Not-So-Free Puppies

Today I was thinking about how sometimes even though this life seems like a chaotic trainwreck of accidents, it’s not. In fact it’s the opposite. Sometimes it’s almost as though the whole thing has been scripted. Like maybe there are no accidents.

Which leads me to a story sent in by a friend. Many years ago this friend, who shall remain nameless, was driving through a little town, which shall also remain nameless. He was driving a truck, which, as far as I know, has no name either.

He was listening to music, probably some Duane and Greg. And I’ll bet he was singing along. On the side of the road he saw a sign that read: “Puppies.”

My friend is a noted dog afficiondo, and he is also dad to three kids who are dog freaks. His previous dog had passed that year and he was in the market.

The handmade signs led him to a dilapidated house. And we’re talking about a true ramshackled heap. A stiff wind could have turned this thing into a pile of pickup sticks.

In the front yard were several kids playing. On the porch was their mother, smoking a cigarette. He leapt out of the truck and waded through the lawn of dead appliances, rusted bikes, and rain-soaked trash.

The house was even worse than he thought. There were threadbare tarps over the roof, and windows missing. The kids were in bad shape, too. They looked like they hadn’t bathed since the Punic Wars.

He saw no puppies, but there on the porch, sitting beside the woman was the most beautiful adult dog he’d ever met. A Saint Bernard.

Many people have never seen a Bernard except in the movies, and they’re unprepared for how impressive these creatures are. A Saint Bernard is not just a dog. It’s a breed that’s been around since the seventeenth century with a reputation, historically speaking, for saving as more lives than a Gaither Homecoming concert.

My friend was smitten. The dog must have weighed about 800 pounds and stood 350 feet tall. The herculean thing came trotting up to him with a chew toy in her mouth.

“Get back here, Ethel!” called the woman. But Ethel had already made a new friend.

He fuzzed Ethel’s head and discovered that her chew toy was no toy. It was a plain old brick. The dog dropped the brick and it hit the porch with a thud.

He asked, “Where are the puppies?”

“Sorry,” the woman said. “Just got rid of the last one a few hours ago. But you can buy Ethel if you want, she’s real nice and she needs a good home.”

No sooner had the woman said this than tears began forming in her eyes, and also in the eyes of her children.

“This dog’s for sale?”

“Yep.” The woman dabbed her face. “My husband is making us get rid of her. He hates dogs. She’s five years old. She’s potty trained and everything.”

The woman cried and explained that after Ethel’s puppy birthing adventures, her husband had become fed up with dogs. Her husband said he was going to take Ethel to a shelter once the puppies were all sold. He was taking her away that evening.

“It’s a kill-shelter,” the woman added.

So my friend immediately offered to buy the dog. But the woman wasn’t able to freely make decisions without consulting her husband. She went to fetch him.

In a few minutes a man came onto the porch, shirtless, aggressive, and ready to fight. He said he’d sell the dog, but only for a ludicrous price. It was an intimidation move, there’s no doubt about it. One directed at her.

But my friend didn’t flinch. Instead he wrote a ridiculous check for the asking price, a price you’d normally associate with a three-bedroom house. The next thing he knew he was loading a behemoth Saint Bernard into his truck. The kids were surrounding the animal saying last goodbyes. Chins trembling. Faces leaking.

One girl wiped her pink eyes and said, “Are—are you gonna change her name?”

The little boy came next. “Here’s her blanket, so she won’t forget us.”

Even the woman was coming apart. She pressed her forehead against the dog’s mahogany body and let it all out.

But the goodbyes were interrupted when Father Dearest barked at everyone to get the [cussword] away from the truck and go inside.

“Now!” added Husband of the Year.

Before my friend left, he gave the woman a business card and said, “Listen, any time your kids want to see Ethel, I want you to call me. I’m just gonna temporarily hold her for you. How’s that sound?”

He maintained eye contact with her to make sure she knew what he was actually saying.

But before the woman could answer her husband shouted, “I said now, woman!”

What a guy.

As it happens, my friend did get a phone call from her late one night. She was calling from a cellphone while driving out of the state with her kids in the backseat.

She wanted to know if she could work out a deal to buy Ethel back. My friend sensed something was wrong, so he offered something even better. He told her about a domestic abuse shelter he knew about.

Arrangements were made, and when the woman arrived at the shelter that night, black-eyed and bruised, luggage in tow, Ethel was already waiting in the rec room.

And you’re probably wondering what the big deal is about my friend’s story.

Well, he just happened to be the guy who founded and operated the shelter.

There are no accidents in this life. None.


  1. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - November 3, 2020 7:30 am

    Prayers for every one of them.
    Even the dog.

  2. Sue K. - November 3, 2020 8:19 am

    This is so true. There are no accidents in this life…only God-ordained Divine Appointments.

  3. Te - November 3, 2020 10:17 am

    As always, you don’t disappoint. Being a dog and cat rescuer and foster, a survivor of a dysfunctional family, this spoke to me. Thanks.

  4. Leslie in NC - November 3, 2020 11:24 am

    Wow. Just wow. Your friend turned out to be a dog loving angel in disguise to this poor woman and her children. And for Ethel too.

  5. Margaret - November 3, 2020 11:33 am

    I’m here in tears again at reading your beautiful story. Thank you for your sweet stories that begin my day.

  6. Pilgrim - November 3, 2020 11:54 am

    That ending snuck up on me.
    Way to go!

  7. Jane - November 3, 2020 12:07 pm


  8. MR - November 3, 2020 12:10 pm

    Made me cry. . . .again, Sean. I wish there were a world where there was no domestic violence. I wish there was a world where children didn’t have to grow up in such an environment. But if this story is true, I’m glad this man had such a big heart.

  9. Cheryl - November 3, 2020 12:32 pm

    One of your best, Sean.

  10. Vicky - November 3, 2020 12:33 pm

    I just found you recently through a quote that someone used about dogs. I found your site, spent a Saturday reading and then signed up to receive your daily writings. If you are going to make me cry first thing in the morning, I guess that I will have to start reading in the evenings! I love your story telling & your heart-it’s a good thing in these troubling times. Thank you.

  11. Kelly Watson - November 3, 2020 12:39 pm

    This gave me chills and tears.

  12. Bkr - November 3, 2020 12:41 pm

    I’m used to your stories making me cry so I was ready. This is one of your best. When I think You cannot get better you write a story that is your “best”. This is your best. Thank you.

  13. Denise Walker - November 3, 2020 12:51 pm

    Oh, Sean, you always seem to touch my soul. Thank you for your stories and insights. There are indeed no accidents.

  14. Lydia - November 3, 2020 1:03 pm

    Thank you for that heart-rending and heart-warming story.

  15. Kathie - November 3, 2020 1:05 pm

    Yes, yes, yes!

  16. Margaret - November 3, 2020 1:49 pm

    Thank you, Sean! You never disappoint us.

  17. Maria - November 3, 2020 1:49 pm

    This is the best story anyone will hear today. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

  18. Edwin G Staples - November 3, 2020 1:53 pm

    Great Story Sean, and a shining light on our sad world on this day that we have to make serious decisions about electing a new president.

  19. Dawn Bratcher - November 3, 2020 2:07 pm

    I am so glad she was able to leave and the divine connection! May God continue to bless her & her children! Thank you, Sean, for telling your friend’s story. ❤

  20. HT - November 3, 2020 2:21 pm

    The perfect story for today, thanks.

  21. Diane - November 3, 2020 2:25 pm

    God only knows…thanks brother

  22. Betty F. - November 3, 2020 2:30 pm

    Wow. Thank you for reminding us there are good, caring people still out there trying when the constant focus of the media is only on hate, doom and gloom.

  23. Judy Cobern - November 3, 2020 3:02 pm

    So dear! 😢.

  24. Connie - November 3, 2020 3:10 pm

    Thank you. And thank your friend. Many women have needed a safe haven and found it because of people like your friend who make those places happen. Sadly, abused women are everywhere and they don’t always know there’s a safe place to go. I agree, there are no accidents. Things happen for a reason. Love and hugs.

  25. allisvant - November 3, 2020 3:19 pm

    You hit the proverbial nail on the head, Sue K.! a great read, Sean!

  26. Dell - November 3, 2020 3:39 pm

    Now you have gone and done it! I am bawling at work….bless him!

  27. Catherine - November 3, 2020 4:25 pm

    My sad tears just turned to happy tears. Wow. Just wow. Angels among us.

  28. Mary Ann Gilbert - November 3, 2020 4:43 pm

    Got me right in the feels! God bless your friend for recognizing the needs of this woman and her children! And for keeping Ethel safe for their reunion!

  29. Linda Moon - November 3, 2020 4:50 pm

    Accidental stories like this one from your friend get me thinking. I saw and heard “Sean of the South” for the first time where neither you nor I were originally supposed to be. And then there’s my two furry cat non-accidents. You and the cats are 3 happy accidents for me! Three.

  30. David P B Feder - November 3, 2020 4:57 pm

    When I first started seriously dating, my first question of a prospective partner was always, “Are you a dog person or a cat person?” (I’m not fond of cats.) If the woman affirmed that she was a dog person, the second thing I’d ask is, “Where does a dog sleep?” (The right answer: “Why, in the bed with us, of course!”) No matter how perfect/smart/shapely/attractive/educated a woman appeared to be, if those two questions were not answered correctly — buh-bye! Many a friend watched with incredulity as I would reject seeming goddesses for failing the Canine American test.
    If a partner tells you, “It’s either the dog or me,” well, we all know what the correct answer to that question is!

  31. Jan - November 3, 2020 5:24 pm

    Amen and amen! He has a way of working things out which is why we can “trust and obey… for there’s no other way”… Thank you for the reminder!

  32. muthahun - November 3, 2020 5:26 pm

    If ever there was a day when I needed to read something positive, this is it. Thank you, sir.

  33. MAM - November 3, 2020 5:53 pm

    That one really turned on the eye faucets this morning, but so wonderful to read such a great, positive story. Thanks as always, Sean!

  34. Judy - November 3, 2020 7:35 pm

    Yes! There are no accidents! Thank you for sharing this story.

  35. Martha Black - November 3, 2020 8:11 pm

    As the Devine Ms M sings, “God is watching us……….. from..a..distance………

  36. Linda Broyles - November 3, 2020 8:11 pm

    Thanks so much, Sean.

  37. Chasity Davis Ritter - November 3, 2020 8:59 pm

    God has many angels both two legged and four that are there when we need them most and sometimes if they aren’t sure of the way he posts hand written signs to direct them.

  38. Patricia Gibson - November 3, 2020 9:05 pm

    God is good all the time🙏

  39. Martha Gwen Sibert - November 3, 2020 10:08 pm

    Sweet!! It’s hard to write more with my eyes full of tears!!

  40. thouse1001 - November 3, 2020 10:21 pm

    With all your good stories, this may be THE best, most heartfelt I’ve read. On a contentious day like today (election day) a much needed tale. <3

  41. Barbara Kirker - November 3, 2020 10:40 pm

    I love this one. It just about about brought tears to my eyes.

  42. Marylin Paramore - November 3, 2020 10:50 pm

    I absolutely love all your writings, but today was exceptional, a real tearjerker. I am 71 years young and only recently lucked up on your writings on facebook. I am a devoted fan reading your column faithfully everyday. They are so true to life. Keep up the good work!

  43. Mary Beth Patten - November 3, 2020 11:03 pm

    This is one of your best! And getting it today was no accident, either, when the world is upside down and our country is trying to figure out our future. Thanks!

  44. Paul - November 4, 2020 3:27 am

    Dam Sean That was a good one. Like you Im a dog person. There’s something about a man and a dog that says. Life on this planet is no accident

  45. Carmen McAnalley - November 4, 2020 4:16 am

    This is just the best story!! Thank you.

  46. Christina - November 4, 2020 4:21 am

    You got a good friend, Sean!

  47. Raydene L Kelly - November 4, 2020 6:40 pm

    What a great story….left me with tears too!

  48. Margaret Cade - November 5, 2020 12:35 pm

    That was beautiful.

  49. elizabethroosje - November 5, 2020 6:10 pm

    Very beautiful and encouraging, thank you so much Sean!

  50. Sherry Holland - November 7, 2020 11:43 am

    Would love to hear Part 2 of this story!

  51. Melissa Mikkelsen - December 11, 2020 3:28 pm

    Crying my eyes out. There are so many people that stay in bad situations that are there because a beloved pet is being theatened. People don’t leave because they can’t take their pet with them to the shelter. Abusers don’t just abuse people they abuse pets. If I were God for just one day there would be a lot more lightning strikes.


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