“How old is Rocky,” a friend asked of my black Labrador.

“Eight,” I replied.

“I suppose you’ll be getting a pup to replace him soon.”

I hadn’t been thinking anything of the sort. But it’s been swirling in my head since. Rocky’s a pet, much loved by my wife and our extended family. Great with grandkids. He’s also a working dog and we’re in the season now spending a few days each week on farms around Swindon. We come home muddy, exhausted and happy. After a hosing down he’s warmly dried, fed and is ready for a sleep. Rocky is my pal.

Loose talk about replacing him got to me. He probably has three years left as a working dog and maybe two years in retirement. If I get another Labrador, I’ll be hitting off ninety when it’s mature and could pull me off my feet. Now, I joke that I’ll do my last marathon when I’m a hundred – but even I need a dose of reality sometimes. We’re both getting on and it’s like a cold slap.

Rocky’s first owner wasn’t happy with him. He’d basic commands. I built on that with hands and whistle. But we had a problem. He was called Tom, the name of my wife’s first son who died young. We got two grandchildren involved and we renamed him Rocky. Here’s the story in my poem, “Rocket Tom.”

We got a black lab

ten months on

who came with a name,

named Tom.


But my wife had a son

who’d died at seven,

very much loved,

and he’s called Tom.


So we bent some rhyme

like Pom and Dom

to hear how they went

and even tried Bomb


in an Irish accent,

but they didn’t fool us

and wouldn’t fool Tom

so we called him Rocky.


First Published in Swindon Link

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