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The Wake-Up Call Show: A Heartbreaking Decision

Dearest One,

Over the weekend my family came to a heartbreaking decision. After nearly 6 months of welcoming our rescue Boxer, Rocky Blue, into our hearts and lives, we made the difficult decision to help him find a new home.

I will pause here for a moment to tell you that I have an Inner Mean Girl who is telling me that you will judge me and dislike me immensely for making this decision. I realize that this fear is a reflection of my own self-judgement and yet I feel it. I have shame, embarrassment and self-criticism that I’m still working through. I never thought in a million years that we would come to this decision, but alas here we are.

Rocky 2But my Inner Wisdom knows that we made the right decision for our family. And that any of you that are reading this will likely find a place of compassion for me and my family. And that no matter what, you always appreciate my authenticity and truth above any shiny sheen of perfection.So here I am delivering some truth telling through whatever shame spiral remains.

You see, Rocky Blue, was always a challenging dog. Not just the little things that we could live with (think slobber on all the couches or leaning into our guests’ legs without letting up), but the big things. Namely walking on leash and his intense stubbornness and defiance whenever we ordered him to do anything he simply didn’t want to do like go in his crate, go outside, go to his bed. He would chew up Bella’s dolls, go through the trash in the backyard and make himself at home on the couch when we weren’t looking.

The walks were the worst! It got to the point where I felt uncomfortable walking him with my big ole pregnant belly because he would pull and jump whenever another dog passed and my center of gravity is already off. And the hope that I would ever be able to hike or run in the hills with him off leash was becoming a clear NO. He was never going to be that dog. The most precious part of my days, hiking in the hills, became the most stressful.

rocky and bellaSo we invested in a high end 2 week training boot camp. Our last ditch effort to get him trained for safety before the baby comes in March. Unfortunately, the training ended up being too little, too late. The follow up regimen was all consuming, including the request that no affection be given to him for two weeks (try telling that to a 6 year old!) and that we leash him at all times in the house with a prong collar, showing him that we were in charge and the top dog. My husband, Rob, and I felt trapped and frustrated. Rocky Blue was depressed and becoming more defiant. We were at the end of our rope.

Feeling the clock ticking for the arrival of the new baby, we had a “come to Jesus” moment last week. Rob and I realized that it would be months of additional training to be able to even consider walking Rocky Blue with a stroller or our baby in a sling. And that there was a very good chance that once the baby came all the training and guidelines we needed to enforce would go out the window.

We realized that what Rocky Blue really needed was a family where he could be the center of attention for at least a few more months, if not permanently. A home where he could receive the firm hand he needs to get on track and become the dog he has the potential to become. So after shedding many tears, we called the rescue group and explained the situation. And we dropped Rocky Blue back off with them on Sunday. They compassionately took him back and we know he will be adopted very easily.
Rocky 1We feel relieved that the decision is done. We miss him. We love him. And we know the 6 months we spent with him will serve him and his next home well.

I bow to you and honor you, Rocky Blue. Thank you for showing us our limits. For reminding us of who we are and who we want to be. For being a teacher and ultimately bringing us closer together as a family, reminding us of our priorities, and allowing us to set boundaries.

Sometimes our Inner Wisdom compassionately guides us to make hard, heartbreaking decisions. Often times they are the most important decisions to follow through on. Whether giving the dog back, filing for divorce, or putting the drink down, we can tell in our bodies when the hard truth has been spoken. It feels grounded and right, even when we wish it didn’t. And following that inner knowing and guidance makes all the difference.

When was the last time you followed an Inner Wisdom hard truth? I’d love for you to share it with me here (below).

Thank you, in advance, for witnessing and for your compassion.

With great love,



  1. Veronica says:

    As an animal rescuer and welfare advocate I can tell you that you have done the right thing. It’s a relationship and if you weren’t happy neither was Rocky. Good for you that you made such a courageous choice for all parties involved. I just re-homed an 11 year old Yorkie who’d been passed around way too often. He has now found his forever home and is flourishing. His name was Rocky as well. You’re Rocky is young and in the right hands he will be trained appropriately and become a great dog for the right family. You gave him a good start in socialization…be proud of yourself and know that you just were not the best match. Veronica

  2. Melanie says:

    Hi Amy,
    I totally support your difficult decision. I have been there. We adopted a kitten once who, no matter what we did, found things to swallow – usually stringy things like bathing suit straps, , even bungee cords – and after 2 expensive emergency surgeries in less than 6 months, decided we could not afford a third. The vet opted to do the third surgery on his cost and we relinquished the cat to them to adopt out. Well, poor thing did not survive that third surgery. It was just too much for his body having three major abdominal surgeries so close together. I’m not kidding you, no matter how hard we tried to Calvin(that was the cat’s name)-proof our house, he found something to swallow. It was a very difficult decision to decide not to fund any more surgeries, (and my now ex-vet was an asshole about that we weren’t willing to keep paying), but Calvin was never going to stop his obsession with swallowing strings. Sorry – long story – but not all pets are going to work with every family and you so may the right choice. I know a family that is a better fit for Rocky Blue will come along. Please rest easy in your choice.

  3. Lara says:

    Right now I am making the easy choice to remove myself from your mailing list! How you have the audacity to make yourself sound like the hero for causing yet more disruption in this poor dogs life! You did not rescue him you will have just caused him more problems! 2 weeks training, do me a favour! No doubt you won’t let this comment through but I hope you never take on another pet! Pets are family bit disposable possessions, discarded to make way for new baby! I hope your story is a lesson to others not to take on a dog unless you are in it for the long hall! My prayers are with this poor dog and I hope he has somebody with ‘his’ best interests to help him through this confusing and distressing time.

    • Darla says:

      Your comment struck me a mean spirited until I realized it is more about you than it is about her. Peace and blessings to you…

    • Amy Ahlers says:


      I respect your decision Lara. And I understand your point of view.

      A couple of things:

      Please know that I do NOT think dogs are disposable…and am so grateful to have adopted Rocky Blue from a rescue group that wants their dogs to end up in the right home and totally understood our hard decision. That is why adopting from rescue groups works…they have a strict policy to return dogs to them.

      And just so you know I had a beloved rescue mutt, Dozer, for 8 years prior to Rocky Blue. He was the love of my life…and filled with issues as well (separation anxiety, pulling on leash, BUT was a dream off leash). And I had the space and time to work with him on those issues.

      I learned a lot from this situation. I thought 6 months would be enough time before the baby came, but it just wasn’t. We worked with him with a private trainer for months before sending him to boot camp. I am at peace with how hard we tried.

      So thank you for reflecting the part of me that is still in judgement of myself.

      Sending you love & blessings,

      • Dawn says:

        Thank you for posting this response. This was illuminating to me. In the past, I’ve been stymied by people who channel my inner mean girl. Thank you for showing me how to face them with humility, inner wisdom, and grace.

  4. teresa says:

    Okay just like rockyblue. I have a male friend who needs same amount of attention. He is kind I just didnt feel I have the time. I was just frustrated but who says the guy sends to many cards. I just have not spoken to him two weeks. I am more relaxed. I like living alone I dont want to be rescued. I just ralized I called to complain he did something wrong. Delivery cinfirmation post office diffucult concept. He told me call when he did something right. Awesome decision dog really just to much of time comnintment. Teresa

  5. Dede says:

    Amy, I’m sorry you are being judged for this. I would think the fact that you have a baby coming would make anyone realize this was the right thing to do. Many people wouldn’t last even six months so I believe you have done all you can do. Yes, pets are a big commitment but family comes first and you don’t need this kind of stress in your condition. I’m sure you never would have taken him on if you had any idea it would turn out this way. Peace and blessings.

  6. Darla says:

    My heart goes out to your family…what a hard decision! I believe that Rocky Blue’s Divinely selected family is waiting for him, and your time with him was your contribution, and necessary, to his future well being! Your journey was a blessing, in the gifts of learning you received by spending this time with him. I wish you peace as you move forward. (((HUGS)))

  7. Susan says:

    You made the right decision about Rocky. I’ve been very sad lately about a big blow-up I had with my mother, in which I objected for the first time about an abusive behaviour of hers to me, and she has not spoken to me since then. I’m in my mid 50s. She is nearly 80 and in not great health, and I miss the friendship I used to have with her, but I know it can never be the same now that I have stood up for myself and called her on her behaviour. I am resigned to the idea that she may never speak to me or forgive me, but I’d rather be truthful.

  8. joanne says:

    omg! that could be OUR story! last christmas, we adopted the sweetest 6 week old puppy for our grandson and our family. poppy was so cute, so sweet and doted on by all. she was a joy to train, even with the usual house- breaking accidents, she was a quick learner. but, gradually, we started to see a scarey change in her. she was no longer sweet. in fact, she had become quite mean, her puppy nipping becoming real nasty biting! we tried every training tip, took her to dog training classes…everything. finally after a few months, poppy snapped at my 5 year old grandson, nearly missing his “boy parts”. we came to the realization that we could not handle her and that she wasn’t the dog for us. we put an ad in the paper and only one person called. but she was the RIGHT person! we met her and found that she and poppy were just made for each other. so, even now, a year later, we still miss her and i still cry over what i saw as a failure. however, i do try to remind myself that at least we found her a good home. we adopted a two year old basset hound soon after poppy left, and fred is more our speed, more our PERFECT dog. happy endings all around 🙂

  9. Julia says:

    Much love to you and your family as you move forward. This was not an easy decision, but considering the circumstances it was the compassionate one for your family and Rocky Blue. Please be gentle with yourself and try not to stress too much about what people will think. The right dog for your family is on his way now. You’d deprive your new pet of a loving home if you had decided to tough it out with Rocky Blue. Sometimes things just don’t work out, despite everyone’s best intentions.

  10. Teresa says:

    Anyone who is a dog lover knows you did the right thing. It’s horrible to have to let him go, but it’s the best for everyone, including him. At times like this you just have to stop pushing the rock up the hill. Please don’t do the guilt thing, cos it never seems to achieve anything positive. You did your best for him, no one could ask for more. Sending you all love and blessings xx.

  11. Nadene says:

    My inner wisdom came out after dating a man for 4 months who was just seperated and his situation was not moving forward. My inner wisdom told me to not close off other options. So I did not and 3 months later I am keeping my optins open. And his situation has still not changed. Go me! Thank you Amy for your continued honesty and open forum for allowing us to express!

  12. Nancy says:

    You absolutely did the right thing. I have a Rocky-type dog. I cried for the first month we had him because he was so hard to deal with. Hyperactive, hyperreactive – I was afraid we would never be able to even pet him normally because he got uncontrollably excited. We really considered trying to rehome him – but because we found him on the street at age 3 months, there was no rescue to take him back to and we were afraid no one would take him.
    He is about to turn three. He is wonderful in the house. He loves everybody and has become a complete cuddle bug. He is learning agility. Does he still have issues? Yes. And he will never hike off-leash like my old dog that passed away. (His mindset is “see it-chase it”-we’re still working on that!)
    But he does walk on leash and he can hike on a long leash with me. He learned not to chase the chickens. He doesn’t destroy things. He doesn’t get on the furniture unless invited.
    But this took 3 years of intense training and he has a long way to go. Unlike you, I don’t have a little girl and one on the way. I had the time to work with him and to take him to many many many obedience classes.
    I found a wonderful trainer that understands my Whiskey’s unwanted tendencies and has lots of tricks to make it fun for him to do something we want him to do. And I learned that my dog’s crazy personality and sometimes wacky behavior is not my fault. I can only help him work on it.
    They say you get the dog you need, and Lord I wondered why in the world I needed this dog. Well, one reason is I have a tendency to want everything to be perfect and to control everything. Uh-huh. I truly think this dog could be a therapy dog but it will more years of work. I have to think in years with Whiskey, not weeks or months, but that’s ok.
    That is my lesson – maybe yours is that sometimes you have to step back and let someone else take over. The perfect dog for your family is out there and Rocky Blue is the perfect dog for someone else.
    Thank you for trying and thank you for making the difficult decision to let him go. No judging here girl!

  13. Linda says:

    Amy, thank you for sharing your experience – I am certain this was not an easy post to write or share. My heart aches for you and for Rocky Blue, but you made the right decision. I am a pet care professional and know that sometimes one of the greatest acts of love and compassion is to love pets so much, and know yourself well enough, that you choose not to have one. Having a pet in your life is rewarding beyond measure, but it’s also real, messy, occasionally inconvenient, and time-consuming. Having a dog is pretty much like having a child. You’ve got to be willing to fully commit to the experience and that experience will be, on average, a 12 to 15 year commitment. You made a difficult decision, that is in Rocky Blue’s best interest, that was not about you. He has good care now in a foster home and will find his right forever home; while he was a part of your family, you in essence, provided foster care and love.

    Cesar Millan recently posted to facebook: “To me dogs are not the students, not the ones that need training. To me a dog is a teacher of life, who teaches us the principles of the most important moral values; honesty, integrity, loyalty, trust, respect and love.” Having a dog in the family requires a learning experience for both the dog and the humans. When you decide you’d like to bring a dog into your family in the future – I say this from a place of kindness – expand your knowledge base (there are some great books, websites, and video available) and partner with a pet behavior professional who can offer non-aversion training, support, and guidance. For now, to honor and thank Rocky Blue, forgive yourself. With much love and good thoughts.

  14. Claire MacWilliams says:

    Amy, your story about Rocky really inspired me. It’s tough to work hard with a pet, become emotionally attached to it, and then realize at some point that it’s in the pet’s (and your) best interest to find it a different home.

    We love to hang on. We fear judgment and disapproval if we have to let go — even if it’s for the best. Sometimes forgiving ourselves is the hardest part.

    That Inner Wisdom has been telling me some hard truths that I need to act on. Last year, my abusive husband (during a screaming, raging meltdown that left me in tears for days) demanded a divorce (just a week before I received my MFA degree). I hadn’t wanted to acknowledge that he was, in fact, abusive. I’d been clinging to the relationship for years, trying my best to make it work, to somehow make it better. During the nasty, heartbreaking months of negotiating the decree, finding employment, and moving towards a far different life after graduation than the one I’d dreamed of, I had to… just let him go.

    He was never going to be a man with whom I could have a relationship based on equality, mutuality, or respect — let alone love. So, I filed for divorce in order to have some control over the process. It became final a couple of weeks ago.

    For months, I worked multiple jobs in hopes of getting a loan on our house so my children (from my previous marriage) and I could remain there. Then, while scrubbing the pitted, 40-year-old kitchen linoleum on my hands and knees last week (and still not managing to get it quite clean), I had one of those Inner Wisdom moments. Even if I could somehow qualify for a loan after less than six months of employment, this house (which needed a $^%*-ton of work) wasn’t what I needed going forward. I needed to let it go and find a rental better suited to my current situation.

    Yes, my abusive ex will run around telling everyone he was right about me (that I’m shiftless, irresponsible, bad with money, etc) and the fact that I couldn’t get a loan PROVES IT!!! He will gloat.

    I, meanwhile, am hunting for a good rental. Is it hard? Yes. We bought this early-1900s home almost a decade ago with dreams of restoring it (of course, that never happened). Do I need to let go of it? Yes. I’ll cry when I walk out the door for the last time, but I know it’s what needs to happen.

    Amy, thanks for sharing that experience — and, as a previous poster wrote, “You rock!”


  15. Jeri Glenn says:

    Amy, I have struggled with the same issue of what people would think. Know if your heart you did the right thing. When my husband and I were together, we had two golden retrievers. Jake was an old fella who always had a gleam in his eye and a smile on his face. We adopted him from a local pet rescue. Jessee his younger sister was a wild child who loved to steal socks and went crazy for her red kong ball. She also had a habit of leaving big puddles in the house. I brought her home as a puppy on my birthday the year I got her.

    When we divorced the dogs got split up. He kept Jake and I took Jessee. Jessee really was a wonderful dog. I really enjoyed having her and always did my best to stay on a regular schedule to keep her from urinating in my home. Unfortunately, I wasn’t always successful with my endeavor.

    Around her 3 year mark, Jessee developed a thyroid problem and which caused her to gain allot of weight. At about that time I had started working a part-time job, along with my full-time one, while in school working on my bachelors degree. I was strapped financially and really couldn’t afford her medicine and because of my work and school schedule I really didn’t have the time to give her the attention she needed.

    It was a difficult decision, but I contacted the organization we adopted Jake from and made arrangements to surrender Jessee. They are a wonderful organization and I knew they would be able to find Jessee a forever home. It didn’t take long with their search either. In fact the foster parent and two other families were interested in adopting her. All three had the means and the time to give her the attention she deserved.

    I never found out who ended up with her. They organization’s website posted a picture of her in her new home with her favorite ball hanging out of her mouth. She has been on her medication and had slimmed down to her ideal weight. I was told she had stopped urinating in the house too.

    So, although it was a difficult decision for me, I realize it was the best one I could have made at the time. You shouldn’t feel guilty at all because you made the best decision for you and your family at this time too.


  16. Trece Wyman says:

    I am so proud of you, Amy. Your family made the right choice for both Rocky and you all. I know it was hard, but I also know you know that he is better off, and you are safer. Sometimes we have to do hard things.

    My DD26 and her boyfriend got a Boxer puppy. He needs professional training, which they are planning for, but lack the funds just now. Sadly, because he is strong and yanks at the leash, he pulled, wrenching her back, and ultimately herniating/rupturing a disc. She is in my living room, staying over for awhile. Her boyfriend will bring the dog over for visitation, but they need to be apart while she gets healed.

    My personal cat (we have 6) has taken to pooping out of the litter box. It will be trial and error while we figure out what is going on. But I am 62, devoted to her, and able to invest the time/money/energy to see this thru.

  17. Julia says:

    Dearest Amy & Family, Good for you. That’s a tough decision to make, and incredibly courageous to be transparent and vulnerable in sharing it with your community. Some dogs are more challenging than others, and it’s wise to know your limits. What I admire is the responsible dog-ownership you displayed from training to letting-go, and the wise lesson you role-modeled for your daughter.

    My personal challenges involve letting go of a community of people who were really not my tribe; a boyfriend who I loved deeply but was not good to or for me; a couple close “friends” that felt it was more important to judge me than show compassion; and a career that I no longer have passion for. It has been a lonely year. Yet, I don’t believe it is God’s will for me to be unhappy in life and love. So here’s to tough decisions, the pain of transitions, and the life we’re meant to live. : )

  18. Shannon says:

    Good for you for putting your family first…that includes the dog.
    My parents had a Parsons Russell that after a few months started to be the grumpiest little thing. My mom recognized that the dog was just not happy and found another family for her. That dog blossomed into the sweetest, happiest, loveliest pal.
    You’ve done the right thing, girlfriend!

  19. Julie says:

    Hi Amy,

    Totally understand where you are coming from. Not every animal is suited to every family. I’ve had a trying time in the past 12 months with our dog, he is my daughter’s actually & she has been in Melbourne the past 3 years at Uni. I moved house last February & Lockie (the dog) did not take it very well, he’s turned 14 now so I guess set in his ways however has always been an outside dog who never whinged to come in but the last year has been very stressful for me with all his incessant barking at me. I had many a time when I thought I couldn’t go on with him anymore. But he seems to be calming down now & doesn’t bark at me so much, at least not in the middle of the night!!

    Much love to you and your family & hope your new baby arrives safe & well & easily.
    I’m expecting my 4th grandchild this year, my son & his wife will have 3 under 3 in July, they have 2 little boys now who are just adorable but totally full on. Hoping for another grand daughter, my daughter has a 7 month old daughter so I would technically have a pigeon pair x 2.

  20. Bard Judith says:

    First, absolutely support, not (never) judgement, and absolutely agreeing with the other folk who commented on your beautiful bravery in a) making the tough right choice and b) sharing it with us. I’m glad you had the option to rehome Rocky, and the courage to put your quality of life first, while still considering his.

    I love animals, and we’ve had cats since we were married almost 25 years ago. I just had a heartbreaking decision myself to make – I wouldn’t duplicate the lovingly-shared stories above, except the hurt is pretty fresh: we had our two lovely, healthy, loving cats put down the day before yesterday. (Warning – this was a trigger of tears for me to write, so don’t read on if you think you may be overly affected…)

    Why? Because my allergies were getting to the point where I couldn’t laugh/exercise/do housework without wheezing and my lungs seizing up, constant hives, itchy sores that wouldn’t heal, etc. and my allergy specialist let me know dust mites and cats were my two biggest issues. Here’s the hard part: we live in a country overseas where cats are not popular (in fact, many people here are afraid of them or superstitious about them), shelters are rare and privately owned, and after a year of worsening health problems and a month of trying to rehome them (one was already a rescue-from-the-streets animal, the other rehomed because a friend’s wife said it was the cat or her…) with a long vacation coming up and no one willing to even care for them while we were gone… We were out of options. Even our expatriate friends were advising us to ‘throw them out on the street’ or ‘let’em go wild’. I knew our affectionate L would be lonely and terrified, while our older cat C would never survive a day outside the home.

    Tears rolled down my cheeks for the entire two hours we were there at the veterinarian’s office. We held them while the needles went in, stroked their fur the whole time, felt the heart beat stop. We were given their bodies – took them home, respectfully shrouded – dug the grave just inside the forest that backs our university housing – filled it in with the frost-thick dirt.

    Then the purging of the apartment: the sweeping, the throwing out of the litter box, the food and water bowls…hard, hard on an already-aching heart. I showered when I was done, as if I wanted to wash away guilt with the dust and dander.

    (thank you all for listening, for sharing a little in my hurt; it helps.)

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