It was a really gnarly week for me on a personal level; on Tuesday, the love of my life passed away very unexpectedly. My immediate impulse is always to capture what I am feeling and write about it – but all day Tuesday and Wednesday I was a blubbery mess.
I am now at a kosher enough state with a LOVERLY view in a baller condo in Vegas and am able to get this out of my heart and onto digital paper.
(For those of you that are animals lovers I know you get it – but for the rest of you that might be missing that chip, which I totes get, animals are like family members. When one passes away, especially so unexpected – it’s a really big deal. Huge. A piece of my soul was in this dog, I kid you not. All dramatics aside, this dog was my baby.)
I present to you all the story of Rocky Balboa Friel. ::deep breath::
I need a song to go with this post …
Only one song I can think of, and even just typing it into YouTube just made me tear up. FUUCCKKK this is not easy. Breathe Friel, breathe. Focus on the breath.
The early 20s are not easy. I can look back now and appreciate them, but no one talks about just how hard things can be when you’re done with school, done with being a kid, yet treated like shit at every job (understandably so, you gotta pay your dues). It’s this weird time where you aren’t yet able to validate yourself with accomplishments yet you are no longer receiving validations from academics or family. You’re just … there … in this world … trying to stand up straight. (Some are obviously better at balancing themselves than others.)
I finished high school at 16, then moved to NYC, then after a few months in Florida (parental units had a condo I stayed in)– I packed up all of my belongings at 19 and with $300 to my name and an apartment I found on craigslist I drove across country for three days with my dad and officially moved to Los Angeles.
<tangent> It’s funny looking back it was an INCREDIBLY brave thing to do not knowing a single soul, nor having a job – or really anything … but being young and dumb can sometimes be a blessing. </tangent>
My first place was an apartment with a shared bedroom and three other housemates. There were ALWAYS people coming and going and crashing at our place since everyone in the apartment was in a relationship. After a few months I got myself settled in the city, got a job working in movie marketing, and after I won an entire apartment full of furniture on the Price is Right, I got myself a new townhouse in Culver City and really started to get settled.
My life was pretty structured with a 9-6 job, but I felt like something was missing in my life. There was this place in my heart that was reserved for animals (having grown up with them), and not having one after managing to get myself settled was killing me.
Wait that wasn’t dramatic enough …
IT WAS KILLLLLIIIINNNGGGGGGG MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
To make matters worse we were even allowed to bring dogs into the office, so I was surrounded by four legged bits of awesome on almost a regular basis.
I would cry on the phone to my mom – I’m so lonely out here. I’m happy and all, I love love love my job, but I miss having dogs.
She totally understood (being an animal lover herself – where the hell do you think I get it from?), and suggested looking at shelters to see if anything was available.
I wasn’t sure what kind of dog I wanted, but I knew it had to be small since our place wasn’t that big.
I would spend every waking moment I wasn’t working searching.
Shelter after shelter, hour after hour – nothing seemed to stick. I would stare at the faces, and while they were all so so so cute in their own right, nothing seemed to click.
I’ll know it when I see it, I kept saying. Don’t settle or get a dog just to get a dog.
More time passed, and I half put it out of my head. Yes my heart still longed for an animal – but nothing was clicking and none of the animals felt like they were “mine.”
I, of course, KNEW not to dare step foot in a shelter because with my big heart I’d be all shades of a mess having to decide between one or another.
I then became good friends with this chica, and her dad is a big studio muck. Didn’t change my opinion of her – but needless to say, she had some interesting friends.
We went out one night to a club, and around the time we were ready to leave she got a text from this guy that she was dating asking if we were free to hang out.
I was still pretty up and going since it was kinda early – so we decided to head over on the way home.
I have the Chronicles of Narnia, he said. Let’s watch!
And no … this isn’t code for anything, we very literally were going over to watch the Chronicles of Narnia.
We get to his place, which was ridiculously huge, and moments later I am greeted by a bunch of four legged friends.
I start petting one of his dogs, not even paying attention to the film.
How many do you have, I ask?
Oh, a lot. My mom loves animals. (He lives with his parents, so that explained the palatial pad. Got it!)
I also noticed all of these awards around the house. I don’t remember if they were Grammys, but I do know they were Golden Globes or something. I very genuinely cannot remember – but I KNNEEEWWWWWW his parents were famous, just had no idea who they were.
I then sat down in a chair in the living room deciding to finally watch the film.
Not two minutes into me sitting there, this other dog comes running out from one of the bedrooms and jumps on my lap.
I take one look at this dog and thought – OMG this is the cutest thing I have ever seen.
Without thinking, I pipe up and say to my friends friend, “if you ever think of getting rid of this dog will you let me know?”
Not exactly a normal thing to say to someone you just met when you’re in their house and one of their dogs jumps onto your lap – but no one said anything as they went back to watching the film.
I kept playing with the dog barely noticing their lack of reaction.
It. was. love. at. first. sight.
Hours later after the movie finally finished, I had to be dragged away from the dog to head home.
This is the coolest dog ever, I said. He’s so calm, so chill, and SUCH a cuddle bunny.
Thanks, my friends friend said with barely any tone.
A few days went by, and on the following Tuesday I got a call from my friend.
Remember that dog you fell in love with? Well, my friend’s mom rescues animals and she’s actually looking for a home for him and they wanted to know if you were serious about taking him in?
DONE!!! I screamed!
What do I have to do? Who do I have to talk to? I will take that dog in a HEARTBEAT!!!!!
Oh btw, before I head back over to the house – are your friends parents famous? What was with the awards?
Yeah, she replied. His dad is a Doobie Brother.
Okay, that makes sense. Just curious because I’ve never seen those things up close.
A few hours later I was back at the house getting interviewed. I went over my employment history, showed pictures of my apartment, and after a fairly extensive discussion – his mom deemed me to be a good fit, and the little goober came into my life!
He was rescued from a crack house, and abused pretty badly. He’s going to need a LOT of TLC.
That much I can DEFINITELY do! I said excited.
Does he have a name? I asked
Nope! We just call him dog.
Okay, so that’s the first thing that has to be done. I then grabbed the pup, put him in my beetle convertible and went to the neighborhood Petco to stock up on supplies.
Water dish. Check!
I easily dropped a couple hundred bucks getting him everything on that first trip.
I then brought him back to the apartment and showered him with love and affection.
I’ve never had my own dog before, but I PROMISE to give you the best life that I can. (OMMGGG I cannot stop crying writing this)
He stared at me scared.
I then placed his bed on the floor and invited him into it. (It was this little hut thing, he ADORED it.)
He would stick his head out periodically checking in on me, but kept mostly to himself.
Later that evening I went to go and take the garbage out and upon my return checked in on him.
You okay little dude? I said walking over to the hut.
I then looked in and couldn’t see him.
HMMMM where’d he go? I say calling Dog! Dog! Come here!
Minutes passed, as I frantically searched the house.
DOG DOG!! DOGGGG!!!
Mind you, this guy was 6 lbs after a day of binging. He was the size of a remote control, and VERY difficult to see.
I then realize that I had the door open to take the garbage downstairs, could he have slid out?
I RUNNNNNN downstairs and outside screaming DOG DOG DOG!!! Omg! I’m the worst mother ever, I thought. I haven’t had him for 24 hours and already he’s lost!!!
I go running back into the house to grab my phone and see if I can call my parents to ask what to do – and as I walk in the front door I see this …
He somehow managed to crawl up onto the couch and slide in between the pillows. He was so scared because I was yelling, that he barely stuck his head up.
I immediately start laughing kissing him.
You have me SO SCARED BUBBA!!! You can’t do that to me again.
He blinked, still staring blankly.
I ran into my room and snapped that photo thinking that one day this will tell a funny story. (oh how true)
The next day, I brought my new still unnamed dog into the office.
What are you going to name him? Everyone asked.
I have no idea, I said. It’ll come to me though.
I then got to work, and on that particular day was proofreading trailer scripts for the latest Rocky Balboa campaign.
Rocky Balboa – cliche, but he LOOKS like a Rocky Balboa.
<tangent> He also had the BIGGEST BALLS EVER. Like seriously, they were absurdly big and he almost required underwear.
6 lbs. That’s all this dog weighed. 4 of them were in his balls. Swear. To. God.
That’s it! He’s a Rocky Balboa. And not just a Rocky … but Rocky Balboa Friel.
That evening on my way home from work I got him a collar, and a tag made just incase he ever DID manage to make it out the door without me noticing.
I smiled knowing I had made a GREAT choice in not only the dog, but in the name – and continued bringing him into work with me almost every day.
<tangent> One of my supervisors at work is best friends with Jeanie Buss of the Lakers, and she would bring in her dog Princess Cujo ALLLLLLLL the time. Rocky and Princess Cujo TOTALLY hit it off and became inner office besties. Yes, I not only rescued my dog from a Doobie Brother, but his first best friend was Phil Jackson’s dog, Princess Cujo. </tangent>
He was the peanut butter to my jelly … my little cuddle bunny at night, and quickly he became a close confidant listening to hours and hours of my complaining about dating.
Dogs are the best listeners EVER!
A few weeks into having him however, I hit a personal low point. My boss had had a talk with me that day saying I seemed “out of it” and even inquired if I was taking drugs.
Me? Drugs? I said GENUINELY perplexed. Dude, I never even inhaled when I tried pot in high school.
I couldn’t believe I was being confronted when I GENUINELY busted my ass at that job, and loved it so much. I told him I was having a bit of personal problems still adjusting to LA, and having struggled with depression for all of my adult life I DEFINITELY had highs and lows but that it had nothing to do with alcohol or drugs. I was clean as a whistle and even offered to take a drug test.
Just get it together, he said. We all love you here and don’t like to see you like this.
I left his office a mess. I managed to keep it together long enough to go outside, but on the back steps I started sobbing. I didn’t even REMOTELY think I did anything wrong. I was hustling SO hard, working SO much, staying late doing WHATEVER was required of me but apparently it wasn’t enough.
A few hours later, I got ready to go home and as I was pulling out of the driveway to work, I managed to hit another car while literally JUSSSTTT pulling out of the lot going less than 5 mph.
FUCCKKKKKK I screamed as I immediately started crying banging my hands on the steering wheel.
FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!
We then exchanged information, and I managed to get home in one piece – but I couldn’t calm myself down. I’m such a failure, what am I doing with my life? I suck at my job, I suck at my life, no one likes me.
The hysteria continued for almost an hour before I went into the bathroom and pulled out a HUGE costco size bottle of tylenol PM.
The pain can go away, it can absolutely go away – I thought staring seductively at the bottle.
I can’t handle this depression, apparently I can’t even hide it anymore … IT’S ALL ENOUGH ENOUGH ENOUGH!!
I then took a handful of pills and swallowed them.
Crying hysterically as I did it, I kept swallowing and swallowing as much of the bottle as I could (which was actually pretty full. I still to this day genuinely don’t know how many I took.).
I kept crying and crying. I didn’t write a note, I didn’t say anything – I. just. wanted. the. pain. to. go. away.
I got down on my knees on the floor begging to god to just make it all go away as I started getting sleepy.
Moments later, I hear a jingle – it was Rocky.
I was so upset when I came home that I totally forgot to put him out, and he was now confused what was going on.
I stared into his eyes knowing he was in need, and having made a promise to take care of him I KNEW in my soul I had to get myself together – I couldn’t leave him.
I then started freaking out – OMG what to do.
Logical thought began to return as I snapped myself out of it thinking I have to get to the hospital. Fuck, I thought – I can’t afford a trip to the hospital. (I was a slight step above eating ramen, but DEFINITELY didn’t have the $500 co pay let alone what it would have cost to get an ambulance since I was in no shape to drive.)
I picked up the phone and called the guy I was dating at the time who happened to be a medic, and he walked me through pumping my stomach. It was surprisingly easy, and he stayed on the phone with me the entire night keeping me conscious.
You HAVE to go to the hospital Jen, he begged. (He was in the military and was on base so couldn’t come by.)
I can’t afford it, I said. Plus I don’t know how I could tell my parents what I did.
I wouldn’t give him the numbers to my friends, and my roommate was out of town, but for hours he just kept me conscious and made me keep talking.
I hugged Rocky the entire night. I won’t leave you, I said. I promised you a good life – I won’t leave you.
The next morning, I woke up the hottest mess I have ever been. I could actually feel my organs hurting. Again, I still genuinely don’t know how many pills I took or how many of them were actually able to be thrown up – but it was enough to THANK GOD not kill me.
(I’m so embarrassed even typing this out btw. It all sounds so ridiculous that a lecture from my boss and a stupid fender bender made me do something like that – but again, it was more of my issues with depression and childhood anger. The lecture and the accident were just the catalyst. I still actually have a scar from one of the times I was getting up to throw up and wound up being so disoriented I smacked my face on this bulletin board I had in my room.)
FUCCKKKK did my nose bleed.
I don’t remember if I told my parents right away at what I had done – but I did tell a few of my friends, highlighting the fact that Rocky had literally saved my life. Had he not come into my room and seen me on the floor, I don’t know if I would still be here.
Best. Dog. Ever.
A few more months passed (the medic and I had stopped dating at that point), and the same friend that introduced me to Rocky in the first place, also introduced me to her other friend who happened wound up becoming my first serious relationship (aka Noah).
A few months into us dating we decided to move in together, and Rocky who was already coming out of his shell after having been abused, fell in LOOVVEEEE with Noah.
Like LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!
Noah had another dog as well, so he not only had a total guy crush on Noah, but a built in best bud.
Months later however, Noah and I ended up breaking up – and Rocky was there to get me through it.
He was SUCH a good cuddler, and made me SOOO FRIGGEN HAPPY!!! Look at this face!!
As those with depression know, ANYTHING that makes you this happy is totally a keeper.
I managed to put the pieces of my heart back together with Rocky’s help – and we got quite used to our new life in our new apartment back in LA.
For the first time in my life I was living alone in a GORGEOUS studio, I had a new job in sales I had been working for almost a year at that point – things were looking up.
Then, that 4th of July my mom came out to visit me to make sure I was okay after the break up, and after we had a glass of champagne on our first night we woke up to cockroaches in our glasses.
My mother was COMPLETELY grossed out and begged me to get the landlord to spray if not for me, for Rocky.
Think of what he must be exposed to, she replied.
Fine fine fine – for Rocky, I will do it.
Well, as it turned out, the little bug problem wound up being a HUGE bug problem, and my entire apartment was condemned. Yep, I lost everything I owned in the massive cockroach infestation.
The board of health duderino told me that I was lucky to be alive. Because of the fecal matter left behind by these guys you can get EXTREMELY sick with respetory problems. Both Rocky and I had been coughing, but I genuinely just thought it was allergies.
Remember, it was because of Rocky though that I even could be convinced by my mom to spray the place. This dog literally saved my life … again.
Rocky and I then packed our stuff up, and by stuff I mean one single box …
And moved into a new place.
He was such a happy camper there. I lived in the same building as two of my best friends, so he had his aunts whom he ADORED so close, and one day while laying at by the pool even met a new best friend by the name of Duke.
I don’t know how he and I had gone through all of this and somehow managed to survive, but none of it mattered. We had each other!! We were peanut butter and jelly, Forest and Jenny … he was my dude and I was his mama.
Life was good for the 6 lb goober.
Later that year I started to work for one of the founders of Myspace latest project LiveVideo as a personality on the site, and OMMMMGGGGGGG did Rocky love being on camera.
Basically, I had a webshow live from my apartment a few times a week – and the SECOND Rocky knew I was live on camera he would LEAP onto my lap and fans of the show exploded.
Everyone. Loved. This. Dog.
If Facebook like pages had been around back then, I GUARANTEE you fans of the show would have created one for him.
He was such a little star – he just shined and love poured from his soul.
Flash forward a few more years, and LiveVideo folded – but lifecasting was still an EXTREME passion of mine. I didn’t exactly know how to run a website, but I knew how to NOT run one after my experience with LiveVideo.
Dudes, I had fans of the show in the military and they used to put my show on while they were overseas. I could see myself on this projector (as I could view other people’s cams as well). Totally made my life bringing a smile to so many faces while I just sat there in my stupid little apartment talking about the random shit that was going on in my life.
On November 3, 2009 I then decided to launch this website, which then lead me down a pretty gnarly path – and on May of 2010 I had a decision to make. I was about to really make a “go” of the site, and sink or swim myself into success. To do that however, I was going to have to live in my car. Not bad, I can deal with that, I thought – but what about Rocky? I can’t do that to him. He deserves better.
I then thought about it, staring into those big brown eyes of him crying.
I can’t lose you (omg I’m totally tearing up), but I have to do what is best for you – and right now that’s no longer with me. I had been working so much on the site, he was being COMPLETELY neglected – I couldn’t do that to him, but I also couldn’t deny what was in my soul … and that was this website.
I called my parents and asked if they could take him. They said ABSOLUTELY, and a few weeks later (en route to my grandmother’s funeral) I was on a flight with Rocky back east.
I stared at him inside his little Southwest bag knowing I was doing what was best – but I couldn’t stop crying. We had been through so much together, but being his mama was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. This dog was TRULY a saint, and the happiest little camper on the planet.
(Yep, more waterworks)
I then gave him to my parents which was the HARDEST thing I have ever had to do. They had a little dog Noelle, so he again had a built in best bud.
When I left to head back to LA, I could barely get through telling him goodbye without crying hysterically.
This isn’t good bye I said – it’s a smell ya later, buddy. I cradled him in my arms saying, being your mom means sometimes I have to make decisions that I don’t want to. I have to do what is best for you, always. I made you that promise when you were a puppy. I have to follow it through.
I then handed him over to my parents and cried the entire flight back. I had just lost my grandmother, now I had to give up my dog – I was CRAZY scared at what I was doing with the website. What the fuck do I know about running a website? How am I going to be able to figure all of this out? Rocky has been the only thing in my life that is a constant.
Later that week I wound up moving into my car, and you all know the rest of that story. I traveled for a year bartering social media to live, but kept Rocky in my heart every waking moment.
I’m doing this for you, I thought staring at a photo of him on my desktop.
I promised you a good life – but I have to make that promise to myself as well. I have to do this. I have to do this.
My parents and I were at odds during that time (as again, what parents would EVER be okay with bartering social media to live for a year completely falling off the grid), but they kept me updated on Rocky sending the occasional photo.
Every time I got something I sobbed. I missed him SO much, it was literally like a piece of my heart was missing.
I finally had to stop asking my parents to send me pictures. It hurts too much, I said. I know you guys don’t know what I’m doing with the website, and I don’t know if I even know what I’m doing – but I do know it feels right, and I have to trust that instinct.
I went home for Christmas that year, and was happier than a pig in shit being reunited with Rocky again. He was adjusting SO well to living with my parents, and my parents were equally THRILLED to have him as it is the closest thing they are going to get to having a grandchild anytime soon.
But alas, all good things must come to an end and after two weeks spent back home with my family I went back to LA and back to a life without Rocky.
Focus Friel. Focus – you’re building this so you can get stable enough to bring Rocky back home I thought as I continued to stare at his picture on my desk.
All of 2011 was amazing. I learned so much, grew so much as a person getting less “antsy” and more CRAZY FREAKING CONFIDENT that what I was doing with the site was cool and it would eventually be able to be a business.
In September my family and I were discussing Christmas plans again. I couldn’t BELIEVE it had been a year at that point since I had seen Rocky. Time literally flew by!
My brother had then requested because he had bought a new home that he host Christmas this year.
Fine, I thought. Still weird that my brother is actually a big enough kid to buy a house – but makes sense that he wants to host.
The only problem with him hosting however was that it meant I wasn’t going to get to see Rocky.
See, my parental units now live in Florida and my brother lives in DC. (He works at the Pentagon. Crazy awesome)
I have to see Rocky! I exclaim to my parents. I miss him so so much and this is the only time of the year I get to see him.