Toughest Little Dog in the West

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I have a little Maltese named Rocky. You may not know that he’s lucky to be alive.

Six years ago, Rocky was living the good life in Southern California after we found him at a shelter. He had his own little sofa near the front door where he would wait for me to come home from work every day. I know pink is for girls, but this was the only color they had and Rocky loved it.


Rocky doesn’t like being alone, so he’d come out to the pool to be near me, but didn’t have the sense to sit under the chaise longue. Eventually, he’d start panting and I’d have to take him inside.

rocky on chaise

One night I was working out on the elliptical and had the sliding doors open to the patio so Rocky and our Yorkshire terrier, Sophie, could come and go. Both dogs were afraid of the pool, so I thought they were safe.

All of a sudden I heard Sophie barking. I sensed something was wrong, because Rocky wasn’t joining in the chorus. (One thing this dog likes to do is bark.) I went outside and saw Sophie running back and forth to the pool equipment. She definitely wanted me to see something. I moved closer and froze. It was nearly dark outside, but I knew I was looking at a rattlesnake. I’d seen dead ones during walks in the canyon behind our house.

I immediately looked for Rocky and couldn’t find him. My son was upstairs, and I called to him to see if Rocky was there. He answered, “Yes, he’s here, but he’s not moving and looks kind of strange.” I ran upstairs and saw small drops of blood on Rocky’s nose. There was no doubt in my mind that he’d been bitten.

I called the vet and got a recording with the number of a veterinary hospital in the area. My son threw on shoes and soon we were racing down the freeway with Rocky bundled on my lap. Thank heaven my son was around, because I couldn’t have found the place by myself. I don’t remember a single street. All I could think of was that every second counts with a poisonous snake bite.

The people at the veterinary hospital were wonderful. I must have looked terrible, because they were extra-solicitous with me. They didn’t know that this dog of mine had to survive. That I was going through a very painful divorce and needed my constant companion to start the next chapter of my life. But they very gently prepared me for the worst.

I learned some things that night: snake venom contains anti-coagulant, so the victim can bleed to death; the venom also contains bacteria, for infection. The anti-venin can cause serious reactions. Rocky had to remain overnight in the hospital with an IV in his leg, but we weren’t allowed to stay. That was a really long night.

The next morning, I called as soon as the place opened and was told Rocky made it through the night, but there was no guarantee he would survive. I was still hopeful. He had to stay one more night and then I got to pick him up.

This is how Rocky looked when I brought him home:


A terrible photo taken off my cell phone before the technology got better. I think I didn’t take a decent photo because I didn’t want to remember Rocky like this. They shaved him within an inch of his life, except for his head and the part on his leg where the IV went in.

Here’s another shot that shows how the venom turned his body black and blue from nose to tail:


Rocky’s eyes looked like Coke bottles. He didn’t want to do anything but lie in my lap, all bundled up. My very-understanding boss gave me the day off so I could stay home with him. I’ll never forget that. And even though we were divorcing, my husband paid most of the hefty veterinary bill.

After a touch-and-go weekend, Rocky finally started to perk up. He began eating, and didn’t need to be in my lap all the time. Even though Rocky had lost most of his hair, he still looked pretty cute:

Rocky recovering

And although we lived in California, it still got cool at night, so Rocky would bundle himself up in a knitted throw that I had on the couch in the family room:


In a month or so, Rocky was just like new. He still has a scar on his nose, but it’s barely visible.

When we were leaving the hospital, someone came in with a very large Golden Retriever. They said he’d been bitten by a rattlesnake and I was amazed. This dog was walking around like nothing happened! Rocky had been nearly comatose.
Then a neighbor told me that he’d been bitten by a rattler. He said it felt like someone had put burning liquid in his veins. He was probably 5″10″ tall and 170 pounds. Rocky weights six and a half pounds.

I think you might agree that Rocky deserves the title of this post, even if only for one day. I’m just glad he survived.

Rocky closeup

Great weekend, everyone!


About pearlsandprose

Photography. With a little life thrown in.
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16 Responses to Toughest Little Dog in the West

  1. TBM says:

    Poor Rocky…what a horrible experience. I’m so happy that he is healthy once again. And he does look cute, hair or no hair.

  2. Oh, Rocky…I’m so glad he survived!

  3. Caroline says:

    I can feel what this must have been like, the sight of that little dog is heartbreaking. He must have had a huge will to survive and the best care in the world. Such a tiny doggy would normally not survive such poison. And the pain he must have been in. Maybe he felt that you needed him, I belive that could make an animal hang on.
    I love that photofof the little head peeping out of the quilt. It’s the one in the about page, I think.
    What a story.

  4. Jackie Cangro says:

    Oh, I had tears in my eyes thinking of how scared you must have been driving him to the vet’s office. It’s lucky that you saw the snake and knew right away what had happened.

    He is indeed the toughest little guy! And brave, too! I agree with Caroline that he had a big will to survive.

  5. Dounia says:

    Lovely post and I’m so glad Rocky made it through ok! He’s very cute indeed! šŸ™‚

  6. Kath Gordon says:

    He is a true sweetheart – I was crying as I read this. His guardian angel was looking out for him. Have a great weekend Carole – and Rocky too!

  7. Cheryl says:

    Determined little guy! Wonderful story, Carole. Have a lovely weekend.

  8. Lady Jennie says:

    Oh my, I was on pins and needles. I’m so so glad he made it.

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