Bock:  The Twenty-Pound Dog with the Thousand-Pound Legacy

On Monday, I lost one of the loves of my life, my 15-year-old Sheltie, Bock. We had been preparing for his loss for so very long it seemed. Heart failure plagued his last few years. In the end, however, aggressive cancer stole him from us.

When a loved one passes, many of us reflect on the journey we’ve traveled with them, and Bock’s passing was no exception. What impact did this 20 pounder have on my life? What lessons did he teach me?

I’ve often thought that my Sheltie, Shadow, made me the trainer I am today. Throughout the 1990’s, Shadow taught me patience and creativity in training, but more importantly, Shadow opened my eyes to the possibilities of positive reinforcement training. Because of her, I hung up my chokes and prongs forever, learning to really listen to the wonderful things dogs have to say.

But what about Bock? Bock was a different matter—or so I thought. I never formally trained Bock. He and I never purposely went out for a training session. He always seemed to just know what to do in every situation. The lack of formal training sessions didn’t mean we didn’t learn from each other.

Bock came to me as an adult rescue dog from an animal shelter. Whether he was actually abused or just poorly socialized, the end result was the same: Bock lived under my bed 23 hours out of every day for two years. He came out only for quick potty breaks, or to eat his meal after we had gone to bed. I often tried to coax him out of his hiding place. Eventually, he would come out carrying a toy, play with me for a short while, and then return to his den, taking the toy with him, of course.

The birth of my daughter changed life for all of us, including Bock. I no longer had the time to coax and cajole a silly Sheltie from under the bed. Bock was forced to seek my attention if he wanted any at all. One day, Bock came out of his self-imposed exile and met the love of his life, my daughter. No longer content under the bed, he chose a life on the bed, licking her baby feet at every opportunity. He was always with her, his lair beneath the bed forgotten.

The little dog who I constantly worried could be a fear biter with children found his purpose—taking care of his family. Bock loved and supported us through 5 cross country moves, the birth of my son (yet another love of his life), 3 six-month military deployments for my husband, my husband’s cancer, the loss of Shadow, and all of the “small” stuff in between.

What did I learn from this wonderful, brave little dog? I learned that training doesn’t always mean grabbing the shoes and leash, heading out to practice straight sits and down-stays through endless distractions. Bock learned all he needed to know because we worked so hard just to communicate with each other.

Most importantly, though, I learned that anyone could overcome his or her past—dogs included. Because of Bock, I won’t give up on those seemingly lost rescue dogs. I will always give of my time to ensure that the Bocks of the world have a chance to love a family for 14 wonderful years just like Bock did. My little “untrained,” 20-pound rescue dog has left behind a 1000-pound legacy. 

Job well done, Bock. Thank you.