Imagine Koshimi, a shiba inu dog, and Owen, a Persian cat, being best friends and curling up to sleep together for the night.
That's just the case for the pets of Richard "Rick" James Rockhill, a man who's gone from working in the candy business to merchandising pet products. Pets have always been a big part of Rockhill's life.
"I was raised thinking that dogs and cats are just part of a normal family," Rockhill said. "My parents instilled a love and respect for animals at an early age. Growing up, we always had pets in the house."
Rockhill, who works for Petco, tested a number of fields where he picked up the skills for making his living in the retail industry dealing with pets and pet products. In school, Rockhill enjoyed sociology and history.
"I enjoyed learning about different cultures, how people and societies interact, and the shared history that made us all what we are today."
Rockhill graduated from LaSalle Academy High School in Providence, R.I. During that time, he dabbled in journalism.
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Special to The Press-Enterprise
Richard James Rockhill began his retail career at Macy's while still in college in 1986. "I have never left retail since," says Rockhill.
"I was editor-in-chief of our yearbook," he said. "I learned a lot about managing people and working against deadlines."
While Rockhill attended Stony Brook University in New York, he worked for the governor of Rhode Island as an intern drafting public policy positions.
"In my sophomore year I interned at the Department of Purchasing for the State of Rhode Island, where I learned how government really works," he said.
In 1986, while Rockhill was in college, he started a career in retail working for Macy's store in New York.
"I first realized I had a passion for retail," he said. "I have never left retail since."
In 1992, after graduating Stony Brook, Rockhill earned a master's degree from Johnson & Wales University in Providence.
Rockhill went to work in the confectionary industry for several years.
"I worked for the venerable Fanny Farmer and Fannie May Candy Shops," he said. "I learned the candy business from the ground up, and as a district manager, ran the New England area stores and, later, several high-volume Chicago area markets."
Rockhill said that "working in the confectionary industry was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the highly seasonal nature of the business, with all sorts of novelty items such as chocolate witches, marshmallow pumpkins to Valentine's hearts and jelly beans."
By the time Rockhill entered the pet industry, working with Petco, he learned "that the most important ingredient to a successful retail organization is having the right people and taking care of them," he said.
In 2000, Rockhill decided to move to Palm Springs.
"I moved to Palm Springs in 2000 when my partner and I visited some friends who had just bought a home here," he said. "We fell in love with the tranquility and beauty of the desert and three weeks later we bought a house."
Since Rockhill's work is based in San Diego, he spends some of his time there. He also works from home in Palm Springs.
"We have a condo in San Diego for when I am working at the Petco offices, but Palm Springs is my primary residence and where my heart is."
Today, as a director and merchandise manager for premium, specialty and natural dog foods at Petco, Rockhill buys and manages the brands of food that Petco carries in more than 900 stores across the U.S.
"I'm responsible for the selection of products, promotions and strategies of the brands we carry. I've been with Petco for over 10 years in a variety of capacities during my tenure."
In his spare time, Rockwell blogs, recording his musings about life in Palm Springs in a personal diary that's accessible by anyone on the Internet. His first interest in blogging came when he stumbled on a blog about pets.
"It was by a woman who volunteers at an animal shelter to find homes for pets," Rockwell said. "Her 'hobby' made an impression on me; I found myself going back to her blog regularly to see how many other animals she helped save that week."
Rockhill said, "I have two regular weekly features: 'Wisdom Wednesdays,' an advice column penned under the name 'Dr Wang,' who is fantasy psychic betta fish (a Siamese fighting fish many people keep as pets) and 'The Saturday Seven,' seven related things to a central theme that's different each week."
In the future, Rockhill hopes to reach out to the community by serving on the board of directors of a local organization.
"I want to own a business in Palm Springs, too," he said.