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Portland Trail Blazers Week Preview & Predictions – 2/9

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


Hey all. Normally, I’d break down the week the Portland Trail Blazers had before delving into the games this week, but a tragedy happened to me last week that transcends sports, transcends life itself for me. It’s about my dog Rocket.

Rocket was bought by me a few years ago as a tiny puppy; she could fit in the cupped palms of my hands when we first got her. She was shy and timid, but the sweetest little dog once she got to know you. She was chubbier than your usual Beagle, but it added to her charm; we had to grow used to it, since no diet or exercise seemed to slim her down no more than marginally.

She came into my life during a difficult period for me. I felt adrift and lost in the seas of life, and I desperately needed a way back to shore. I needed to prove to myself that I still had value, for I was feeling pretty worthless at that time. Rocket provided me the kind of unconditional love and support (in the form of licks, grunting, sniffing, and cuddling) that I needed to move on from the issues that were plaguing me. Rocket helped me shake off the yoke of the darkness, and gave me my life back.

I’ve had many, many pets during my life. Name the animal, and we’ve probably had it in our house as a pet: dogs, cats, rabbits, iguanas, hamsters, fish, mice, turtles, birds. The term menangerie was invented with my family in mind.

Rocket was the fifth dog I’ve had during my life, and while the first four are dear to me for many reasons, Rocket was the first pet I’d ever bought myself, and was from the moment I met her as a tiny little thing tentatively padding across the grass towards me, my precious little dog. 

Those huge floppy ears, that beautiful black fur with a tan trim and those dainty white paws (“dog socks,” my father liked to call them), those big puppy eyes that would make you melt when she turned them on you, and the tail. I’ve never met a dog that could do the things with her tail that Rocket could do. She’d lie prone on the couch, presumably asleep, and as I would pass by on the way to somewhere else in the house, I’d hear a THUMP THUMP THUMP!        

That was Rocket thumping her tail into the couch, both wagging it because she heard and smelled me approach, and because she wanted me to play with her. Which I always did; I never missed a chance to at least scratch my dog, even if I really needed to use the bathroom. Even then, she’d follow me upstairs, camp outside the bathroom there, then jump up in pure joy when I left. She’d thunder down the stairs with me, leap up onto the couch, and start whipping that big ass tail everywhere until I rubbed and scratched her.

There are many things I will miss about my poor little dog…for my poor little dog is now gone.

Tuesday afternoon, Rocket started having seizures. I called my dad at work and told him to rush home, since I didn’t drive and our vet is several miles away. I carried her into the car, in a mingled state of panic and shock, as we went from one clinic to another. 

Our regular vet thought Rocket might be epiliptic, which is a treatable though lifelong condition. The pet hospital she referred us to in Clackamas, however, told us she had actually been poisoned.

How it happened, we rightly don’t know. My brother did put out some ant traps, but Rocket was too small to consume the entire thing, plastic and all. The dosage of ant poison wasn’t high enough to kill her outright, but she also has had breathing issues before. I also had laid out a few mouse poison bars on the ceiling of my room, in that crawlspace between the basement and kitchen floor.

Rocket couldn’t have gotten into that space (I’ve laid many traps up there for rats and mice before, and neither her nor my cats have ever gotten up there), but she might have gotten her paws on the dead mice; Dad told me he’d spotted her bringing one into the house.

Dogs typically don’t hunt rodents for food, but my poor Rocket was an exception in many ways, both good and bad.

However it happened, Rocket’s condition worsened by the hour. Her doctors couldn’t control the seizures she was having with drugs, and my family couldn’t afford the care she was getting for longer than a day. We paid for her treatment until the morning, and we said good night to our sweet little dog, and were sent home to hope.

We didn’t have long until the vet called me with a choice: put Rocket in a coma and respirator and hope she can recover enough to be alive and aware when her catatonia was lifted, or put her to sleep for good. I had no way to pay for the advanced treatment, and the doctor told me there wasn’t a good chance Rocket would recover, and a small chance she’d be the same dog she always was.

I told them to send my poor little dog to sleep. My family and I hugged each other and wept. We all loved her so much.

I’ve been a mess since Rocket’s passing, but the lessons she taught me will always endure. Like I said, she helped me get my life back. I wouldn’t have had the guts to quit my crappy job, and find a better situation, if it wasn’t for Rocket. I’d go so far as to say that if it weren’t for Rocket, I probably wouldn’t have started writing again.

She would always come running downstairs whenever she heard me typing. She’d trot underneath my chair, rubbing her chubby sides against my leg like the world’s noisiest housecat, and throw me a look that plainly said, “Why are you sitting there working instead of playing with me?”

Almost all my articles from the first one I wrote to the Preview last week were interrupted at some point by Rocket. That’s one of the thousands of things I’ll miss about her. I spent last Wednesday in a mingled state of depression and anxiety. I cleaned all of Rocket’s old things, her bowls of food and water, her blankets, her toys, and I put them away under the bureau in the hall. I washed all my bedding that Rocket had jumped on or lain on, and vacuumed my room, the basement, the living room, and swept the hard floors in the kitchen and hall.

That manic activity was interspersed with times where I’d blankly walk around the house crying continuously, and times where I’d play video games in a pitifully vain attempt to occupy my mind. I’ve had many difficult, lonely days, but last Tuesday and Wednesday will rank right up there with the worst, even if I live to be 100.

This is the first time I’ve ever been without a pet of any kind in my entire life, and to a man raised around animals, it’s extremely quiet and lonely in the house. We’ll have a dog again, definitely. Maybe when April or May roll around, and the world is renewed, and the trees and flowers are in bloom, and the weather is…the weather, maybe then you could see me walking around Southeast Portland with a new puppy in tow.

For now, we’ll mourn, and remember, and learn from any mistakes we made. What truly defines a person is not the mistakes they make, but how they react to them. I always learn from my mistakes.

Goodbye, Rocket. I will always miss you.

Wednesday, Feb. 10: vs. the Houston Rockets, 7:30 PM, KGW and ESPN

The Skinny: These are the last two games before the All-Star break starts, and each represent an opportunity for the Blazers to reclaim the eighth spot in the standings. They stand ninth right now, a game back of the Utah Jazz.

The Rockets they met on Saturday, and thoroughly dominated. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, have seen their fortunes be revived as they returned to playing their brand of basketball.

I don’t think either of these teams are a true threat in the West as currently constituted. The Grizzlies have seen time both pass them by and age some key contribuors; though both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will be effective for years to come, the rest of the team is aging out of effectiveness or are pieces of an ineffective puzzle. 

For Memphis, there will be some hard choices to make in the next few years. They have a good foundation with their point guard and center, but whether management can modernize by getting some shooters to complement their two-man game, I can’t say right now. All I know is that they’ve had great struggles, righted the ship, will be a very tough out in the playoffs again, and still won’t have the ability to truly contend in the NBA.

The Rockets, meanwhile, do have the talent, but not the mindset, as I described last week. If we could perhaps fuse Memphis’ incredible toughness with Houston’s incredible talent, we might have a suitable challenger to the once-in-a-generation team in Golden State. 

At least, a challenger that isn’t an academy of eternal basketball robots based in San Antonio.

Player to Watch: Damian Lillard. His All-Star snub this year can and should be used as motivation by him. If he can channel the disrespect he feels the voters showed him, and use it to help the Blazers make the playoffs, I’d be ready to call this season his finest work so far, and not just because of the huge per-game stats he’s putting up.

Predictions: Memphis beat the Blazers, then Portland beats Houston.

Last week, both the Blazers and I went 2-1.

Trail Blazers’ Record: 25-27

Jared’s Picks Record: 26-26

Bro Counter: 10

If you wish to express your sympathy, or make suggestions on what breed of dog I should get when I’m ready, or if you just want to chat, feel free to Direct Message me on Twitter, send a message via Facebook, or comment below.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


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