The die was cast last February. Trapped in the clutches of a record-setting winter nightmare in the Boston area — with 110 inches of snow and frigid temperatures blanketing the region Hoth-like over five weeks beginning in late January — my wife Susan and I finally waved the white flag.
Bye-bye, Boston. California, here we come.
No one was more ecstatic over this drastic life change than our rescue dog Rocky, a 4-year-old Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix who was born and fostered in Tennessee and surely did not sign up for living inside a real-life snow globe.
I documented Rocky’s 2015 winter ordeal for Dogster last February, sharing with the world the art of the “PTP.” That stood for “Path to Poop” (or pee, depending on the occasion), and it’s what Susan and I spent many grueling hours in the backyard maintaining — shoveling poor Rocky as dignified (and dry) a bathroom area as Mother Nature would allow. By the end of our weekly run of blizzards, the PTP resembled an Olympic-sanctioned luge track.
Clearly, we needed to get the hell out of there and try our luck in sunny San Diego. We arrived last August, and neither dog nor human has looked back – except perhaps to giggle a little when Boston hit -9 degrees F. a couple weeks ago.
For Rocky, the coast-to-coast relocation has revealed many benefits. When his little paws flick furiously while he sleeps, we know for sure he’s California Dreamin’. Here are some of Rocky’s favorite things about becoming a West Coast pup:
As mentioned above, our little diva is finally free of his most undignified duty (or is that doodie?). Sure, everyone enjoys the forbidden thrill of making yellow snow. Rocky is certainly no different. But you know how much you dread affixing your fleshy part to that frigid porcelain seat on a cold winter morning? Now imagine doing that outside. Twice a day. Naked. With snow falling on you. Yeah, not fun.
Now, the only concern for Rocky is not accidentally twirling into position near a planted cactus. Yep, pretty much every day in San Diego, the sun shines on this dog’s … well, you know what I mean.
Like pretty much all dogs, Rocky likes nothing better than going for a nice, brisk walk in the neighborhood, or taking a trip to the local park. He loves going for walks so much, we can’t say the word “walk” in his presence unless we’re planning to take him for one.
But during the first four winters of his young life, Rocky’s walk opportunities were always at the mercy of the weather. And even on a clear January day, a walk was not complete without donning a coat or sweater. And as we’ll see below, ROCKY HATES SWEATERS! Too often, Rocky’s only outlet for a good walk not spoiled was to run around in the house or at his favorite daycare.
It’s a whole new ballgame in sunny San Diego. Not only does Rocky go for walks every single day, he often goes twice a day. Sometimes he prances around our apartment complex. Sometimes we take him to San Diego’s famous Balboa Park, where we can pick any number of trails, offering Rocky a wide variety of sniff stations (otherwise known as bushes) and opportunities to exercise his body and mind. A sleepy pup is a happy pup, and Rocky is definitely happy. Why is he so happy?
Rocky is a diva. Celine/Cher/Mariah-level. And Rocky has rules:
Susan and I will never forget the first time we tried to put booties on his feet. Because with all the rock salt the neighbors put down in icy conditions, these boots were made for walking. But as usual, Rocky walked all over us. Watching him jerk away each and every paw on each and every attempt was like a scene from a Charlie Chaplin silent movie.
But nothing makes Rocky more mopey and annoyed than having to put a coat or sweater over his head. And god forbid if the sweater has sleeves, he grabs our cellphones and calls Amnesty International. A couple summers ago, I had the audacity to put a raincoat on him (PRECIOUS FUR CANNOT GET WET!), so he would go into the yard to do his business. I somehow got the thing on him, but then he dug his claws into the floor and refused to leave his bed without a court order.
So far, since we arrived in California, the coldest day has been around 57 degrees F. Stand down, tough guy. No more sweaters for you. Even if his wool “Mom” sweater is super cute.
You know what’s great about living in California? Not only are dogs allowed to go into stores, it’s practically encouraged. If you tried to bring a dog into a Boston-area establishment, you were lucky if the business owner didn’t call the cops.
Out here, dogs are a common companion in a variety of shops, and not just pet stores. Rocky has made trips to the bank and even the bookstore. But his favorite spot is the local Starbucks. No, he does not sample the latte, but if he’s a good boy, he can charm his way into a cup of whipped cream.
Not only is snow a distant memory, since this is California, it rains only about once a month. And while the humans rue a debilitating drought, the little furry sunbather could not be happier. Give Rocky a sunny spot to lie in, and you have the world’s happiest dog. He craves heating his little black body so much, he doesn’t care where he has to lie in order to grab his rays.
Unfortunately, depending on your perspective, one of the sunniest spots in our apartment is on our third-floor balcony. Currently, a portion of that space is occupied by a large swath of Astroturf, which doubles as Rocky’s bathroom. That southwest-facing space, between about 1 and 3 p.m., is also the sunniest spot on the entire West Coast. So, naturally, despite repeated pees and poops, Rocky loves noting better than spreading out on the turf for his daily tan session.
Yeah, gross. And Rocky could not be happier. Saves him the trouble of looking for a place to get his stink on. Win-win!
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About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for MLB.com and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).