Last Stop

They miss running more than anything. I’m talking about all-out, wide-open, honest-to-goodness running. They’re legs were made for this, but they can’t do it. Not in here.

They stand behind caged doors. They look at you when you walk by. They bark like their lives depend on it.

Some have barked so hard they’ve lost their voices.

They miss running more than anything. I’m talking about all-out, wide-open, honest-to-goodness running. Their legs were made for this, but they can’t do it. Not in here.

The old dogs don’t even bother barking anymore. They know what awaits. One day a woman in scrubs and rubber gloves will lead them away, and they won’t come back.

Jack, the Labrador, for instance, he was ten years old, reddish colored. Nobody wanted him because of the white on his snout. He went to Heaven yesterday.

“People just don’t want elderly dogs,” a staff worker tells me. “It breaks your heart, I won’t lie.”

And Ophelia. She’s a beagle. She’s an old woman. So is ‘Bama, Pistol Pete, Chocolate, Bradley, and Miss Daisy. Abandoned dogs. Lost animals. This is their last stop on the bus ride of life.

Through the doors walks Jace. Jace is a seven-year-old boy with rosy face and blonde hair. His parents are divorced. They live in a two-bedroom apartment, with no neighbor kids. Jace gets lonely.

“My son needs a friend,” his mother explains.

Jace walks the long corridor and looks for a pal. He sees Rip—a basset hound with so many skin wrinkles he ought to win an award. His face is long, his ears touch the floor. Rip is nine.

Jace pokes his hand through the bars.

“We ain’t supposed to let people touch the cages,” a staff worker whispers to me. “But Rip’s a sweetheart.”

Rip wanders to the door. He licks Jace.

“Mom!” says Jace. “He licked me!”

Rip stares at Jace. In dog years, Rip is older than this boy. And he’s smart, too. You can see this in his eyes.

I’ve been writing a long time, but I can’t find a good sentence to convey the way a dog looks at you. They know something we don’t.

“Can I play with him?” says Jace.

“Isn’t he a little old?” says his mother. “Don’t you want a younger dog?”


The worker opens the cage, then leads them to a small place called the “interview room.”

Jace is pure energy. Rip is no spring chick. Furthermore, Rip appears to know he’s not going to be adopted. It’s the same old story:

They play with you, they toss a ball, they talk sweet. They put you back in the kennel.

Jace tosses a ball. Rip thinks about this for a moment. Should he chase it? After all what would be the point? It won’t do any good. This kid isn’t going to adopt an old hound just because he plays fetch.

Rip retrieves the ball anyway. It’s in his nature. Jace laughs. They play for several minutes. Rip starts to get into the spirit. They are having a big time.

They return Rip to his kennel. And Jace walks out of the animal shelter, holding his mother’s hand. His mother has decided that Rip is too old.

Another day, another rejection.

Three days pass. A woman enters Rip’s kennel. She is wearing rubber gloves and scrubs. Rip is afraid of her. She leads him to a white room. He’s panting and nervous. Rip is no dummy. He knows what happens to old dogs in this place.

She leads him through a narrow hallway. The dogs scream when Rip walks by. They howl. But Rip is brave, because Heaven made him a dog. And all dogs are brave.

She takes him to the front of the shelter. She unclicks his leash. Rip is confused. He’s too old to understand what’s going on. He is scared. He’s trying to be courageous, but his old bladder gets the best of him. He makes water on the floor.

Then he hears his name.

“Here, Rip!” says Jace. “C’mon, Rip!”

Rip sees the boy. A blonde child whose mother just paid a few bucks to bring Rip home forever. And even though Rip’s joints hurt, he runs to Jace. He licks him.

Rip forgot how good it feels to run. He forgot how good it feels to be loved.

But thanks to Jace, he will never forget these feelings again.


  1. Dolores S. Fort - August 13, 2018 6:01 am

    I would never be able to work in a shelter, I would become too attached to the animals and could never put them down because no one wanted them.
    Thanks for this happy ending, Sean.

  2. Dru - August 13, 2018 6:19 am

    If only they ALL could have a Jace. My prayer.

  3. Susan S Jacobs - August 13, 2018 6:42 am

    Oh my heart. I knew where this was going but went anyway. Yes, why do any end up on the last walk? All of my cats are rescues. And a lot of them have been black. Except for a papered Golden and my new bloodhound pup all the others were rescues or strays. I hollered “Get” at a speckled stray so much, that when I decided he was staying, he could only be called Get. Loved that mutt. My hens, when they no longer give me their delicious gifts, they don’t go in a pot. They are just retired little bug eaters. Bless our little animals hearts. And bless the people that lets that walk be to their home and heart.

  4. GaryD - August 13, 2018 7:26 am

    I almost stopped reading this story. Thank God for little boys like Jace. I could never work in a shelter that killed unwanted dogs. Never.

  5. Sandi in FL. - August 13, 2018 8:21 am

    What a tear jerker! But at least the ending is a good one for Rip and Jace.

  6. MMM - August 13, 2018 8:43 am

    Sean, THANK YOU for this story of redemption for a crime we all face….OLD AGE and illness!!!! I have worked on and off for a vet…thanks to that I am the extremely proud parent of a 9 year old diabetic cat. His “human parent” just couldn’t get past the idea of needles. So he came to my home and lives along side other cats and a dog all of which have special needs. I have cried many a tear when one of Y’all must, for the good of the animal, make THAT decision. There is truely, as you said, something in their eyes if you’re looking, that says “I know I am old but thanks for taking a chance on me I’ll do ALL I can to stay with you a while! Sweetest most thankful loving cat I have ever had the pleasure of parenting….and to someone else he was “dead cat walking”! So if anyone who may take the time to read this comment ever considers an older pet…DO IT! THEY WILL SURELY LOVE YOU FOR IT! I know mine does! 🙂

  7. Cynthia Harmon - August 13, 2018 9:11 am

    I have a friend with 2 sons, 12 and 14, who volunteer at the animal shelter. The 12 yr old had his birthday party there last week. Kids brought stuff the cats and dogs needed. They had a great time.

  8. Steven P Bailey - August 13, 2018 9:46 am


  9. CaroG87 - August 13, 2018 9:47 am

    Tears!! God bless Jace & Rip. I hope the time they have together is so full of life and love!

  10. Nancy Thomaston Rogers - August 13, 2018 9:51 am

    My son and I have been actively volunteering at our local shelter for almost six months now. Fortunately, through dedicated volunteer support for the past several years, the shelter has become 90% non-kill. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to take the dogs out walking (and yes, sometimes even to run). We all rejoice when a animal is chosen by a family for its “furever” home.

  11. Karen - August 13, 2018 10:31 am

    I have followed you since you came to speak at LEAD academy. I have shed some tears and laughed a lot but this was a mess your makeup story!! Thank you for all of the stories.

  12. Edna B. - August 13, 2018 11:17 am

    “Kill” shelters should be put out of business. All shelters should be “no kill.” All animals deserve love, a warm bed, food and water, and a home with a family to love them. Killing for sport should be banned world wide. I better stop here before I go on a rant. I love animals. My little Pogo is a rescue. He was six and a half when I got him and he’s twelve now. I hope he lives for another twelve years at least. He is such a joy and a blessing to me. I wish more folks would adopt from shelters than buying from breeders.

    Sean, thank you for the story. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  13. Jo Ann - August 13, 2018 11:21 am

    My eyes are leaking…I would adopt them all if I could.

  14. dktyriver - August 13, 2018 11:27 am

    Tears in my coffee! A little sad but with this ending, a lot happy!

  15. Nedetria Talbot - August 13, 2018 11:55 am

    I wish I could save the rejected ones of this world…human and fur babies. I am thankful for rescue centers and rescue workers and all they do but it is heartbreaking to see the way that children and animals are thrown out like garbage. I pray Jace and his fur baby enjoy a wonderful life together.

  16. Amy - August 13, 2018 12:08 pm

    Sitting here bawling like a baby reading about Rip and Jace. Wonderful story – just pulls at my heartstrings because they all deserve to be adopted.

  17. Joyce Bacon - August 13, 2018 12:27 pm

    Darn you Sean! I swore I wouldn’t cry but you did it again.

  18. Joy - August 13, 2018 12:37 pm

    What a beautiful story. There is a program on CBS every Saturday morning at 8 am (CST) called ‘Lucky Dog’….it is 30 minutes and a dog is taken from a shelter, trained and put in a ‘forever’ home. Also at 10 am…but always a new dog and new segment, Brandon McMillon has dedicated his life so that animals that are rejected find a new purpose and new home. It is a wonderful program…I look forward to watching it every week.

    So glad that Jace’s mom changed her mind….and thank you Sean for writing this story, it touched my heart and I’m sure many others. Sean, you are the best! thank you, thank you, thank you!

  19. Martha Owens - August 13, 2018 12:50 pm

    I can’t even go into our local shelter when I bring things they can use or sell. I know I would want to take all the dogs and cats home regardless of their age. I have an aging dog who requires frequent visits to the vet, special diet and many meds. I will continue to care for her as long as she isn’t suffering, but I couldn’t do this for more than one. Thank you for your insightful, caring stories. Read your post every day.

  20. Katy Maddox - August 13, 2018 1:20 pm

    Ok, Sean- I look forward to your words each and every morning when I wake up, but this morning they broke my heart. I think of all of the old dogs and all of the old people… why can’t we find a way to bring them together to ease their mutual loneliness?

    • Donna - August 13, 2018 1:40 pm

      “easing mutual loneliness” is a lovely idea Katy.

  21. Karen - August 13, 2018 1:43 pm

    Thank you for writing this beautiful piece. You have probably saved the lives of many dogs.

  22. Jeanne Butlet - August 13, 2018 1:47 pm

    Oh wow. That really got me crying. Thank God the mom let Jace take Rip home. If I ever won a huge lottery or somehow got a gagillion dollars no dog or cat would ever be euthanized. They would live on a beautiful farm all their lives. People who give up elderly pets are evil. Thank God Rip got a second chance.

  23. Brenda - August 13, 2018 1:54 pm

    Oh my!! Did you have to make me cry this morning? This is why I cannot watch SPCA commercials or visit dog shelters. I would N.E.V.E.R. be able to work at either. I cannot even imagine dropping off any dog there, much less an old dog. I have a 14 yr old black lab mix rescue. Her muzzle and legs have turned gray but she is the sweetest girl and she will stay with me until her sister calls her home at the Rainbow Bridge. I have a wonderful vet who came to the house so that her sister could pass over the bridge in the comfort of her own home, and that is how my other girl will go …… with me holding her and crying my eyes out.

  24. Lisa Perkins - August 13, 2018 1:57 pm

    Ugh, that made me cry. Nothing makes me cry except animals. I’m happy to hear Rip got a home. Hopefully they keep him and love him for the rest of his years. ?❤️?

  25. Patricia Gibson - August 13, 2018 2:03 pm

    Well, that is a tear jerker!

  26. Pat - August 13, 2018 2:31 pm

    One of these days I’m going to remember to put a box of Kleenex next to this computer!!! Sean I totally understand what you mean about looking into a dog’s eyes. I personally feel like it’s looking at God through those eyes!
    Thanks for another wonderful story!

  27. Bill Johander - August 13, 2018 2:34 pm

    What a wonderful story, Sean

  28. Susan Swiderski - August 13, 2018 3:00 pm

    Once again, you ripped my heart from my chest and made my eyes leak. I defy any animal lover to read this without having the same reaction. Too bad all dogs… and people… don’t have such a happy ending.

  29. Kathy Bacon - August 13, 2018 3:28 pm

    This story hit home, since I once spent some time volunteering at a local animal shelter. It’s a HAPPY DAY when one of the ‘older guys’ finds a home! Unfortunately, there are not nearly enough happy days in a shelter… I’m glad your story had a happy ending!

  30. Jo Brooks - August 13, 2018 3:30 pm

    Oh Lord. I am in tears. Thank you for painting the perfect picture of what shelter dogs, especially the old ones, go through. Our house has only old dogs now. Anna the 15 year old hound has been with us for 13 years, but the rest are new to us. Rosie the 15 year old Golden, Mia the 10 year old bulldog, and Leia the 10 year old Jack Russel have all been with us for a short time. Taken out of the shelter because no one else probably would. Hopefully we will have a few more years with them. Old dogs have a lot of love to give.

  31. Jane Wood - August 13, 2018 3:55 pm

    Oh me, you have broken my heart with this story. Our Maltese is 18 years old. His hearing, eyesight and bladder have gone south. But he is loved more now than when he was so small he could fit in the palm of our hands. He sleeps the day away in his granddaddy’s lap. I hope he is there when he draws his last breath. Wish we could save all the old dogs, as Jo said, they have a lot of love to give.

  32. Wilma J Black - August 13, 2018 4:04 pm

    You almost made me cry, but I don’t cry. Beautiful…

  33. Brett Campbell - August 13, 2018 4:25 pm

    Dadgummit, Sean. Made me tear up again. Great story. Great ending.

  34. Marcia Zuhlke - August 13, 2018 4:39 pm

    ?????beautifully written story from a dogs perspective.

  35. Susan Kennedy - August 13, 2018 4:48 pm

    I’m not crying; you’re crying…..

  36. Jones - August 13, 2018 5:09 pm

    You are tugging mighty hard on soft heart strings and tear ducts! Once again, your writing is sensitive and powerful.

  37. Sue Riddle Cronkite - August 13, 2018 5:42 pm

    Tell it like it is. Fantastic for Rip and Jase.

  38. Shelton Armour - August 13, 2018 6:24 pm

    Good news for Rip, and good job by Jace of pleading with Mom. Good, heartwarming story. Old dogs need love, too. My new, adopted dog is 2 1/2 but had been abused. Earning her trust and love is a joy.

  39. Judy Riley - August 13, 2018 6:54 pm

    This made me cry….makes me want to go adopt all old dogs. I just lost my 17 year old poodle. Although he was blind and deaf, he knew how to communicate when he wanted a hug and be held….and I did. I was so happy/sad he was in my arms when he took his last breath. I still miss him, but I know ALL dogs go to heaven. Would be wonderful if we could say the same for man……..

  40. Jane Hutson - August 13, 2018 7:17 pm

    Simply beautiful!

  41. Mary - August 13, 2018 9:15 pm

    Whoa, that was a close one. I almost didn’t read past the first paragraph. Glad I did. I like happy endings.

  42. Lynn Hedges - August 13, 2018 9:45 pm

    Rescued love is the best.
    Scruffy rescued me when she was two.
    We just celebrated her fourteenth birthday !
    She is my heart.
    A precious gift from God.

  43. Trina V. - August 13, 2018 11:01 pm

    I read this while waiting in the drive through at the bank. Ugly crying by the time I finished.

  44. Teri Grant - August 13, 2018 11:57 pm

    Laws, I’m sitting here at my son’s soccer practice blubbering like an idiot.

  45. Heidi - August 14, 2018 12:37 am

    Oh geez… made me freakin cry again. Your dog stories just get me. I hope there are a lot more Jaces and understanding mamas. Old dogs are special.

  46. Phillip Saunders - August 14, 2018 1:41 am

    Great boy and dog story, Sean. Never read one I didn’t like: Ol’ Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, etc.
    Suggested reading for all dog lovers: the poem The Rainbow Bridge. Keep up the good work.

  47. Melanie - August 14, 2018 2:36 am


  48. Nancy Powell - August 14, 2018 2:59 am

    You made me cry….again!! What a wonderful story! I love dogs! Thank you, Sean!

  49. Ken M. - August 14, 2018 1:05 pm

    Awesome stuff. We have a place near us called “Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary” that’s rescues elderly dogs and gives them a great place to live out the end of their lives. Some are adopted, but others just live there until they are gone. I wish there were more places like it.

  50. Jack Darnell - August 15, 2018 3:21 am

    A good one my friend. Thanks for painting a good picture.

  51. Lorraine Faulds - August 15, 2018 10:56 am

    You made me cry!

  52. Janet Mary Lee - August 15, 2018 9:01 pm

    Pretty much all out blubbering here. Thanks for the happy ending. Why can’t people just see how precious life is?
    Lots of older dogs here. It is a privilege.

  53. Alice - August 16, 2018 12:26 am

    Again you have made me cry! how sad for those dogs it breaks my heart I wish I could volunteer at a shelter but I know it would be unbearable ! God bless you Sean ❤️

  54. perry5360 - August 22, 2018 1:38 pm

    From one old dog, Thank you! Should have known You are a dog guy. T

  55. Johnny - August 24, 2018 4:51 pm

    Damn. You made me cry but t least it had a happy ending. I hope RIp lives with Jace for a long time.

  56. Barbara - October 9, 2018 9:13 pm

    Even our gut babies have that solo walk.

  57. Barbara - October 9, 2018 9:14 pm


  58. Steve (lifer) - March 3, 2021 3:25 am

    Friends for life. Whether that’s 3 months or 3 years, or more. Doesn’t matter. They’ll never forget each other. God has intervened.
    Few have ever regretted adopting an older dog. I never have.


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