Rocky Balboa said, “Every champion was once a competitor who refused to give up.”
Rocky Rockette, director of the Lauderdale County Animal Control Shelter, refuses to give up fighting for and advocating for animals in Lauderdale County.
Rockette’s extraordinary commitment to the community and her animals was recognized by The Meridian Star who selected him as Citizen of the Year.
A graduate of West Lauderdale in 2000, Rockette has lived in Meridian most of his life, although he was born in Racine, Wisconsin. He began his career with the Meridian Police Department nearly fifteen years ago. After five years, he transferred to Animal Control.
“Within six months I was promoted to senior officer, then a few years later I was offered the position of director,” he recalls.
Rockette days start early and end late.
Even his free time is spent preparing for the next week at the shelter.
“I start each day with the intention of doing as much as possible,” he said. “However, my days are very unpredictable and rarely go as planned. Even my lunch hour is spent transporting animals to and from the vet or managing other animal control activities,” he explains.
A typical day at Lauderdale County Animal Control is filled with cleaning, feeding, administering medication, bathing, taking tours, walking the dogs, facilitating adoptions, photographing, and posting photos of pets. animals available on their Facebook page.
Additionally, Rockette must handle animal control complaints, transport animals to and from veterinary clinics, network with local veterinarians, northern rescue agencies, and communicate with the public – all while staying on budget.
“The days are long, but they are fulfilling.” said Rocket. “I believe we have an impact here. I want to work to make this entity sustainable. Eventually, I want to start a volunteer and hospitality program. One day, I hope we can offer an awareness program for sterilization and sterilization at low cost. »
The current shelter opened in Marion in June 2021. Prior to that, Lauderdale County and the City of Meridian shared a site on Cooper Avenue in Meridian. The new shelter, located on Rocky Lane (named after Rockette), means the county has its own space.
Marion Mayor Larry Gill says they are proud to have this addition to their small town.
“This facility is much needed, and Rocky is working hard to make it a place we can all be proud of,” he said. “His hard work is evident as soon as you enter the building.”
Gwen, his wife of 15 years, is a third grade teacher at Clarkdale. She helps write grant applications and press releases for the shelter. The Rockettes’ daughters, Halle, 11, and Carrington, “Carri”, 8, are also happy to step in by helping bath the animals, photographing them and walking the dogs.
Gwen Rockette thinks her husband is a good steward of what’s entrusted to him.
“Rocky lives by the belief that anything worth doing is worth doing well,” she said. “Our family is so proud of his efforts and positive, progressive outlook,” she says.
“My wife and kids have traveled miles out of town to transport animals for us,” Rockette said. “They are always ready to lend a hand no matter what needs to be done. Of course, we also depend on community support here.
“The support from the community encourages us to continue,” he added. “Knowing that the community is supporting us helps us deal with difficult situations. Financial support helps fund things that would not be possible with my normal budget. When I accepted this position, I made a commitment to do what I could to support these creatures who cannot support themselves.
“He wants the best”
Cynthia Sweet, founder of Sweet Paws Rescue in Massachusetts, is amazed at Rockette’s dedication. Sweet Paws partners with Lauderdale County Animal Shelter. Rockette coordinates shelter dog transports here to shelters up north that don’t have as many rescues.
“We’ve been rescuing animals in the Golden Triangle area for about 10 years,” she says. “I met Rocky three years ago, and it’s just a pleasure to work with him. In our profession, it is difficult to do a good job; he just does a good job. He wants the best. He is proud of everything he does. He cares and he kicks. His motivation and his heart make him a special human being.
“People need to be recognized when they go above and beyond. He is very deserving of these accolades,” she adds.
Neely Bryan, manager of the West Point/Clay County Animal Shelter, agrees. Her shelter is also a partner of Sweet Paws Rescue.
“He’s a shining star, a real game changer,” she says of Rockette. “He is just the one we need to represent our animals. He is tireless; he is relentless. His work ethic is second to none and I am new here at this shelter. He has been such an invaluable resource to me. His refuge has the reputation of being one of the cleanest. He comes here to teach us his techniques and methods. I am honored to have him as a mentor. »
Rockette West Lauderdale college football coach Stan McCain isn’t surprised at his former player’s persistence.
“Even then he had an iron will and mind; his attitude and outlook showed fierce determination,” he said. “I’m so proud of him. He’s like one of my own, and we still keep in touch even though I now live in Alabama. He’s most worthy of this honor, and I consider it an honor and a privilege to know him.
Joyce Wagner, a resident of the Center Hill community, enjoys supporting Rockette and the Shelter, helping with transportation, donating food, supplies, and monetary donations.
“I met him in my neighborhood years ago when he came out to help me save two dogs.” she remembers. “He went out after his normal working hours and took his personal time to collect the two dogs. He went above and beyond to help on his personal time. We have been friends ever since. He really cares about animal welfare. It made me happy to call him a friend.
Rockette says that while he’s honored to be named Citizen of the Year, he doesn’t do what he does for glory.
“I do it because it’s the right thing to do,” he says. “I do this because the animals in our community can’t speak for themselves, so I’m here to make sure they’re represented.”