Microchip, vet office staff help save Rocko's life

Adam's Advertising and Eclipse Printing donated this billboard to help find Rocko. Six months after he went missing, Rocko was found by Dorchester County Animal Control.

We see thousands of animals every year and each has a story. Unfortunately in our line of work, these stories most often center around a family's struggle with the serious illness of a pet. However, sometimes a pet will come to us for other reasons.

Rocko is one of these pets, and we wanted to share his story of hope, caring and kindness of others.

Rocko is a 2- to 3-year-old male pit bull terrier who first came to us in January 2011 when his owner came into our clinic looking for some help. He hesitantly explained that he was a homeless man and was having trouble affording care. He felt Rocko was shivering more than usual and he was very concerned.

One of the doctors agreed to look at Rocko to see if anything was wrong, but found him to be in perfect health, just a little cold from living outside.

The man described Rocko as his best friend and that they had no choice but to stay in a tent when it was cold because the local homeless shelters didn't allow dogs. He felt that Rocko staying outside alone was just not an option. Rocko was not only his friend, but his protector.

Their story touched all of the doctors and technicians at the hospital. Everyone started discussing how we could help this man and his best friend.

Having Rocko made it difficult to find work, so we offered to watch Rocko while he was at a job. Rocko started coming two to three times each week, and we all became attached to him.

We would buy Rocko food and toys. We also decided to vaccinate and microchip him just in case Rocko ever got lost. Another doctor even volunteered time on her day off to neuter Rocko. All of these treatments were donated by the clinic or drug company representatives.

One day in September, Rocko's owner came to the hospital without him. He explained that Rocko had vanished overnight.

He was unsure if he had been stolen or just wandered off. Being a pit bull terrier, our concern was that he would end up in the dog fighting world.

We all realized Rocko would not last long in that scenario and we went into action to try and find him.

The technicians scoured the local neighborhoods. Posters were made and put up throughout North Charleston. Adam's Advertising donated a space on a billboard beside Dorchester Road and Eclipse Printing created a sign for it. A reward was offered by the clinic for his return.

Days, weeks and months passed with no sign of Rocko. Occasionally, someone would call, but these were always false leads.

At first, his owner would come by to see if we had heard anything, but as time passed, he stopped coming by.

Then in February, six months after he had gone missing, the clinic received a call from the Frances R. Willis SPCA that Dorchester County Animal Control had picked up a dog matching Rocko's description. They had scanned him for a microchip and found one with our hospital's contact information.

He was a skinnier, bumped and bruised version of our Rocko, but it was him.

He stayed at the clinic for a week as he gradually regained strength and weight. Then he started going home with different technicians at night. We did not know how to contact his owner and it had been several months since he was last seen. So now Rocko is living with a foster family.

In today's world, when the news is filled with so much sadness, we sometimes forget there are still good people who will go out of their way to help a complete stranger. Stories like Rocko's help us all remember that even when hope seems lost, sometimes there is a happy ending.

It also reminds us just how important something as simple as a microchip can be in changing the outcome of a story and ultimately saving a dog's life.

Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to petdocs@postandcourier.com.