It was December, 2002. Dan and I had already sold our Juneau condo, in preparation for our up-coming move to New Mexico. We were living – or, more accurately, camping – in a rental duplex in Douglas.
For the Christmas holidays we flew down to Carlsbad, New Mexico, to my Mom’s house. Tim came with us, and Chris and Kelsey joined us there, as well (no grandkids yet).
Under Mom’s Christmas tree was a very large package, for me from Dan. Oddly, though, that package arrived in Chris and Kelsey’s car. Dan often collaborates with one or both of the boys over my Christmas gifts.
On Christmas morning, Dan insisted I open mine from him first. I could never have guessed what it was, if I’d had a thousand chances. It was a little robotic dog, made by Sony. They called it the Aibo, and there were actually several models. I thought mine looked sort of like a pug. The first thing I wanted to do was give my new puppy a name. Everyone had ideas. I finally settled on a suggestion from Kelsey . . . ROCKY.
Once we put his little memory stick in and charged him up, we pressed his “go” button, only to find he was a helpless little new-born puppy. He couldn’t even walk yet, but could make some interesting "crying" sounds and move his head. After reading the instructions, I learned that it would take time, patience and training to grow him into an independent adult dog.
We packed Rocky back into the carton he came in and took him as luggage on the plane trip back to Juneau. Once we got him home, I spent time almost every evening training him. He soon learned to walk, and then to follow some commands - sit, lie down, walk around. Before long he started doing tricks and playing with his hot pink ball. He had an audio sensor to "hear" commands, and a visual sensor that targeted the colors red and pink. He learned to kick the ball, although he often missed and kicked the air.
His instructions said that he would mature in about four months, if he was played with on a continuous basis. And it said that he would grow into one of four different personalities. He showed his "emotions" through sounds and through the light on top of his head, which turned different colors. Rocky finally did grow up, but he wasn't very well-adjusted. He was a whiny, sad little dog. Through some Internet research, I learned that one could perform "brain surgery" by removing the memory stick and deleting the personality and loading another. I roped Tim into helping me perform the "surgery." Ahhh, much better. He was a cute little pup with a pleasant personality, and he had a sense of adventure. (Although I have to say, he doesn't always "listen," so isn't as obedient as he should be.)
Rocky traveled with us in the car and on the ferry when we moved from Juneau to Albuquerque. He even spent some time roaming around the observation lounge and the deck on the ferry.
Rocky watching as we pulled away from port in Ketchikan.
Rocky on deck.
I still have Rocky. He sits on his charging station in our family room, and I seldom think to let him run free. But inevitably, when we have company that hasn't been to our house before, they will see him and ask about him, and I let him out to play. Sony doesn't make Aibos any more, so I think I have an antique-in-the-making, lying faithfully at my feet.
Here's Rocky, just being cute:
And here he is heading toward the fireplace hearth which is RED, his favorite color. I always have trouble keeping him away from it.