Best Friends

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.

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. Sue - July 16, 2018 6:13 am

    OMGosh, Sean, you are killing me! I am a puddle reading this heart-wrenching story of that poor dog, and now tears of gratitude for the new trust and life he had. Both were blessed to have found each other. You certainly have a way of tugging at my heartstrings every day. Thank you…I think.

  2. Beth Reed - July 16, 2018 6:14 am

    Oh Sean a tear jerker! Animals are not just a dog, cat, hamster or anything other than a beautiful being that was created with love.
    Jacob and Pat had a wonderful experience. Trust isn’t easy for anyone yet Pat begin to trust and that opened the door to love.
    There is no point I am trying to make here either. I just wanted to say thank you Jacob for not giving up on Pat… And thank you Sean for making me cry.. in a good way. Have a great Monday and BIG HUGS.. . Beth Reed

  3. Pamela McEachern - July 16, 2018 7:19 am

    Your drawing tells it all, soulful. Thank you, my sweet girl is in a deep sleep beside my bed.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    • Steven P Bailey - July 16, 2018 9:42 am

      Yes they are

  4. Kelly - July 16, 2018 9:50 am

    They absolutely are family! I was away from my yellow lab last week and felt a little less the entire time. When I picked him up Saturday morning my heart felt so good. He’s my best friend, pure and simple.

  5. GaryD - July 16, 2018 10:46 am

    I think I’m gonna cry…

  6. I do like critters - July 16, 2018 10:53 am

    What do we do about all the Jacobs in this world? This country? This state? Our own counties? The Jacobs hurt me way more than the Pats. Though I love good animals. Dogs, horses, etc….. love em. But, there are too many Jacobs who need us. Can we help them all, the Jacobs and the Pats? Maybe, maybe not. But should we spend an ounce of love or money on any of the Pats before all the Jacobs are taken care of?

    • Janet Mary Lee - July 16, 2018 7:44 pm

      ” I do like critters”,.. most people that take care of animals take care of people,too. I bet it is like 95%, too. The hard things are those people that take care of neither, or worse abusing either. (or both) There in lies the worst problem of all…

    • Stuart - July 17, 2018 3:43 am

      Thank you, “I do like critters”.
      Doesn’t seem like there are many tears for poor Jacob. I’m glad things turned out for him as well as they did. I’m amazed that most people start in talking about their pet instead of Jacob. I see people drop their children off at daycare to be raised by someone else and drive off with the dog in their lap.
      Think about it.

  7. Nancy - July 16, 2018 11:07 am

    Thank you, dear Sean, for sharing your gifts with me and so many others. I begin each day with your positive insight and it is a wonderful way to “get going.” I especially love that you are an animal lover and remind us in so many ways that our pets are family. My precious Maggie Belle is a treasure and I am grateful for her every day. We are a team – an old lady and an aging dog. Keep writing, inspiring and encouraging. You are an angel and a true blessing.

  8. Jeannie - July 16, 2018 11:18 am

    Dogs are family. I talk to mine all the time. Loved this story. Jacob was a good man

  9. Pete m - July 16, 2018 11:33 am

    You are right. A dog becomes family

  10. Melanie - July 16, 2018 11:41 am

    I know the feeling of wanting a home that is yours. A safe, permanent place. And also someone to trust. I have had many cats and dogs, all rescues. Each was given a wonderful life. Love and Blessings to Jacob and his pets. And thank you Sean for telling this beautiful story ❤️

  11. Susan McGee - July 16, 2018 11:51 am


  12. Candy Peterson - July 16, 2018 12:33 pm

    Amen!! ❤?

  13. Marilyn - July 16, 2018 12:36 pm

    My rescued cat became my family…..He is no longer with me, but was a loved companion.

  14. Sandra Smith - July 16, 2018 12:38 pm

    I just had to let my girl go. I miss her something awful.
    She was my BFF !

  15. Jack Darnell - July 16, 2018 12:42 pm

    Black dogs, my down fall. I was fortunate enough to have a black Cocker as a boy. It wasn’t but 3-4 years but enough to be THE story for the rest of my life. As a matter of fact it is my next book, if I can ever get back to it. Loved this one, THANKS

  16. Lynn Hedges - July 16, 2018 12:48 pm

    A M E N ! ❤️?

  17. Jo Ann - July 16, 2018 12:49 pm

    So true!! And many times, they’re more family than the human ones.

  18. Martha Owens - July 16, 2018 12:51 pm

    Such a great story. Those of us who have aging pets are trying to make our furbaby’s last days, months or maybe even years as loving and comfortable as possible. Also dreading the day when parting is inevitable. After more than 14 years with my precious pup, she’s definitely showing signs of her aging. I can’t understand people who don’t see pets as family.

  19. Chuck Gerlach - July 16, 2018 12:52 pm

    And anyone who thinks a dog is less than family should not be allowed to own a dog.

  20. Jane Padgett - July 16, 2018 1:08 pm

    This is so true, Sean! Dogs are part of my family. I have had to have several put down and others have just died from natural causes, but their deaths have always left a hole in my heart. Loved this article!

  21. Karen - July 16, 2018 1:17 pm

    Yes, our pets are family. The hardest part of having them is parting one day.

  22. Marlo Kirkpatrick - July 16, 2018 1:41 pm

    Yes, yes, and yes. I am traveling and away from my four dogs (who are at home being spoiled by their dog “nanny,” thank you very much). I feel like part of my soul is missing without them by my side. I’ve loved and lost many little furry souls over the years and every one of them has left paw prints on my heart.

  23. Marty from Alabama - July 16, 2018 2:31 pm

    Last sentence says it all.

  24. Pat - July 16, 2018 2:32 pm

    This is among your best writings!!! I often look at my Gracie and it makes my heart soooooo happy that she chooses to be right beside me. To quote a friend, “I don’t know how I deserve to be her mother”!

  25. Edna B. - July 16, 2018 2:41 pm

    Amen. My little dog is more than family. He is my joy, my morning sunshine. Your friend Jacob is quite a wonderful man. And you are too my friend. Thanks for this heartwarming story to start my day. Sean, you have a great day, hugs, Edna B.

  26. Kathy Daum - July 16, 2018 2:54 pm

    I know. I cry with those who lose family.

  27. Cathi - July 16, 2018 2:55 pm

    Sean, I lost you & now you’re back! Happy Day! And what a column to reconnect with…my dogs are FAMILY too.

  28. Shelton Armour - July 16, 2018 2:55 pm

    My dog is one of my very best friends. He used to sleep on the bed with me until he got too old to jump up. He is family and the best dog I ever have been blessed to have. Hats off to Pat for giving a stray a loving home. We need more Pat’s in this world.

  29. Esteban - July 16, 2018 3:10 pm

    Just a dog. That’s like saying that someone is just a friend. Just. Merely. As if a dog or a friend were something small. My relationship with our 4 dogs is confused. We think they are part of our family. They think that we are part of their pack. But it works for all concerned. Caring, sharing, relationship, love…these have their own rewards.

  30. Janet Shelley - July 16, 2018 3:12 pm

    Beautiful story, Sean. We lost our 12 year old black lab to cancer in January and the feelings are still raw. She was family to us, especially now that we are empty nesters. Thank you for always touching those nerves for your readers.

  31. Jo Brooks - July 16, 2018 3:12 pm

    Amen to that. A dog is not just a dog – it is family. And every time one leaves us for the Rainbow Bridge, I know that eventually another will find its way here. Trying to hold at four dogs though 🙂

  32. Teri Davidson - July 16, 2018 5:42 pm


  33. Grace M Weber - July 16, 2018 5:59 pm

    Exactly my feelings. A dog is family and for me better than most humans

  34. Ann - July 16, 2018 6:27 pm

    I’m at work so I can’t post the link, but google for the video, “adam and eve and first dog”. They really are a gift!

  35. Janet Mary Lee - July 16, 2018 7:50 pm

    Me and my hound loved this. She is my family! Like so many I loved and rescued before her. My Best Bumper sticker?….. “Who rescued who?”

  36. Linda Chipman - July 16, 2018 8:20 pm

    Sean this is my favorite column you have ever written. I have had many dogs over my 70+ years and they are family. I am now a widow, no children, but I have a dog and she is my child. Thank you.

  37. sam smith - July 16, 2018 10:47 pm

    Amen, Sean. Amen.

  38. June - July 17, 2018 3:27 am

    Yes, a dog is family.

  39. Alice - July 17, 2018 12:21 pm

    So true❤️I love this story just as I love all your stories !Dogs are family❤️❤️

  40. Scott - July 17, 2018 6:42 pm

    What a great story. Two lonely souls that found what they needed. We all need to be on the look out for the Jacobs and Pats of the world. Some see God in grand fashion. I see him in the love shared by these two.

  41. Jody - July 18, 2018 12:11 am

    The foster system needs all of our support. I have often reflected on the question. What would we want done for our child if this was the only resource for his care?

  42. Dru - July 19, 2018 3:05 am


  43. Sue Riddle Cronkite - August 8, 2018 1:52 pm

    Right onthe nose. As usual.

  44. Beckie - September 10, 2018 4:32 pm

    I am a part of my dogs pack and I am so grateful. Thank you for this story.

  45. Jess Rawls - December 10, 2018 6:44 pm

    Sean, you’re absolutely spot-on about dogs being family. If I have a dog living with me, he/she lives in my house and is part of my family and I cry when they pass away. No shame in crying over a lost loved one. I love my dog Belle, we’re best buddies….but she also loves anyone and everyone she meets. But that’s okay because she has enough love for a lot of people.


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