Rocky: A Four-Legged Friend and Then Some
By Nicole Pajer
In Season 5 of "Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan", Cesar visited the Venice Beach Freakshow to help Todd Ray and his wife Danielle work with their dog on his aggression issues. Rocky, the couple's miniature pinscher, was born with five legs.
His abnormality not only piqued the interest of Todd — who has collected an array of two-headed animals and other oddities to incorporate into his show — but also made him popular with the Freakshow's many customers. Rocky, however, had lived the first year of his life caged up in the pound and was uneasy around strangers. This led Todd and his wife to summon the help of Cesar.
We caught up with Todd to see how life with Rocky has been since Cesar last visited. Todd told us that when Cesar arrived, the family noticed an immediate change in Rocky. He calls Rocky the best dog he's ever had and stresses the importance of people not overlooking animals with disabilities or differences, as they have the potential to make wonderful pets.
Where did you get Rocky?
We got Rocky from Mississippi. He was down there and my mother had contacted me because she had heard that he was in a dog pound and needed a home. We went down there and rescued him and we brought him back. It seemed like he had been caged up for a bit. He was pretty wild at first.
What issues did Cesar work with him on?
He would try to bite customers, which obviously is not a good thing. Once in a while he would get the wrong feeling from somebody and try to bite them. And then he had a thing with skateboarders, which is not a good thing in Venice. Every skateboard that went by — he was after them. He'd start barking and growling. So those were really the two main things.
What were the techniques that Cesar taught you?
It seemed like the main thing he felt was that Danielle, my wife, was being kind of over-protective and holding Rocky in that way. He sensed that Rocky was reading Danielle's body language that something must be wrong because she'd be holding him protectively like something was about to happen or something was wrong. It was almost like Danielle was projecting that there was a problem. He was trying to help Danielle understand that and just be more relaxed.
We also tried some other things, like letting people give him snacks and things like that so he got used to people and understood that random people that would come in were safe. And then Danielle worked on trying not to be so protective. What's crazy is that from the day Cesar showed up, Rocky changed and then we kept working with him. Once in a while he'll still bark at a skateboarder but other than that it's worked.
So he's doing well with customers at the show now?
Oh yeah he's great. He's perfect. He's a sweetheart now. Everyone thinks he's the cutest dog alive. Everybody wants to pet him. He's probably the biggest star of the show.
How old was he when you got him?
I think he was about a year-and-a-half old and so he's probably five-and-a-half or six (years old) now.
Did you have any information on why he was in the pound?
No. We just assumed that it had to do with the fact that he had an extra leg.
How does his extra leg affect him?
He has no handicap. He gets around great. As a matter of fact, I can't believe how well he gets along sometimes. It doesn't hinder him at all and it makes him unique. Obviously in our show, he gets a lot of special attention because of it and he loves it.
It's weird that it's a benefit for him in a way. The one thing that I want to emphasize to people too is the reason I think he wasn't getting adopted was because he was different and I think a lot of people — when they go to the pound and they are trying to pick a dog out — often pass over a dog like him because he's different.
He's been literally the best dog we've ever had. He's the greatest dog, the sweetest dog. He's so loving. He's so good and his extra leg has never been a problem for us and it's never been a problem for him. If people are thinking of adopting an animal and see that they are different, they shouldn't judge them. You may be surprised at how special an animal that is born different can be.
How would you describe Rocky's extra leg? Is it growing out of another limb?
His front left leg is kind of like two legs fused together just below the elbow. One is going out and one is going straight.
How do you incorporate him into the show?
He pretty much hangs out with Danielle and he's on the banners outside. He's one of the attractions of the show and then when people come in, they see the live show and they see other amazing animals like the two-headed turtles and the two-headed snakes and the two-headed lizards and the iguana with two tails. They see all these amazing animals — many of them that you would have never even imagined existed. And then they get to meet Rocky — the five-legged dog. They get to pet him. Everyone loves him when they see him.
Do you have other dogs at home?
We have six dogs. We have all kinds. We actually have another five-legged dog. We don't bring the other one to the show but his name is Fluffy. And actually a fan of Cesar's saw the show — see's in Florida and contacted me and said, "I have had a litter of puppies born and one of them has five legs. I saw the Cesar show with Rocky on it and I immediately thought of you." It was the same scenario. All the other puppies had been picked out of the litter and she had found a home for them except for the five-legged puppy. He's a Bichonpoo, a real cute little curly haired guy. We arranged to go down to Florida and pick him up and we flew him back and he's been a part of our family ever since. It came about because of Cesar's show.
Do Rocky and Fluffy get along?
Oh yeah. They get along great. And Fluffy is just the same as Rocky. His extra leg has never gotten in his way.