What’s In A Name?

His name was Isaac Joseph. I’ve always assumed that was the name given to him by the rescue group that saved him. I have no clue what his original name was. Or if he even had an original name.

Isaac, Ike or Joey would have worked just fine. But I wanted him to have a completely fresh start. And a completely fresh start involved a completely fresh name. So I went with Rocky.

I’m a proud University of Tennessee alum. People naturally assumed my alma mater inspired his new name. And I used to say: “Top is his middle name.”

But, truth be told, my school’s unofficial fight song wasn’t the only inspiration. It was obvious this dog was a fighter.

In the summer of 2009, Rocky was found wandering along the side of a highway. He weighed 20 pounds, was filthy dirty and his matted fur was covered in burrs. He was picked up and taken to a shelter. There, he tested heart worm positive.

Sick dogs don’t get adopted. And shelters have neither the time nor money for those kind of dogs. His only crime was daring to survive, and yet he was placed on doggie death row.

He was two days from his end when he was discovered by the rescue group. He was out of the shelter, but his fight was far from over.

He broke my heart, then his was fixed. And we became inseparable. His first night home, I remember looking into his sorrowful eyes to speak to him.

“I don’t know where you’ve been or what you’ve been through, but I know you’ve had it pretty rough. But those days are over. You’re with me now, and I’m going to take care of you. I promise.”

Little did I know his toughest fight was still yet to come.

Most people send cards or candy to loved ones on Valentine’s Day. I had one of my dog’s front legs removed due to Osteosarcoma. The day after the surgery, as I walked Rocky through the emergency room lobby, a man surveyed my dog’s new form.

“Oh my God! What happened to him!?!”


“Is he going to be all right?”

“Yeah. It got his leg, but that’s all it’s going to get.”

I was wrong. Six months and multiple chemo treatments later, cancer took one of Rocky’s back legs. There’s a reason there’s a Tripawds but no Bipawds site. I had to throw in the towel and stop the fight.

In the nearly two weeks since I said goodbye to the best friend I’ll ever have, I’ve had several people tell me it’s a shame he lost his fight with cancer. But he didn’t lose. The cancer may have taken his body. But his personality was never broken. His will was never broken. His spirit was never broken.

Rocky’s at the Bridge now. Romping on all fours with a yucky green tennis ball in his mouth. That’s not losing. That’s winning. Because fighters win. Champions win.

From now on, I’m going to say Balboa is his middle name.


Author: Rocky's dad

Rocky became a tripawd on Valentine's Day 2017 after being diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his right front shoulder.

12 thoughts on “What’s In A Name?”

  1. God Bless Rocky Balboa! Enjoy that beautiful slimy tennis ball! 🎾
    Sloppy kisses from StewieπŸ‘…πŸΎ
    & all the very best from his adoring pack,
    Petra, Paul, & his feline siblings, Mr. Spike, Chester Molester & Miss Lily 🐾🐾🐾❀️

  2. You damn right Rocky didn’t lose to that piece of crap!! It coukdnw toich is Spirit! It couldn’t invaxe his Soul and it sure couldn’t make Rocky stop being Rocky!! Rocky stayted strong and courageous and brave and showed usnall what Champions look like!!

    And your precious Rocky Balboa never gave in and overcame every single hurdle thrown his way! You gave Rocky more love and more care snd more fun and more joy thsn he ever experienced before! He didn’t care what “challenges” awaited him because he knew he always had you by his side.

    Nope, “Rocky Top” just doesn’t pay tribute to this dog the way ROCKY BALBOA DOES!!

    And that picture of Rocky is just so darn sweet! As tough a fighter as he is, his gentleness always comes shining through And yeah, those soulful brown eyes melt my heart everytime.

    This blog just leaves us wanting more, so please share some more about Rocky when you can….and always with pictures! We MUST have pictures!

    It is such a privilege to know CHAMPION ROCKY BALBOA!!! πŸ™‚

    Lots of love
    Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

  3. Oh, I’m so very sorry for your loss.
    Fly High Sweet Rocky, All the way to Rocky Top and Beyond! There are plenty of green slimy balls for you to chase at the Bridge πŸ™‚

  4. Wow! your journey. OMG. How special — I”m really at a loss for words. First of all, I’m so sorry this happened. Not that losing one leg wasn’t enough but dear God. I know Rocky Balboa is running on all fours with his favorite slimy tennis ball. He found his person. You know what…..he’s gonna send you signs if he hasn’t already. Special boy, special bond — that can never be taken away. WINNERS!!!

    Thanks for your amazing perspective, you are inspirational
    Julie and Spirit Buddy

  5. Rocky was definitely one of a kind! Love your post and memories of Rocky. I can see him romping around now , chasing that dirty green tennis ball! What a blast he is having at the bridge. Keep romping away ROCKY BALBOA !!
    Heather & Toddy

  6. Oh you said this so beautifully! I couldn’t agree more, he will always be a champ.


    I can hear the angels roar. His fight inspires, always.


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