New Tricks

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.

Then.

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?”

“Please?”

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. “Go get it, boy.”

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.

Finally 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 as Rip walks by. They howl. But Rip is brave because he is a dog, and 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 blond 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. Gosh. 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.

49 comments

  1. NancyB. - October 13, 2021 7:00 am

    Thank you, Jace, for wanting and loving Rip. Thank you, Sean, for sharing their story with us. Reading it thru the tears was an act of love for me. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Nancy Baker - October 13, 2021 7:02 am

    Thank you, Jace, for wanting and loving Rip! Thank you, Sean, for sharing their story with us. My eyes filled with love as I read this. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Suellen - October 13, 2021 8:06 am

    We’ve rescued a few. Each one of them leaves a hole in your heart when they’re gone.

    Reply
  4. Becky L Nelson - October 13, 2021 9:10 am

    Oh hell Sean, I thought you were gonna make me weep all night with that damn story about Rip and Jace. I’m really glad kids are good at nagging their parents.

    Reply
  5. Meredith Smith - October 13, 2021 9:22 am

    Sean! You just made my heart sing! Ooooh, I was worried there for a minute…

    Reply
  6. Janie Gentry - October 13, 2021 10:57 am

    I’m starting my day again with tears in my coffee.
    We have had rescue dogs since 1998, and I will never stop as long as I can take care of them. The first pup that came to live with us was the sweetest, smartest creature I’ve ever seen. He opened the door of my heart for eleven more over the years. At one time, we had seven dogs living in the house with us.

    Reply
  7. Jean - October 13, 2021 11:21 am

    I have a soft spot in my heart for all animals….a downright hatred of those who mistreat them. Good for that mama!

    Reply
  8. Karen Snyder - October 13, 2021 11:24 am

    ❤️ I love happy ever afters.

    Reply
  9. Carol Klabunde - October 13, 2021 11:42 am

    I wish humans knew how much animals need and love us. To a person a dog is his dog but to a dog his person is life. Pure love!

    Reply
  10. ROBERT STORCK - October 13, 2021 11:56 am

    This one hurt

    Reply
  11. Joyce hodder - October 13, 2021 11:59 am

    Pass the tissue box please.

    Reply
  12. Denise Walker - October 13, 2021 12:10 pm

    My heart breaks for all the dogs–young or old–that are abandoned (for whatever reason) by their humans. I want to adopt them all! So wishing I had the space to do that. Keep reminding, Sean, of all the good things that happen on this place we call Earth.

    Reply
  13. Annie D Sommers - October 13, 2021 12:18 pm

    There are not enough words to describe the Jace and Rip connection. This one made me cry. My heart is so full because of Jace and his unconditional love.

    Reply
  14. Joe Bolton - October 13, 2021 12:42 pm

    GIVE THEM A CHANCE!! Adopt an older dog. We adopted Hank when he was not only old but starved, heartworm positive, abused, and on death’s door because of his physical condition and the fact he was on the euthanasia list for the next day.. It turned out to be a great decision and we had that big, loving animal for almost 3 years. For that time he touched hearts at assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and a youth detention facility. He passed away naturally, in my arms, in our living room surrounded by his family. He last look at me said “Thank you , I love you.”

    Reply
    • Jean-Marie Thompson - October 16, 2021 12:22 am

      You made me cry, Joe. What a good man you are.

      Reply
  15. Robin Ungano - October 13, 2021 12:47 pm

    Thank you for such a wonderful story…I just love happy endings!

    Reply
  16. Te - October 13, 2021 1:02 pm

    Aww, you got me. I’ve been in dog and cat rescue and fostering for over 20 years, and it breaks my heart to see dogs abandoned because they’re “too old.” (Well, people get abandoned, too.) But dogs are just pure love. I’ve buried 3 of my own and 1 of my long-term fosters (18 yrs old) this year. I’m looking to bury 2 more by year’s end. Here in S. GA, a lot of people throw dogs away, pups with mange and no pedigree. I’ve found a bunch thru the years and gotten them adopted. Needless to say, I have a lot of both cats and dogs because rescues are overwhelmed and there’s a never-ending supply. Jace, you did good.

    Reply
  17. Shelton A. - October 13, 2021 1:04 pm

    I got my dog and she is now almost eight. I adopted her when she was five and was getting passed over for younger dogs. But she’s a sweetheart, too. Best choice I’ve ever made.

    Reply
  18. Dean - October 13, 2021 1:05 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this story. I had always had a dog until i can no longer take care of one. Always a stray but had lots if love to share. I will always miss the wet kisses and loving on them

    Reply
  19. Jan - October 13, 2021 1:13 pm

    So beautiful it gave me chills …

    Reply
  20. Linda Hill - October 13, 2021 2:13 pm

    Of course this post touched my heart. The first thing I thought of (aside from the joyous happy ending) is the parallel between old dogs & old people. So many of both are unwanted & unloved. I’m sure your mother-in-law, “Mother Mary” knew how blessed she was to have you & Jamie loving her so much, tending to her every need & want up to the very end. Then afterwards looking down from Heaven & seeing how you both grieved for the loss of her. If only every old dog had a Jace – and every old person had a Sean & Jamie. May God bless all three of you!

    Reply
  21. Evelyn - October 13, 2021 2:22 pm

    I held my breath as the woman in the rubber gloves came for Rip…my heart clutching and tears welling up…SOOOOO Glad for Rip’s happy “ending”/Beginning!!!

    Reply
  22. Susan Norman - October 13, 2021 2:29 pm

    What a heartwarming story. Thank you for helping me start my day with compassion. I will cherish my senior rescue dog a little more from now on.

    Reply
  23. Heidi - October 13, 2021 3:11 pm

    Bassets have a special place in my heart. I miss our Gracie Lou every day.
    Thanks for a happy ending because I couldn’t handle the other way.
    God Bless all those people real good that give these senior dogs happy endings.

    Reply
  24. Margie Mostler - October 13, 2021 4:08 pm

    That was beautiful, touching, extraordinary. Thank you for giving me a blessing every day.

    Reply
  25. Landa Trentham - October 13, 2021 4:30 pm

    Love this one. Jyst beauriful

    Reply
  26. AlaRedClayGirl - October 13, 2021 4:31 pm

    Great story! Pound puppies are the best.

    Reply
  27. Susie Murphy - October 13, 2021 4:47 pm

    Tears.

    Reply
  28. Fossil - October 13, 2021 5:58 pm

    I’m not crying, YOU’RE cryi…who am I kidding – I’m crying, yes I am. And smiling, too!

    Reply
  29. Kathy Szala - October 13, 2021 6:02 pm

    You made me cry, Sean. Sad and happy tears.

    Reply
  30. Thomas C Roberson - October 13, 2021 6:32 pm

    What a great story! I love dogs and this blog really touched my heart. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  31. Chasity Davis Ritter - October 13, 2021 6:43 pm

    Rip will have all the love he can stand and be happy in his new home I just know it. That is awesome. God bless the soul that can see how wonderful a senior pet is.

    Reply
  32. Linda Moon - October 13, 2021 7:11 pm

    One of my Angel friends went to Heaven today. She was not young. I’ve had old pets like Rip and have two with me now. These old ones…friends and pets…were and are loved. R.I.P Barbara. Enjoy and love one another, Rip and Jace.

    Reply
  33. Rebecca Souders - October 13, 2021 7:14 pm

    Good one, Sean. I can’t have pets in this rental where I live, but I just made a contribution to my local no-kill shelter… Hope more people will do the same! Humans are not the only souls helped by your words.

    Reply
  34. Becky - October 13, 2021 8:30 pm

    So many abandoned dogs across the country it’s so heartbreaking. I’m so glad Rip found love in his last years, so many don’t. This is why I always say please,please, please adopt DON’T shop!

    Reply
  35. Keloth Anne - October 13, 2021 8:37 pm

    Oh, Sean, you really pulled my heart strings 😢
    But suddenly—-you really lifted my spirits and made my heart sing ♥️ What a wonderful ending.
    You just continue to amaze me with your incredible writings!!
    Thank you so much

    Reply
  36. Karen - October 13, 2021 9:39 pm

    I volunteer with a pug rescue group. I am a foster failure. Why? No senior Pug ever left my house. Seniors are so special and the idea of going through the trauma of being sent to another home just saddened me. At present we have one 16 year old Pug adopted at age 10 (blind and hard of hearing). Sparky had the house and yard mapped in on day. He is my shadow. We have 3 more rescues. Two adopted between 6 months and a year. Smiley and Warren are now 15. Lady is a year and a half. She and Warren are best buds and love to play despite the age difference. I wish folks would adopt older animals. At the end of their lives it is a privilege to be with them despite the sadness we experience.

    Reply
  37. Floyd Budd Dunson - October 14, 2021 1:15 am

    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. Possibly the best sentence ever written . Shakespeare goes into the corner and hides his face , Steinbeck beats his head agai st the wall screaming why didn’t I write that.

    Reply
  38. Stacey Patton Wallace - October 14, 2021 1:57 am

    Good for Jace! Thanks, Sean; love you!

    Reply
  39. Melanie - October 14, 2021 3:05 am

    Every one of mine over the past two decades have been rescues. The ones that no one else wants. Won’t have it any other way. They are the best friends I have ever had. ❤️

    Reply
  40. Joan Moore - October 14, 2021 3:23 am

    I have never had to go to the shelter. We found Blackie, Sipsey, Bubba, Cindy,Big’Un,
    Brownie,Four,Five and Joel.All throw aways who all had twelve years or more of love with us and became our only children.

    Reply
  41. MAM - October 14, 2021 3:26 am

    Rescued animals know they are loved and they have so much love to give back. We once rescued a dog that I didn’t know at the time in the foreign country where we lived was destined to become someone’s dinner. She hated men, but she sure loved us girls and we loved her back. 14 years worth. We’ve had three more rescues since then. All well loved. They also rescue us!

    Reply
  42. cindy johnson - October 14, 2021 11:57 am

    Well, thanks. Read this last night and am only now composed enough to comment. Sean, why did you need to shatter my heart like that? I don’t cry. But there I was, throat squeezed tight, hot water bubbling up over my lower lids, choking a little as I tried to breathe. It’s a beautiful story, and I thank you for it. My 4 little rescued dogs and I salute you.

    Reply
  43. Beverly - October 14, 2021 12:22 pm

    😭

    Reply
  44. Vince - October 15, 2021 6:01 pm

    A loyal dog is one of the many gifts the Good Lord has given us for this life. I can only hope the dog feels the same way about their owner.

    Reply
  45. Bill - October 16, 2021 6:08 pm

    .

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  46. Jan - October 17, 2021 1:00 am

    This was a rough one… next week I have to put down my 15 yr old rescue dog Louie, due to health issues… it’s always heartbreaking as there are our ,” furry children”… so glad this old Bassett found his forever home… bless you Sean ..

    Reply
  47. Bob - October 17, 2021 7:19 pm

    Tears, all true and one of the few “happy endings.” Thanks for a success story and a smile along with the tears! Good boy!

    Reply
  48. Lora - October 17, 2021 7:21 pm

    Happy tears here as well. Thank you, Sean. 🦋💜🦋

    Reply

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