The grief from losing Rocky was overwhelming. I lost my appetite and school days just became a haze. My parents were worried about me; they didn't feel the same and just couldn't understand.
It had been almost 3 weeks since Rocky died, and though I felt like I was beginning to return to normal functioning the pain in my chest just wouldn't go away. The sight of his kennel or an old chew toy hiding in the lawn would bring fresh tears to my eyes.
I'm not sure why my father thought it was a good idea. Perhaps he was grieving more than I realised; perhaps he just he had no other ideas about how to cheer me up. Whatever the reason, it was a huge shock to arrive home from school one day to hear the sound of a dog barking in our backyard.
For a few seconds, before reason caught up with me, my heart leapt to see Rocky again. Then it crashed deeper into despair. What dog was at our house? Then my feelings turned to anger; Surely they hadn't tried to replace Rocky.
My father saw me coming and rushed out to meet me. He saw the expression on my face and tried to explain.
"Son, I know you miss Rocky, and I know he could never be replaced. I haven't got a replacement dog."
He could see I didn't believe him.
"We've reached the next stage in development at work. The Woof Dogs are great at hunting, but they scare people. We're trying to develop a more compassionate breed, and so as head of the project I've taken home a pup to train, hopefully she'll get used to interacting with humans out side of her hunting training."
And so that's how it started. The first step of the project into everyday life. Looking at the Woof puppy you wouldn't have thought it, but she was the first step into the new future. The puppy was already huge. Almost as big as Rocky was full grown and she was only just a year old. Dad had named her Smokey because of her grey fur that seemed to shift and shimmer in the light.
Strangely enough, I think Smokey did help me feel better about Rocky. Even if it was only because a puppy in the house was so much work that sometimes I just forgot to feel sad. She was so different to the other dogs I had seen when visiting my father's work that I forgot she was a genetically engineered experimental breed. She seemed like such a gentle and dog and I had doubts she would ever make a good hunter.
That was until I saw her in her Woof training for the first time.