Our Gentle Giants

The story of two Floridians and their foster Great Danes

July 22nd, 2015

Rocco Has Passed On

By Tara
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Today, Rocco passed away peacefully on my lap.

Rocco came into rescue having a few health issues and they only got worse over the 6 weeks we had him. He had a history of seizures (and once seized in my car), a ton of growths in his liver, some fluid in his abdomen, heartworms, joint problems, and severe anxiety.

They did some blood tests and ultrasounds and the results didn’t look too great. Last week, when we were in Petsmart, I decided to weigh him over at Banfield. He weighed 15 pounds less than he did a couple of weeks before. I told the rescue about his dramatic weight loss and they scheduled a vet appointment for the following week (today).

I took Rocco to the vet (Christian was at work) and P from the rescue met me there. The purpose of this appointment was to do more blood work and another ultrasound to see how his liver was doing.

P and I were not there while they were doing the tests. The vet came out and said that when she had the probe on his abdomen, he writhed in pain and scooted away. We wondered if it was because of his anxiety (I wrote a little about it here). She said she’s seen many dogs and is quite sure this was pain.

At this point, she gently gave us her recommendation. The likelihood of his quality of life getting better was very small. When the vet left the room, P and I talked about it. There was no doubt between us that this was the right choice. It just sucked.

From here on out, I’m going to be pretty candid about what happened. One of the details is probably slightly grotesque, but I want to share it. If you don’t want to read the story, stay tuned next week for my thoughts on death you can read my thoughts about death here.

Honestly, Christian and I had a feeling that today would be his last day. In anticipation of this, I brought his blanket from home and left it in the car. After I got his blanket from the car, they took me into a room in the back. It was a small room with a small couch, an armchair, and a white shag rug in the middle. An assistant came in with some supplies and had a very sympathetic look on her face. She started setting down dog potty pads. I was crying at this point, but I managed to get “this is my first time” out. She explained to me what I might see:

  • his eyelids will likely not close because muscle function stops, obviously,
  • he may relieve himself (hence the reason for the potty pads),
  • he may seem to take a big breath, but that is just his lungs expelling air.
The night before.

The night before.

She said that they were sedating him at that moment. Then, they would walk him in and then overdose him with an anesthetic once he was with me.

After she put the pads down, she put a nice fleece blanket over them and left. Then another assistant brought Rocco in (alive and walking). They had just given him the sedative. His eyes lit up when he saw me. They asked if I wanted to be alone for a few minutes and I said, “yes”.

I sat on the ground and I encouraged him to sit. This was usually difficult for him, but he did it like the good boy he was. He laid down and put his head in my lap. I swear that I did not put him in any position so he would lay down like that. Like I said, it was difficult for him to sit, so I couldn’t really adjust him. That happened naturally, and it was beautiful.

He was looking around a lot but then he slowed down and rested his head fully on my lap. I was petting his neck when I went up to his face. Normally, he trembles a lot and his face twitches a lot (we think from anxiety). When I pet the side of his face, his eye didn’t twitch. That’s when I lost it.

Two assistants came in, one with a needle. All of the ladies I saw and spoke with were so sweet and so kind. They asked me if I was ready and I said, “yes”. They injected one of his back legs with the anesthetic and then once the needle was empty, they injected a little bit of air into his leg.

This whole time I was just stroking his face. After they were done, they waited a few moments and then listened to his heart. “He’s gone.”

They asked me if I wanted a few minutes and I said I did. It was so nice of them to ask for my wishes during this whole experience.

So, I sat there with Rocco’s head on my lap and just loved on him. Because of the sedative, I didn’t really notice the moment where he crossed from life into death. It hit me when I tried to get up. Lifting his shoulder up so I could get my leg out was fine, but it was eerie not feeling any muscle contractions. I laid his head gently on the ground.

I noticed his tongue was sticking out. I didn’t want to leave with him looking like that, so I lifted his tongue and put it in his mouth.

It was ice. cold.

You know what a piece of frozen meat feels like after it has sat out for a while to thaw? The outside feels thawed but the inside is still solid? That’s what his tongue felt like. For literally hours after that moment, I could still feel the coldness on my hand. I’m haunted by that moment.

Something sweet happened during all of this. While they were injecting him with the anesthetic, a beautiful cat walked in. Apparently, this cat lives at the hospital and is sort of the “office cat”. They said they like to think of her as a nurse. She jumped up on the couch and watched. After the assistants left, the cat stayed on the couch and watched us. When I was in the doorway about to leave, I turned and looked to see if the cat would follow me. Nope. She was on the couch, with her body facing Rocco, just looking up at me.

I know she probably wasn’t there to comfort me, but I like to think that she had my back and made sure my baby wasn’t alone, not even for a second.

I snapped a picture of my favorite kitty nurse:

Please excuse the blurriness; my hand was shaking.

Please excuse the blurriness; my hand was shaking.

I walked out of the room and one of the assistants came up and gave me a big hug. I asked that they take his pawprint and they did. I’m going to frame it and put it on my desk.

When I got home, I wasn’t crying. I was just kind of quiet. But I guess Roxie and Mia somewhat picked up on it, because they both immediately jumped up on the couch and curled up against my leg. It was unusual because:

  1. Roxie doesn’t sit on the couch when I have food with me (which I did)
  2. Mia doesn’t sit next to me unless I’m already petting her (which I wasn’t)
  3. Roxie and Mia don’t sit/lay that close to each other (not because they don’t like each other; they just don’t).

I don’t know if it was coincidence or what, but I choose to believe that they knew what had happened.


Rocco was technically our foster dog, but I refuse to think of him as having died as a foster. He died as one of our family pets.


I’m going to write my thoughts about his death and death in general and post them next week. Until then, give your babies a huge hug from Christian, Roxie, Mia and me.

Edit: Read my thoughts about death here.

  • Sara July 23, 2015 at 1:29 am

    Tara, your story reminded me of Hurt Paw when we had to put him down. I am so sorry to hear about Rocco. Your story was raw and made me tear up. I know your love of Great Dane’s is larger than life. I look forward to reading your next blog and the after thoughts. I remember having mixed emotions. One day, I was fine and the next day when he would lay across the chair where he waited and he just wasn’t there made me lose it. I wish you a happy recovery with all the positive things you got to experience. Hurt Paw was only an outside cat I fed and I was devastated. On the plus side, I cannot wait to see what is in store for you with your next foster. Your a great foster mom and Rocco knew what life was like to be part of a family and you gave him that. I have some pet followers on my blog, if you dont mind I would love to share your story on my blog. Just let me know.


    • Tara July 23, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Yeah, I feel a little bad that it was so raw, but talking about it helps. My day today felt a lot like yours. I woke up in the morning, perfectly fine. I did a little bit of work, then went to an appointment for two hours. Once I got out, I checked my Facebook and saw the words “Rocco passed away” and his happy picture and cried. I’ve been sad since.

      I can’t wait to see what’s next either. I’m not sure if we’ll foster one of the Danes from that puppy mill bust, but I like to think Rocco gave us signs that it was time so we could make room for another dog. :)

      You are more than welcome to share my story. Thank you, Sara.

  • Jill Wilder July 28, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this part of your journey with us. I’m so sad that Rocco has passed but without a doubt, I know he was loved and even more, HE knew he was loved. Love to you and Christian.

  • Lisa July 29, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    So very sorry Tara – ((hugs)).
    -Lisa (Zoomer’s mom)

    • Tara July 31, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      Thank you, Lisa. (Also, welcome! :) )

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  • Our Gentle Giants » Where Did He Go? July 23, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    […] Rocco died yesterday. I’ve never experienced the death of a person or pet I was very close to. I’m not religious (not even a little). I’ve always had “issues” with death, meaning I have always had a burning curiosity about death and a burning fear of my loved ones dying. […]

  • Our Gentle Giants » Welcome, Anastasia! July 31, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    […] I go on, I want to thank Rocco for showing us signs that he was ready to go. Our maximum capacity for fosters is 1 foster and if we didn’t have a vacancy, we […]

  • […] save him. After our experience with Bubba nearly being euthanized despite being a perfect dog and Rocco dying in foster care because he was old and sick, I couldn’t ignore this Mastiff mix. I knew he wasn’t going […]