A yellow lab named Rocky is being hailed as a hero for leading his owner to safety after he suffered heart problems while hiking in a remote California canyon.
The Lassen County Animal Shelter recently took in an abused dog after spending days trying to catch him. Rocky had been hanging around the shelter, but the timid stray would not let anyone approach him. When he was finally captured, shelter staff found that he was riddled with buckshot. Someone had shot Rocky and left him for dead.
Scarred by the experience, the frightened dog was not a good candidate for adoption, so as a last resort, the shelter enrolled him in a remarkable program that pairs prison inmates with homeless dogs to help both build confidence. Rocky’s participation in Pups on Parole program was life changing: the timid dog came to the program frightened and unsure of himself, and emerged confident and relaxed.
Humane Society employee Mary Morphis said Rocky would have been euthanized were it not for his rehabilitation. “He wouldn’t have made it out of that shelter if it he hadn’t been in that program,” she said.
The next challenge was finding a home for Rocky. By chance, a prison employee heard his story and decided he would be the ideal companion for her husband, Floyd.
Dawn Tibbets said her husband Floyd could use the company on his frequent rock hunting trips in area canyons, but in truth, she fell for Rocky herself.
“I looked at him and he looked at me and he just looked like he wanted to go home with me that day,” remembers Dawn, “and I just couldn’t leave him.”
So she didn’t. Rocky was adopted and settled into his new home perfectly. A month after he was adopted, he and Floyd were in a remote canyon hunting for rocks when Floyd suffered heart problems. An irregular heart beat caused him to collapse and become disoriented.
“I looked like I had been in a cat fight,” says Floyd. “Lost my glasses. Of course, I lost my hat, so I had no protection from the sun.”
Tibbets stumbled to his feet and fell, coming to and passing out repeatedly. Every time he lost consciousness, Rocky stayed by his side and licked his hand until he woke.
“That would wake me up and if it didn’t, he’d just lay down beside me,” said Floyd.
Frightened and confused, Floyd said he tried to find his way back to the car, but ended up heading in the wrong direction. Rocky somehow sensed this, and insisted that Floyd follow him in the opposite direction.
“The only time he wandered off was when I started going the wrong way. He started going the other way and finally I gave in to him.”
Rocky carefully guided Floyd back to their car after a long, harrowing day in the wilderness. The once frightened dog, relieved from a life if suffering, had proven himself a hero to the family who saved him. Dawn Tibbets said adopting Rocky was one of the best decisions she’s ever made, and that her husband owes his life to the faithful canine.
“I don’t think we would have found him in time,” she said. “I don’t think he would have made it.