The Foster Boy

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 close 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 and I expected to learn he had a wife and kids, but that wasn’t the case. Instead 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. It was a hardscrabble childhood.

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.

Yesterday, we talked about all his animals.

“I dunno,” he said. “Just love animals.
Growing up, I was never allowed to have any. And I had so much love I wanted to give.”

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.

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

Raw ground beef.

No dog, not even Benji, can remain civilized in the presence of a raw hamburger. Jacob left an entire package on the pavement then backed away slowly.

The dog still wouldn’t come. So Jacob gave up and piled into his car to leave.

But 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.”

And you already know where this tale is heading. 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 evening, a breakthrough happened. The old dog walked straight toward Jacob and had a seat at his feet.

“You shoulda seen how he was looking at me. He was like: ‘Can I really trust you, man?’ I was like, ‘You can trust me, dude. Just please gimme the chance to be your friend.’”

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 figure out the rest.

It wasn’t long before that animal was wearing a personalized 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. The dog showered with Jacob. Jacob named the dog Pat.

Pat soon had his own fluffy bed, his own chew toys, his own room. Pat won the canine lottery.

But nothing lasts forever. Six years later the vet discovered Pat had cancer. It was quick. They put the dog to sleep in the vet’s office while 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 Jacob do that often. Jacob’s tears don’t fall easily.

“When I was a kid,” said Jacob, “all I ever wanted was a home that I could say was all mine. That’s what I did for Pat. Pat knew he had a real home with me. He wasn’t unloved like I was.”

Pat had more than a home. And he received more than mere love. 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 blood kin.

Just ask Jacob.


  1. Susan Wold - April 17, 2021 12:29 pm

    We save our dogs and they save us in return. My Redtick Coonhound was thrown out like trash when he didn’t make a good hunting dog. He is meek and afraid of loud noises. I rescued him after a not so great divorce and we nursed each other back to health, Tucker from heartworm and me from a broken heart. We have a strong bond and we both suffer separation anxiety when apart. Tucker truly is my best friend.

  2. Te Burt - April 17, 2021 12:32 pm

    Any story about animals touches my heart. I was not raised to respect animals, but I learned the hard way (meaning the painful way) to care for God’s undefended and voiceless. Been a rescuer/foster of both (small) dogs and cats until I retired and could not afford the numbers I had. Got 8 adult cats rehomed this Jan/Feb.! Got 6 kittens rehomed last December. In these times, this is serious progress!

  3. Debbie g - April 17, 2021 12:36 pm

    There should be no homeless children or animals 😢

  4. Jo Ann - April 17, 2021 12:42 pm

    I love happy dog stories. At one time, we had 5 dogs & 2 cats, now we’re down to 2 dogs. If we’re able, we will never be without dogs or cats. (I love happy cat stories, too!)

  5. Robert Smyth - April 17, 2021 12:51 pm

    Excellent Sean, THANKS

  6. Mark Fendley - April 17, 2021 1:19 pm

    I completely agree. Blood kin. I hope my current five rescue dogs know that is how we feel

  7. Becky Kaufman - April 17, 2021 1:21 pm

    There is a children’s song that still makes me cry: “Old Bonebags, Old Bonebags, my toothless old hound. He barks at the prowlers ’til they come around. He shies at the rabbits;he’s scared of the doves; but he comes running to me with eyes full of love.”

  8. MyPlace - April 17, 2021 1:30 pm

    And once more you hit home with me. All our dogs were rescues in need of a home, and were welcomed into ours. They were loved and pampered and became family too. Our first new family member came to us 38 years ago and they lived good lives. They were our friends too, and it was hard to let them go when their times came, mostly from illness/age. My husband and I Both cried when we had to make that last trip to the vet’s office to stop their suffering, and we also made sure they did not leave this earth without us holding them and looking into their eyes. I still tear up thinking about those times. Good job Jacob, and thanks Sean, for once again making me cry into my coffee cup!

  9. Rose - April 17, 2021 2:29 pm

    This is such a good story…my daughter got a rescue dog last October…he is such a character. He is still in puppyhood. and stand and see on the table with ease. Always curious…if she is cooking, or me for that matter when I am there, he wants to put his front paws up on the counter and see what we are doing. I wish I could put a pic of him here. He and his siblings were left in a box by the side of a busy road in TN, and a rescue center in Virginia I believe got them, and daughter drove to Dayton, Ohio from Indianapolis to get him. He went from and unloved pup to someone that adores him and now has extended family that love him.

  10. Mary Kehl - April 17, 2021 3:16 pm

    Tears and love!

  11. Tim House - April 17, 2021 3:31 pm

    As a dog lover, this hit home. I can only imagine Jacob’s life, but he has a good heart.

  12. Maureen Brown - April 17, 2021 3:34 pm

    No one can give love and brotherhood like those who’ve been without.

  13. William - April 17, 2021 4:26 pm

    👍 Good story.

  14. Bonnie Penner - April 17, 2021 4:30 pm

    We’ve been foster parents and your story brought tears to my eyes. There are too many stories like that and it makes my heart ache. So glad your friend has a happy life now.

  15. Patricia Gibson - April 17, 2021 4:42 pm

    You are so right Sean and if they aren’t your family, you shouldn’t have one❤️❤️

  16. Linda Moon - April 17, 2021 5:00 pm

    Six dogs and three cats……that’s music to my own ears. It’s so easy to love animals. Jacob was loved by Pat, his brother. Ask my son, my guy, and me about our dog Pyper who was with us for 18 years. We were ALL blood kin, just like the two guys I just read about.

  17. Braxton Usher - April 17, 2021 6:16 pm

    I will have to agree with you on this. We have two dogs now. Both came to us through other avenues. We have had as many as four at one time. All but two of them were adopted or given to us. And they all become children. And like children, sometimes I would like to conk them in the head. But the love they give and get from my wife and I is immeasurable. Always a fan.

  18. Diane Hazel - April 17, 2021 7:28 pm

    Sean, you never disappoint. Thank you for brightening my day. I missed my calling as a newspaper columnist about the time the internet killed a lot of newspapers. But you figured it out and obviously have the chops to make it all work. That’s a blessing to all your followers. Keep at it! I share it daily with many friends.

  19. MAM - April 17, 2021 7:32 pm

    Oh, yeah. Those rescue dogs ARE family! They are our kids, just a little furrier, but usually more appreciative! As always, thank you, Sean, for sharing your God-given talent with words!

  20. twistedliss - April 17, 2021 8:32 pm

    You made me cry, man.

  21. Rebecca Souders - April 17, 2021 9:05 pm

    Your points are very well-crafted. More good feelings today from you, Sean Dietrich. Thanks.

  22. Dean - April 17, 2021 9:41 pm

    I have a cat which I love but i am a dog person. Because of health reasons I can’t take care of a dog but i can a cat. So i am grateful to have him. Animals should be a part of our family because they give unconditionally love

  23. Christina - April 18, 2021 12:37 am

    Family is where love and connection is. Bless the bond between Pat and Jacob forever.

  24. Christine Terrell - April 18, 2021 3:01 am

    I have 6 feline “Pats.” I couldn’t live without them.Point of story received loud and clear.

  25. Suzi - April 18, 2021 7:35 am

    “Well done” two good and faithful servants”…

  26. Tammy S. - April 18, 2021 3:10 pm

    Truth ❤️🐶

  27. Bob Brenner - April 19, 2021 3:26 pm

    Nothing better than a good 🐶 ❤️! They love you no matter what!

  28. Gwen Lancaster - June 23, 2021 4:28 am

    I relate to the story of Pat, as I am an only child with a mother who divorced and then moved every year all through my young life. She was my biological mother, but was not that interested in me, and I felt always alone. In adult life, I seem to want to help those who are in need, and always have rescued pets. My 2 cats now are strays who wandered, got picked up by the animal shelter, and then adopted with me. I tend to befriend other loners, especially those who seem to need company or assistance…. Thanks, Sean for your columns, and books.
    Please subscribe me so I can get your blogs. (My friend who used to forward your blogs to me, James Finlayson, died May 3 this year, and I already miss him, but it means I will miss your columns, unless there is a way for me to get your blogs into my own email.) I get WordPress from the Sepia Train of a friend in KY, so I know my PC can accept it. I think Jodie said my attempt to join was not working in the past. (Don’t publish my comment, please. I just had to tell you about my friend who died recently at


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