Best Friends

Jacob was a foster child. He grew up in the Foster Pinball Machine. Birth to graduation. He was never adopted by a family.

He and I weren’t good friends, but we knew each other. I lost track of him at age fifteen. He moved away to a group home.

We got in touch a few years ago. I expected to learn he had a wife and kids, but that wasn’t the case. Jacob has animals.

Six dogs, three cats.

I don’t think Jacob would mind me saying that he marches to the beat of his own tuba.

He’s had little choice in the matter. His childhood was spent bouncing from family to family, looking after himself, remembering to eat regularly.

Today, he leads a good life. He’s a restaurant cook, he likes to hike, camp, and he’s had the same girlfriend for ten years.

I asked about all his animals.

“I dunno,” he said. “Just love animals.
Growing up, I was never allowed to have any.”

Jacob found his first dog after work one night. It was late. A stray black Lab was sniffing trash cans behind a restaurant.

The dog bolted when it heard footsteps.

Jacob tried to coax it with food. The dog wasn’t interested. So, Jacob resorted to heavy artillery.

Raw ground beef.

He left an entire package on the pavement. The dog still wouldn’t come. Jacob gave up and crawled into his car to leave. Before he wheeled away, he glanced in his rear mirror.

The dog was eating a pound of sirloin in one bite.

“Started feeding him every day,” Jacob said. “I just wanted him to know somebody cared, that was it.”

For two months, Jacob cared. He fed the dog from a distance seven nights per week—even when he wasn’t working.

And on one fateful night, the old dog walked straight toward Jacob and had a seat.

“You shoulda seen how he was looking at me. He was like: ‘Can I really trust you, man?’”

Jacob pet the dog. They carried on in the parking lot until they both fell asleep. And if you’ve read this far, you can probably figure out the rest of this story.

It wasn’t long before that animal was wearing a collar and scratching on the back door to go tee-tee.

He slept at the foot of Jacob’s bed and ate in the kitchen. His name was Pat.

Pat had his own fluffy bed. His own toys. Pat won the canine lottery.

But nothing lasts forever. Six years later, the vet discovered Pat had cancer. They put him to sleep in the vet’s office. Jacob rubbed the animal’s head, speaking in a soft voice. Pat’s eyes rolled backward.

Jacob cried—and you won’t see a man like him do that often.

“I know he was just a dog,” Jacob said. “But when I was a kid, all I ever wanted was a home I could say was all mine. At least my dog knew he had that with me.”

Pat had more than that. In fact, for once in that dog’s life, he knew what it meant to have an honest-to-goodness brother. And so did Jacob.

Some might wonder what my point is here. And the truth is, I don’t really know—I’m not good at points. What I do know is this: no matter what anyone says, a dog is not just a dog.

A dog is family.


  1. George T Jacoby - July 14, 2019 8:29 am

    When my old man Buddy crosses the Rainbow Bridge, I won’t be long behind him. He’s “just an old Dachshund” who I love as much as any of my family, and who has rescued me from loneliness and bitterness. With God as my witness I am a completely different person than when he was “gifted” to me by my daughter. I leave wildly inappropriate tips for waitresses who I know need it, and excessive tips to all. I have surrogate grandkids who I give a lot of money for their college savings, and I don’t think twice about taking them all to nice restaurants. In short, I am no longer obsessed with frugality and pinching pennies. This may not sound related to an old gray faced weenie dog, but it is as surely as I breathe. And honestly, you have contributed – you are someone to admire and appreciate, and in many ways to emulate. So, this old man (73 last month) wants to thank you for so many things, and tell you that if you ever need a place to crash in the Sumter, SC, vicinity, you are as welcome as the flowers. ?

    • Lynn Reese - July 14, 2019 2:38 pm


  2. Cathi Russell - July 14, 2019 9:48 am

    Oh yes, they really are family. And I’m so happy Jacob & Pat found each other.

  3. Nell Thomas - July 14, 2019 9:49 am

    I can sure relate to this one. Almost the same scenario. Black Lab- stray- frightened. Took a while to gain her trust. Now connected at the hip.
    “Jessie” she is my girl friend. Of course-there are 4 kitty cats around here to go along with her.
    Great story- thanks.

  4. LaVera S. - July 14, 2019 9:55 am


  5. Connie Havard Ryland - July 14, 2019 11:04 am

    We have two rescue pups. They are, indeed, family. Our lives would be empty without them. Love and hugs. Sorry I missed you in Fairhope. I don’t see too well to drive in the rain anymore.

  6. Lynn Reese - July 14, 2019 11:19 am

    Sean, I’ve just “discovered” your blog, and I’m so looking forward to getting your emails! I laughed so hard reading “Babies” out loud to my sister (who is recuperating at my house from a series of strokes and quadruple bypass surgery) and a friend that tears were flooding my face! Today the tears were from remembering the goodbyes to several of my furry family members. Four of our golden retrievers (Sandy, Sampson and Delilah, and Pete), another golden and a Dalmatian (Lady Dot of the Terrace) that were my little brother’s children. He died at 34 of an undiagnosed (until it was too late) enlarged heart. He had found Foot on the side of the road, a perfect golden puppy missing his right front foot, and decided after offering us the puppy (too soon after losing our last retriever) that it would be a great companion for Dottie. Oh, those two were such great comfort to me after he died! Dottie was as calm and sweet in the house as you can imagine, often stretching out beside or on top of me on the sofa during the months I grieved my brother’s death, but outside she was all energy. She was blind in one eye, so her depth perception wasn’t great, and she would often bound straight into one of us. Since my husband coached high school football, basketball, and track, Foot became known as Football. All gentle love was that dog! Then there was Zelda, a grandpuppy who stayed with us whenever our son took his chocolate lab duck hunting. I loved that gorgeous, sweet German pointer mix. It was hard losing David’s first chocolate lab, Tyson, but his nine-year-old Bruin has to be the best chocolate lab in the world! He’s a fabulous duck hunter, but I don’t care about that. (Guys have offered David thousands of dollars for him.) He just has the sweetest, most loving, snuggly personality ever! Can’t bear to think about his not being with David. And now also there is Murray, my sister’s 12-year-old pug, who has been living with us about a month. Pugs are so attached to their people. Murray started out as my nephew’s puppy, given to him when he was recuperating from a month-long stay in ICU with pneumonia. When my 6’8” 29-year-old nephew died unexpectedly in his sleep ten years ago, Murray became my sister’s constant companion. He has a chronic lung disease now, so I pray he stays in good enough health to continue to comfort her as she gets stronger.

    Yes, a dog is not just a dog.

  7. Hilary Nickerson - July 14, 2019 11:23 am

    Dogs fill spaces in our hearts that we didn’t even know were empty. Then they leave little empty spaces in our hearts when they leave. They give us wondrous love, and rescues give even more.

  8. Steve Ledbetter - July 14, 2019 11:28 am

    I lost my yellow lab Jake after twelve and a half wonderful years. He too had cancer, the Vet had to put him down. That was August 2012. I came home that night with his collar in my hand and laid it on the coffee table in the living room. It’s still there untouched. Unmoved, like a sacred monument. Now I have cancer, that collar will be moved just once; to my chest, over my heart in my casket. Yes a Dog is more than just a dog.

  9. Rose - July 14, 2019 11:33 am

    The moral of this story has been missed all together. Sean, Jacob is not the only kid in the foster care system. Go adopt a child. You and Jamie want a child and some 300,000 children need a home. Give a stray child a home. Let some child benefit from that big heart. Rock a baby everyday. Open your heart, your home and your truck —to a child. Be a daddy to a little boy that doesn’t have one and let the tragic story of your childhood without your dad have a happy ending for another child somewhere.

  10. Charles Vianey - July 14, 2019 11:43 am

    Lily was our beagle family member for nearly 16 years. Putting her down this March was so hard. Many tears. Wonderful memories.

  11. GaryD - July 14, 2019 12:08 pm

    My dog was a beloved member of the family until she died of cancer a few years ago. I couldn’t bear the thought of getting another dog to “replace” her. But about a year ago we found two abandoned kittens in our barn. My wife bottle fed those babies. We kept one and my grandchildren have the other. My cat is now a full-fledged member of the family. And she knows it.

  12. Joe Patterson - July 14, 2019 12:17 pm

    True unconditional love

  13. Shelton A. - July 14, 2019 12:46 pm

    Dogs are family, your best friend, your source of comfort at times…dogs love you for you (the love you give, you receive back tenfold).

  14. Charles Wyborny - July 14, 2019 12:49 pm

    I grew up alone having just a dog for my friend. Mom was to busy making a living for us. 60 years later I am back to one dog. I put one to sleep at age 15 with multiple complications. I bawled my guts alone as the gave him the shot while holding him in my arms. I still have his mate who is 14. There are the only ones I truly trust and love. So I understand Jacob.

  15. Carole T. - July 14, 2019 12:51 pm

    They enter your home and your heart. More than family, your life. I just rescued a friend. He has problems I wasn’t told about. Will require surgery. But, thankfully he is mine. He will be safe, healed and happy. I haven’t had him 2 months, but he has made his way into my soul.

  16. charliestsimons - July 14, 2019 1:23 pm

    Yes it is …

  17. Bobbie - July 14, 2019 1:52 pm

    Dogs love like no other. So many out there need homes…wish I could save them all! God bless you Sean. You made your point, at least with us animal lovers ?

  18. Jane Sparacio - July 14, 2019 2:21 pm

    ” I turned my name around, and will call you dog.” A dog is never just a dog.

  19. jstephenw - July 14, 2019 3:20 pm

    Sean, you had no way of knowing, but tomorrow at 4:30 pm I have to take my 11 year old German Shepard to the Vet’s office to be put down. He has stenosis in his lower back and is losing control of his bladder and bowels. He “sat down” while walking in a store yesterday when his back legs gave out. He has logged over 100,000 miles in the back seat of my F-150 crew cab. We have hiked mountain trails and shared meals. He has kept all my secrets and never judged me. You are right, dogs are family. Thanks.

  20. Ann - July 14, 2019 3:45 pm

    Here’s a cute, Disney-like cartoon explaining how they truly are family, all the way back to Adam and Eve. Who knows, maybe it’s a true story. 🙂

  21. Jeanne Butler - July 14, 2019 3:49 pm

    So true family and cats too. I just hate they have to go to Rainbow Bridge before we do. Reading your new book Sean. Not getting the grass cut cause I can’t put it down. Love you Sean

  22. Geri - July 14, 2019 4:06 pm

    I love this story…and you are right…Animals are family! all animals!

  23. Linda Moon - July 14, 2019 4:08 pm

    I wish you had known Pyper, our beloved dog of 18 years. He could interpret for the deaf. And, Spunky the cat lived for 19 years and passed in Gulf Shores while we were on a trip with him and Pyper. They were often our traveling companions. The two other cats are now 15. All of them were, and are, family. The point of your story is very well taken, Sean.

  24. Tim House - July 14, 2019 4:33 pm

    You nailed my heart with this one. Of course, I’m a dog person, and anyone that’ll do like Jacob did for Pat is a brother. I get your point, and it’s one that would need a thousand more words to even hint at, but it comes down, I guess, to soul-sharing… 🙂

  25. Wanda Wilson - July 14, 2019 5:08 pm

    Sean, I totally agree. A dog is family. The only children I have ever had were 3 fur babies. They were wonderful blessings.

  26. throughmyeyesusa - July 14, 2019 8:20 pm

    The Day our Wiemaraner “Julie” died, Vince Gill’s, ‘Nobody Answers When I Call Your Name’ was #1 on the radio.
    It was 1989.
    That song still bring tears.

  27. Jess - July 14, 2019 9:36 pm

    I’ve shed some serious tears over my dogs whenever they’ve gone to Rainbow’s Bridge. If I claim ownership of a dog that dog is going to live in the house with my wife and me. I don’t chain a family member outside and acknowledge him/her once or twice a day. However, I don’t allow any dog to sleep in my bed. Maybe that’s just me, but I don’t do that. I did it when I was a kid, but not now. I love my dogs…we just “adopted” two puppies in addition to already having a three-year old dog. Never thought I have multiple dogs….but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

  28. Pat - July 14, 2019 11:54 pm

    This touches my heart today as I will have to make a decision very soon about my Gracie girl…today she still has some quality of life still in her, so I can’t make that decision today. She has a mass in her abdomen, she is losing weight and is anemic, but still enjoys some food, I feed her whatever she will eat. She still enjoys taking a walk and smelling everything. She is a Cocker Spaniel. We had another one that died and I was so heartbroken. So I started looking for another one and guess who I found. We brought her home on Good Friday and I knew I had to name her something relating to God…so Gracie she became. I love her with all my heart and I will look for another after she goes to wait on us on the Rainbow Bridge.

  29. Wayne Conrad - July 15, 2019 12:43 am

    About 15 years ago a good friend called and told my wife that God had sent me a dog to him. She told him that we didn’t need a dog so just keep it. A few minutes later, he showed up at my house with a little ball of blond fur with a ribbon around her neck. I insisted that we didn’t want a pet but he said to keep her for a week and if we still felt that way, he would take her back. You can guess how that went. We had Brandy for about 8 years until she developed cancer and passed. After a couple of years, we decided to buy another like Brandy (British Labrador), but a friend suggested that we adopt. I scouted the net and saw a picture of a pup that caught my eye, so I told my wife we needed to go take a look and this August Daisy will have been here 8 years. Near as anyone can tell she’s a Lab and Greyhound mix. Intelligent and gentle and extremely loyal (as most dogs are). There’s no question that she is family.

  30. Barbara Ross - July 15, 2019 1:49 am

    Tears running down my face — of happiness and of sadness. I am a widowed 79 year old great-grandma who moved from Tennessee to Oregon last year, both to be near my kids after my husband died from an Alzheimer’s related stroke, and for a better climate. (Tennessee summers were killing me with heat, humidity, and mosquitoes!) My grandson drove a rental truck with the things I wanted to keep (moved from a big house with soooo much “stuff” to a great little house beside a creek, with a deck overlooking the creek and the national forest that starts just on the other side) and I drove my minivan with my 5 small rescue furbabies. We had to park each night in a rest area with big trucks, because I knew no motel would ever let me stay with my little pack. But there was no way I was leaving any of them behind. I’ve since lost one to lung cancer, but I still have 4 little kids, who are my main reason to get up each day, and to keep moving, and a large part of the joy in my life. And I have 2-legged family nearby. The climate is great for me, and the area is very beautiful, so I consider myself extremely blessed!

    I first discovered your blog when Kait Nolan (author) posted a link to your blog about Southern speech. (I was born in Arkansas and also lived in West Texas, before spending 40 long years in So Cal and then retiring to Tennessee.) I read a lot. ( I have 3 Kindles and a cell phone. ? ) And I truly enjoy your writing. Are your books available on Amazon? If not, how can I get them? I need more of your writing!

    • Barbara Ross - July 16, 2019 5:02 am

      Barb Ross again. I bought your latest book from Amazon, and also borrowed “Small Towns, Labradors, …” using my new trial subscription to Kindle Unlimited . Am anxious to start reading them. ?

  31. Carol - July 15, 2019 7:40 am

    Sean , Rose is right. It’s time you add to your family!
    There’s a child out there in foster care , just like a rescue shelter , that needs yours and Jamie’s love ❤️
    Please think about it ! You both could give a child the love like no one else could ..
    Love ya!

  32. Marcia De Graaf - July 15, 2019 12:59 pm

    Amen, Sean. They are family. I’ve already warned my new vet that I don’t do well when something happens to my dogs. I have two 13 year old cocker spaniel rescues, and I dread the day I’ll lose them. I can tell you that there will be a lot of tears. Until then, I’m giving them lots of love and care. They’ll go happy, and I’ll cry my eyes out. ❤️???

  33. Bill Henderson - July 15, 2019 1:38 pm

    What a blessing to read of a man who became a blessing himself to a less than fortunate animal. This guy for sure did not “cry in his milk” at adversity. Thanks for sharing this.

  34. That's jack - July 15, 2019 9:51 pm

    Dogs are special, well, I know for sure that Beagles and Cocker Spaniels are. But I enjoyed the story, great read…..THANKS
    Sherry & jack visiting PA Dutch country

  35. Tawanah Bagwell - July 16, 2019 2:26 am

    Amen and Amen! That dog had a home and Jacob had a family.

  36. Estelle - July 16, 2019 4:18 am

    I’ve had dogs off and on all my life. It broke my heart every time one of them died. I have a shit tzu now. I got down on eye level with her and told her she COULD NOT die before I do. I already have someone to take care of her. She is 10 1/2 yrs old (73.5 yrs in people age). I’m 77 yrs old now and Bitsy will be 77 in October. We even have the same health problems. She is my reason for getting up in the morning. No matter how I feel she is right there with me. After I had surgery she lay right me. Unconditional love between the two of us. Family with fur and 4 legs.

  37. Roger Crowe - July 16, 2019 10:36 pm

    Sean, A good friend shared your blog with me a year or so ago. Always brings me to tears (especially the comments). Thank you.

  38. Alice Grimes - July 17, 2019 4:14 am

    Loved this piece. My dogs are the reason I get up many days.

  39. Kathy Vadeboncoeur - July 18, 2019 12:39 am

    I just want you to know about how I came to read your stories…My daughter (who’s professional for over 10 years is a police dispatcher/911 operator) says Mom you need to read these stories. Besides reading your stories on Facebook & email, I have called & texted everyone I know & told them about you…I finished “The Other Side Of The Bay” “Lyla” and I’m holding out on “on the road” until I finish “Stars of Alabama”!!!
    Great Book!

  40. Patricia Gibson - July 23, 2019 12:37 am

    Amen! I have three furry kids and they are family!

  41. Mary Ellen Hall - July 28, 2019 2:15 am



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