“Rocky Loses by a TKO” by Becky Povich

This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Dogs.”

I wasn’t with Ron the day he spotted the “Free Puppies” sign. Later he claimed when he almost passed it, our car spontaneously, and very much on its own, swerved into the gravel driveway and lurched to a stop, flinging grit and tiny pebbles in all directions. Our magic automobile reacted the same way whenever it neared “Garage Sale” and “Yard Sale” signs, too.

“You should’ve seen them, honey,” Ron grinned as he recounted the story to me. “Those puppies kept climbing and tumbling out of their cardboard box. Each one scampering around the lawn was cuter than the next. Little fuzzy bundles of black and brown rolling around . . .”

“Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that,” I interrupted. Ron nodded and continued, “When I crouched down and called to the pups, one, in particular, ran all the way across the yard and practically jumped into my arms. That did it. I told the owner I’d be happy to take that little guy off his hands and give him a good home.”

I was thrilled with his decision. The puppy was small, newly weaned, cute and cuddly. His soft fur was mostly black, with tiny patches of light brown above each eye and on all four legs. We weren’t sure of the puppy’s breed, but it didn’t matter at that moment. My then 11-year-old son, Scott, named our new pup. He chose “Rocky” and it seemed to fit perfectly the moment he bestowed it upon our newest member of the family.

Scott, Rocky and Becky

Scott, Rocky and Becky

Over the next few months, Rocky grew bigger by the day, the hour, the minute. At six months old, his paws were almost as big as the palm of my hand. That’s when we learned Rocky was part Gordon Setter and part some-kind-of-a-really-big dog.

You know how intelligent adults sometimes do the stupidest things? At the time, we lived in a small two bedroom apartment on the second floor of an old complex. Ron and I both worked full-time and Scott, obviously, went to school. Still, we thought leaving Rocky home alone all those hours during the day was perfectly OK. After all, he was paper-trained. But we soon learned he was not house-trained.

Our beloved puppy became bored, so he searched for things in the apartment to amuse himself. Rocky’s antics became so commonplace that I knew every weekday—at 3:15, when Scott got home from school—my office phone would ring and Scott would recite Rocky’s activities for the day. I didn’t even say “Hello” anymore. This daily phone call became the highlight of the afternoon for my co-workers.

“What did he do today?” I’d sigh to Scott. The men and women in my office would stop what they were doing. A hush of silence filled the room as they leaned my way and sat perfectly still.

As I listened to Scott’s account, my facial expressions would change from shock or surprise to disbelief or anger. On some days I just gasped and snorted a word or two:

“He did what?”

“Oh, my gosh!”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Can you clean it up?”

“Did you tell him ‘bad dog’?”

“Well, close the cabinets.”

“Well, close your closet.”

“Well, shut the drawers.”

I’d then hang up and fill in the details for my eager colleagues.

Rocky’s days were always filled with mischief. He had a fondness for standard dog provisions—shoes, newspapers, magazines, tennis balls—pretty much anything he could find in the apartment. He even teethed on my lovely Bentwood rocker. I wondered and worried how he could eat the things he did and not get sick. He chewed up and evidently swallowed chunks of our dilapidated couch, including foam stuffing, fabric and wood. And one day he managed to dig out our wedding album and chomp on some of the photos, leaving visible bite marks.

In a way, I was surprised our downstairs neighbors never complained of noise, but I assumed they worked during the day, too. Then one morning I received the dreaded phone call. It was from my elderly apartment manager.

“Hello, Becky?” I immediately recognized her raspy smoker’s voice.

“Mildred! What’s wrong?”

“I think you better come home. There’s been a lot of racket going on in your apartment, and some people have complained.” She coughed and hacked for a while before continuing, “I walked over that way and heard it before I got to your building. Your dog was barking like crazy and it sounded like things were falling and breaking inside.”

“Oh, my gosh. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

I slammed the phone down, grabbed my purse and dashed out of the office. “I gotta go. Rocky’s in trouble!” I hollered to my co-workers.

I barely remember driving home or pulling into the apartment building’s parking lot. I was too preoccupied with images floating around in my mind. What could possibly have happened? I thought to myself. I ran into our building and dashed up the flight of stairs. It was absolutely quiet when I reached our door, which I hadn’t expected. I hesitated, and then silently slid my key into the lock and slowly turned it, afraid of what I would see.

As I swung open the door, I immediately saw Rocky sprawled on the floor, apparently exhausted from the morning’s events. Scattered all around him were pieces of my once-beautiful massive philodendron, missing so many leaves it resembled a vine. Most of the tiny nails, which served as a trellis in the wall, also were gone. I hope he didn’t eat them, too, I worried.

I quietly stepped inside the apartment and surveyed the damage. Tiptoeing between little mounds of dirt, stems and leaves, I knew my cherished plant would never be the same again. The situation was so terrible that it was actually funny, and I couldn’t help laughing. That’s when Rocky looked up at me with his tired, sad eyes. He didn’t even lift his head.

I’m sure he’s humiliated. I bent down and patted him. I then whispered soothing words. “Poor baby, Rocky. What happened here today? Did that bad old plant attack you?”

I smiled and he began to wag his tail, slapping it against the hardwood floor. That’s when he stood up and I noticed that dirt was also in his fur. It was in his ears. It was in his nostrils. He began to shake from head to tail and dirt flew in every direction. As he walked over to his water bowl, I bent down to dig through the layers of soil and found some nails. I was fairly certain he hadn’t actually swallowed any, but if he had, it wasn’t many and I was sure he’d be OK. We always said he had the stomach of a goat—nothing made that dog sick.

I should’ve expected something like this to happen. Often when Rocky loped past that plant, the sheer movement caused the leaves to flutter and wave. He seemed a bit skittish and occasionally growled at it.

It was only a matter of time until the two would battle. Pound for pound, that big lug outweighed his opponent by 50 pounds. But the philodendron had the secret element—the element of surprise. Poor Rocky never knew what hit him. I’d say he lost by a TKO, and there was plenty of evidence to prove it.

Dogs 250_RGBBecky Povich discovered she was a writer in 2001, at the extremely young age of 48 years old. She writes personal essays and is about to complete her memoir From Pig Tails to Chin Hairs: A Memoir & More. Becky blogs at http://www.BeckyPovich.blogspot.com and can be reached at writergal53@gmail.com.

Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Dogs,” in the chapter entitled “Unleashed!” The book features 57 terrific dog-approved tales written by their humans! Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/1dCBc7w) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/12dsCKY).

To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.