I truly was devastated - I spent the next few months with a black cloud of sadness hanging over me, just trudging through my work and life.
July 31, 2011 changed everything for me, bringing joy and positive energy back into my life. I met and adopted a tiny Rottweiler mix puppy, naming him Rocky Junior, in honor of my Rocky. Roxy was retired from training by now, and I immediately began to train Rocky Junior to be my training assistant. As Rocky Junior grew and learned and became talented and more talented, I started to see more and more of Rocky in him. Life was great again!
Rocky Junior soon proved himself to be an incredible dog, too, helping not only with training, but also helping fearful, aggressive dogs turn into great, well behaved dogs, just as his predecessor, the first Rocky, had become.
Rocky Junior, 2011, 16 Weeks
Rocky and Jeff, 2006 -
Two Days After Rescue
Rocky Junior, 2011, 16 Weeks
I feel truly blessed that I met Rocky and was able to help him become the dog he was meant to be - if I hadn't met Rocky, I don't know if I'd ever gone into dog training on a full time basis. Training and helping dogs, as well as their owners, is my true life's passion and work, and I have Rocky to thank for helping me find my way, for helping me realize what I was truly meant to do. Thank you, Rocky! I will always love and miss you.
I am also so thankful for the great years I shared with Roxy, my first training dog, and for having the good fortune to meet and adopt Rocky Junior, who quickly became a thoroughly amazing training assistant and my best buddy. Thank you for reading our story, and please, consider training for your dog. All dogs benefit from training, particularly when you obtain the help of a pro. Whether your dog is a puppy in the formative first few months of life, an adult dog who needs initial or refresher training, or a dog with serious problems, we're here to help! And if you're skeptical of potential results for any reason, consider this: If Rocky could succeed, so can you and your dog!
Jeff and Rocky Junior
Is THE Best
Will Ever Make
In Your Dog