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Rescued from Katrina's wrath, Rocky is one good dog

Rocky is a handsome dog, with a broad face and chest, and the intelligent eyes and black-and-white coat he inherited from whichever one of his parents was a border collie.

And now, at least, he's a real, live model of good behavior, the dog that trainer Mary Peter picked to show her obedience class how to sit and heel.

"This is the perfect position, the eyes even with the seam of your pants,'' she said Tuesday morning, leading Rocky around her Spring Hill training center. "Beautiful.''

Which makes you puzzle all the more over Rocky's history, the most significant date of which is Aug. 29, 2005, exactly three years ago, when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and left thousands of abandoned pets roaming the devastated city.

Rocky was found bone thin, riddled with heartworms and filthy, said Joanne Schoch, executive director of the Humane Society of the Nature Coast.

"He was covered in mud and stickers from some little weed,'' she said. "He was terrified.''

Schoch brought Rocky and 51 other dogs from the city back to the humane society headquarters at Wiscon and Mobley roads southwest of Brooksville (phone 352-796-2711).

All of the other dogs have been adopted, while Rocky lingers in a 6-by-10-foot kennel enclosed in wire mesh. He seems to carry sadness around with him like a boy on the playground never picked for a team.

Yes, I know. It's not right to compare a dog's feelings to a human's, and focusing so much sympathy on one pet is just another example of our arbitrary treatment of animals.

Put aside Rocky's dramatic story and you realize he is luckier than the hundreds of dogs euthanized every year by county Animal Services, which in turn are luckier than millions of equally intelligent pigs who live their lives in brutally tight confines and whose flanks we've decided to eat rather than pet.

Schoch nodded in agreement before convincing me that Rocky's plight is worth spotlighting for just this reason. It's a lesson in pick-and-choose love.

"He's a representative of all the overlooked pets,'' she said.

In the weeks after Katrina, she said, "our office was flooded by hundreds and hundreds of calls.''

But when these potential adoptive owners arrived at the shelter, she said, they asked for cocker spaniels, golden retrievers and other pure-bred dogs.

"They didn't want to rescue an animal in need; they wanted to cherry pick,'' she said. "I think that's a sad commentary on human beings."

Rocky, of course, is a mutt, which is one reason he was left behind. Also, though calmer than he once was, Rocky's time on the street left him wary and defensive, especially around his food bowl. Schoch doesn't recommend him for homes with other pets or small children.

He would do better in a tranquil household, with a firm owner, she said. Whoever adopts him will, for a $75 fee, receive a dog that has been neutered, vaccinated, treated for heartworm and is on his way to graduating from a $150 obedience class donated by Peter's business, Stillwater Dog Training.

The new owner will also get, Peter said as she praised Rocky after a flawless tour around her class, "such a good dog. Such a good, good dog.''

Rescued from Katrina's wrath, Rocky is one good dog 08/28/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 30, 2008 2:41pm]
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