The Guilt of a Failed Pet Adoption


This past summer, we decided to adopt a dog. We had been thinking about it for a while, but we sort of clumsily and quickly made the decision to add a new pet to our home. We were picky, in that we wanted a mild-mannered, older dog that would behave well with young children and not need tremendous amounts of house training.

Within a couple of days, we were smitten with a female dog who had clearly just weaned her pups.


Through an adoption agency, we were able to ask several questions about her before she came to our home. It was decided that if she were a good fit, she would stay. Otherwise, she would go back to her foster home.

The day came for us to meet and she was just as we had hoped – friendly, sweet, and easy to love. She was not overly energetic but still loved to play. Pretty quickly we decided to adopt her. She was extremely submissive and cautious. She jumped at any loud noise and cowered when we tried to get her through a door. It was clear she had been mistreated and no one had taught her to feel safe or how to be obedient.

At this time, we felt like we could create boundaries and train her so she knew what to expect in our home. She was a snuggle bear, so there we created a routine for her that included cuddling on the couch. She had trouble with eating, often waiting all day to eat her dry food. We accommodated her and tried different dog kibble. When she wanted to destroy toys and shoes, we replaced them with toys she could destroy (and she always did).

A few weeks after she had come to our home, she playfully bit my 4-year-old. She had no idea how to play because no one ever taught her, and we truly believe it was not malicious. Then, she started to chase and kill small animals. Often, she would escape our home and even killed some neighboring chickens. She never ever once hurt my 2-year-old but went on to hurt my 4-year-old two more times.

I am not a dog expert, but I did grow up around animals.

One thing I know is true is that an animal is an animal and there is always potential for them to retaliate. With the signs we were receiving, I didn’t feel like I could keep my children safe and my dog happy. I couldn’t crate or fence her all day. She was submissive, but my children were not old enough to redirect her.

We kept in close communication with the rescue agency and made the decision to rehome our dog. I felt a sense of guilt and relief. We cried when we had to part and talk about her very often. My kids miss her dearly. I am grateful she is in a better situation that allows her to learn and be trained in the way she needs.

Why am I writing this? I feel like there are often many people ready to shame for rehoming a pet. I understand irresponsible pet-owning is not something to condone, but we tried and at the end of the day, I could not live with myself if one of my children were seriously hurt by an animal that I allowed in our home. It was a learning opportunity for us, and we did give our dog a great place to live and be loved for the time we had her. For that, I am grateful.


  1. Emily, someone is always going to try to make you feel guilty over something. Usually, to make themselves feel better about their life choices.
    I didn’t breastfeed any of my kids.
    One of my kids is a high school drop out.
    I bought my dog from a breeder.
    And you know what? None of that changes that I am a good person, vote in every single election and volunteer a ga-jillion hours in the service of others.
    If someone wants to shame you that is a reflection of them and not you.


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