Rocky is cute, but he might be the dumbest dog ever born. That doesn't matter, though, because, lack of brains aside, Rocky always tries really hard, whatever he may be doing, and he always shows a lot of character, consistently and proactively. It might not be the best character 100% of the time, but it's front and center. So while it's true that in a dog I.Q. test Rocky would be lucky to hit the low double digits, he perfectly illustrates the maxim (and if it's not already a maxim, I'm declaring it one now) that when you try hard, and you have a lot of character (of whatever nature), intelligence is largely beside the point.
Rocky is my mom’s dog, which makes him, legally speaking, my brother. Levi is my dog, so he is Rocky’s nephew, though they’re both the same age, eight. My thirteen year old cat, Erica, is Rocky’s niece, and my mother is known as “Grandma” to Levi and Erica, and as “Mom” to Rocky and Chi-Chi, the Chihuahua, who I will write about some other day. I assure you this sounds far more confusing than it actually is.
Here’s some basic stats on Rocky. He’s a mutt, apparently part Bichon Frise and part terrier and maybe some poodle, and who really knows? He was adopted by my parents when he was about a year old, after something happened. Exactly what happened is mostly speculation, but Rocky was “rescued” when he walked into a vet’s office, by himself, with a nasty cut over his eye, wearing a collar with no identification. The vet treated him and, after due diligence in trying to find his original family, arranged for his adoption to a good new home.
No one ever came looking for him, and whatever bad or good memories he had of the past were immediately displaced in his tiny brain by his new surroundings. There was no ordinary adjustment period a new dog needs to get comfortable. From the second he came to my parents, whatever else, and for no discernible reason, Rocky exuded nothing but absolute confidence and an unshakable sense of his own well being.
Some of you might think Rocky must be a pretty smart dog, seeking out his own medical attention and getting himself adopted into a cushy Scottsdale home. You might think that, but on that count you would be very much mistaken. Rocky’s a lucky boy, no doubt, but being lucky and being smart aren’t the same thing. Being lucky is way better.
It pains me to admit that Rocky is so dumb it’s possible that he doesn’t know his name. There are smarter hamsters around.
Levi, by contrast, is an extra-smart dog. He learns quickly by observation and demonstrates a lively sense of humor, often by gently twitting Rocky. Further, I’m not the only one of Levi’s friends who has sensed that he is a philosopher, for a dog, that is. Levi doesn’t merely think, he ponders.
Erica has thrived for 13 years as a tiny cat, usually in a house full of large dogs, and as an indoor-outdoor cat in the middle of coyote country. She’s managed this because she’s more than smart, she’s prudent.
Rocky, on the other hand, can leave the house through the dog door, and one second later have no clue as to how to get back in. He'll stand looking through the patio door, forlornly waiting for me to open it and let him in the house, and if I never did, he'd never remember a thing about his dog door. He would die out there.
Levi, Erica, and I couldn’t adore Rocky more if we tried. We don’t love him because he’s so dumb. We just accept that he’s a little slower than the rest of the pack, and we look out for him.
It’s true that at the dog park he doesn’t listen, but that doesn’t matter because he gets along beautifully with everybody, human and dog alike. The size, age, or sex, of a dog are factors Rocky couldn’t possibly consider. There’s no way he could hold three thoughts in his mind long enough to do that, but he doesn’t have to, because his enthusiasm carries him places that calculations never could. Because of who he is, every dog, and virtually every person, likes Rocky instantly.
Rocky is tricked far too easily. A ball-throw fake-out will confound him for a solid half-an-hour, although by that time he’ll obviously have no remembrance of exactly what the problem was in the first place.
Play rough with Rocky, squeeze his muzzle or ruffle his fur, and he gets so happy that he sneezes. There isn’t a whole lot cuter than that, and it earns him bonus points.
While Rocky has a limited intellect, he seems to have a particularly fertile imagination. He has this large collection of toys, though he doesn't have a favorite. He plays as happily with one as with the next. I don’t think this is because he’s indifferent, I think it’s because he can’t remember what toy he likes best from moment to moment.
Rocky loves his family. Levi is his brother, and his equal. In fact, I think he believes Levi is his subordinate. When we leash up to walk, and are at the door, Rocky becomes so excited he feels compelled to viciously attack Levi, and, to Levi’s credit, he just laughs at Rocky’s lunatic audacity every time. He and Chi-Chi are buddies, too, even though she’s old and sour and scared of almost everyone and everything else.
Erica is crazy about Rocky. He’s her first dog who’s the same size as she, and they sleep together, and play together, all the time. When Erica has had enough, she walks through the slats of the pool fence, which mystifies poor Rocky anew every, single, time. I know he believes she dematerializes somehow. Feline physics are far beyond his limited scope.
There’s much more to Rocky, like how he has the worst breath of any dog, ever, that defies all dietary and medical intervention, and how he’s getting over a nasty bout of Valley fever, but you’ll be hearing more about him in the future.
For now, though, I wish somehow I could expose Rocky to all the dumb people in the world. I don't mean cognitively disabled, I mean just plain dumb folk. It may not be politically correct to say it, but they make up a sizable percentage of the population. The problem is, they often don't know who they are. I suppose life is hard for the dim, but I can't imagine many people so witless that they would fail to see what Rocky has to show them, how you can be happy and loved in life, even if you’re very, very, stupid indeed, as long as you always try your hardest, and show a lot of character. It's that simple, and that difficult.
© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands
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