Rocky came into my life October 28, 2022, when I visited Timber Ridge Shepherds to see the facility and meet the owner / breeder. A sprawling 250 acre farm in Saco, Maine, Timber Ridge boasts kennels, a training facility, and barns for horses.

The owner took me to one of the puppy kennels and after talking to me for a few minutes, left me alone with the pups. I promptly sat down on the ground and a few of them came up to me. Talk about cute! I knew right then I would be taking one home.

Meeting Rocky for the first time

I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but decided I would stay quiet and let the dog choose me. The one with the brown collar nibbled on my shoes and crawled into my lap. His brother with the green collar did, too.

The breeder came back — had I made a choice? Going on intuition, I said, “The one with the brown collar.”

“Are you sure you want a male?” she asked. “They’re much harder to raise and he’s going to be a big boy.” “Oh yes!” I said. “I had two male Shelties; I’m fine with male dogs.” I think I missed her eye roll.

I brought Rocky home four days later — and my life hasn’t been the same since.

German Shepherd working line versus show dog

I had no clue when I got Rocky that I was getting a working line dog. Working line means the breed of dog has been bred to work — e.g.: herding, bomb sniffing, K9 law enforcement, or military working dog — versus bred to show.

Rocky also comes from two European working lines, Czech and German — which means lots of energy and drive! I was told later that he’s a “medium drive” dog and was socialized by the breeder to be a family dog.

Whether high drive or medium drive, the result was the same: constant energy and pure exhaustion. The first 20 months were brutal.

When I saw this meme, I laughed. Yep, it pretty much sums it up.

My entire schedule, calm life, and clean house went out the window as I quickly scrambled to work in potty training and regular training, lots of sweeping / vacuuming of dirt and dog hair, and dealing with the over-turned water bowl (at least once a day!). Not to mention the toilet paper all over the house and the chewed stuff. (We don’t talk about my 1960 vintage Danish bookcase.)

As he grew, I incorporated walks — we’re now up to 2.5 to 3 miles a day. Plus, play. Lots and lots of play.

The days were so full and so busy, I’d crash into bed at 8:00 PM — with Rocky still wanting to play. “Dude!” I’d say, “Play time all done. It’s quiet time now.” And I’d fall instantly asleep.

Rocky – 12 weeks

I will admit, I had moments where I’d panic, “OMG. What was I thinking?!” I wondered if I were too old for such an active dog, and if should I surrender him to the breeder. But we made it through.

As for being “too old,” I feel more fit and active than I did 10 years ago. I also lost 15 pounds!

Thankfully, the trainer I found helped me with several practical suggestions, such as, “Put him in the crate during calls!” We also started going to obedience classes, which helped a lot! Slowly, things became easier as we got into a routine.

At about 16 months, I told the trainer that I had spent a great deal of time simply getting to know Rocky.

“What have you learned?” she asked.

“That he has the best sense of humor, and he loves to play!” I replied. He was also teaching me something about myself that I needed to address in a big way.

Your Dog is Your Mirror by Kevin Behan

The late Behan was light years ahead of his time when he wrote his groundbreaking book about dogs and their relationship to us. Our dogs come into our lives, he said, to help us resolve unresolved emotion and trauma.

They’re here to teach us heart.

When I was growing up, work played a huge role in our family; we were working class and money was a constant source of worry, as were layoffs, lost jobs, etc. I was taught to work at a very young age.

At age 11, my mother said I needed to get a paper route to help pay for my clothes. Alameda, a small city in the San Francisco Bay Area, had a daily paper, The Alameda Times Star. The company had just started hiring girls.

Getting up at 5:00 AM Monday – Saturday to fold and deliver papers on my bicycle set up a lifetime of habits. (I’m still up at the crack of dawn each day.)

By age 14 I had my own babysitting service for over a half dozen families. I put myself through college working multiple jobs, from sailboat maintenance and sailmaking to cleaning houses and ironing clothes for people.

ca: 1983 – Doing boat maintenance, Oakland, CA
I made the shirt I’m wearing.

I’ve always worked, which is a good thing. But all these years, life has always been serious and fraught with anxiety, because work has always come first.

While in college, I’d put work ahead of studying. I worked nights and weekends while my son was growing up. I worked through or gave up vacations and days off to meet deadlines. I remember one summer I was so busy, I never once made it to the beach.

I know I’m not the only one who has done this, but I always felt guilt, and I’d beat myself up for giving in versus saying, “No, I can’t meet your deadline.” I was pretty miserable inside.

So, when Rocky upended my life, I encountered massive panic attacks. My hours were reduced. I was exhausted! And worse, what would people say if they knew I was *gasp* playing outside in the middle of the day? 😱

The struggle, the panic, and the guilt were real.

But, it was Behan’s book that changed my perspective: Rocky had come into my life to help me resolve several issues, including trusting myself and my intuition, and learning how to relax and play.

“Let’s play!”

How can I say no?

My day begins the minute Rocky jumps on the bed when the alarm goes off. Once I get out of bed, he twirls and jumps: “Yay! It’s a new day! It’s so nice to see you! Yay! Let’s go outside!”

I respond back, “It’s so nice to see you, too! Good morning, good morning!” More twirls and jumps. Yay!

Summer or winter, we head out to the backyard for a few minutes; I toss sticks and Rocky runs around exuding happiness. We come in for his breakfast, and play some more while I do my morning stretches.

It’s a very nice way to start the day!

Now that he’s older, our morning walk includes a play date several days a week with a neighbor Labrador. During our afternoon walk, the guys who live around the corner will sometimes run him around their yard or play Frisbee with him.

We did it — passed the Canine Good Citizen test!

Everyone loves Rocky and comments on how happy and friendly he is. Even the vet said, “This dog is so well-adjusted. He’s perfect. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”

When things get too serious or he senses I’m a little stressed, Rocky brings me a toy or stands at the slider with the look that says, “Come on! Let’s play!” And so, I do — even if I have a full list of things or my head is whirling with too many thoughts.

The reason I made him Director of Play for my company is because every two hours, he pokes his head in the office. “Break time! Time to play! Get off the computer!” he says. Hence, my day now includes regular breaks — and after 15 minutes of outdoor Rocky time, I feel so much better.

Whether I’m throwing sticks, sliding around in the snow, or hosing him down on a summer afternoon, I find myself laughing. My heart is open, carefree, and full of joy — because I’ve said yes to play.

I can’t imagine my life without him.

Rocky updates

I was posting Rocky updates to LinkedIn, but going forward, I’ll be adding an update whenever I post something to the “Our Work” section of this website. I’ll also backfill some of the more recent updates from LI.

Posts with Rocky news will have a “jump button” which will let you bypass the post and get straight to it. 😀

I hope you enjoy his updates. Thank you for reading my story.

Filed under: News