A dark-haired, handsome guy shares domestic life with me, and I treasure him dearly. As romance heroes go, he has some creds. For example, he never says much unless he’s worried for my welfare, and then he’s as vocal as he needs to be. He’s kind to kittens and others of his ilk, and never asks much for himself. He’s protective of me, asks little, and is great company. On my bad days, he’s always up for a hug, and he’s never spoken a harsh word in my direction.
I met Sarge when my mastiff died, and my bull mastiff needed a buddy. I didn’t want a puppy, because the bull mastiff was elderly, and puppies of any species take a lot of patience. My daughter is a veterinary technician, and told me that black dogs have a hard time at the shelters. People do not adopt old dogs, big dogs, or black dogs, she said, and those parameters are so well established, it’s called, “Black Dog Syndrome” among shelter professionals.
That made my choice easier when I went to the pound. “I want your biggest, oldest, blackest dog,” I said.
The guy behind the counter jabbed a thumb toward the back. “Take your pick.”
Hooboy. With few exceptions, every dog they had was big and black—a rottie cross, a dobie cross, a shepherd-something-something cross. They were big, they were full of beans, and they all needed a home.
Talk about heart break.
And yet, one dog didn’t even sit up when I stood outside his door. He didn’t thump a tail, didn’t do more than twitch an eyebrow. He saw me, but remained where he was, slightly grizzled chin on his paws. Thirty other dogs were hopping around, barking, and doing the canine version of “Pick me! Pick me!” while this guy merely regarded me out of dignified, calm eyes.
Noble hound, he was not. His pedigree was part rottie or pit bull, maybe some bloodhound. But those eyes…
“You,” I said. “You are my dog.”
He stayed where he was—no pushover, this guy.
“You are my dog,” I said again, amid the din of barking dogs. “You come home with me.”
I got a tail thump for that public service announcement, but I’d still apparently not found the right sentiment.
I tried again. “I am your person. I belong to you now.”
He came over to the door, tail wagging, though he remained quiet and reserved compared to his neighbors.
Sarge is still quiet and reserved. All I know about his past is that he was found wandering in the truck stop parking lot, wearing a camo collar that said, “Sarge.” Somebody must have loved the daylights out of this dog, because he’s beautifully well trained, gets along with all of the other animals in the household, and has never put a paw wrong. I want to tell his former owner, “Your boy is doing just fine. He’s well loved, he’ll never want for anything.”
But the backstory really doesn’t matter. What matters is that Sarge and I can be part of each other’s happily ever afters, and if some other fellow tries to steal a piece of my heart, he will have to measure up to the standards of loyalty and consideration that Sarge has already established.
Ms. Burrowes is giving away print copes of the first two books in her series: Tremaine’s True Love and Daniel’s True Desire to one lucky US based reader. Make a comment below to be entered in this drawing.
Grace Burrowes began writing romance as an antidote to empty nest, and soon found that writing is an antidote to most of what ails us. She’s the sixth out of seven children, has been reading romance for decades, and practices child welfare law in western Maryland. Her most recent book is Will’s True Wish.
Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.
It breaks my heart when I read about the plight some animals suffer I have a fur baby and I can’t imagine life without him.. thank you for incorporating that key element in a story I think more stories now needs to start adopting animals in it so as to make readers more aware of their significance
We have Patsy (Cline, because she’s a little crazy) who came to us from our local shelter. She was a Katrina dog, who was lost after the hurricane, and somehow made her way from Louisiana to South Florida, first to a Palm Beach County shelter, and then on to Broward, where we found her. She’s at least 12 years old, but we’re not sure. When she goes to the great dog park in the sky, I’m going to look (after a time) for my own Sarge. Thanks for the inspiration and the lovely story. Hopefully, our 4 cats will be equally grateful. :)
Hooray for both you and Sarge!
What a sweet story. I’ve always wanted to adopt a pet. I’m usually “”gifted”” with pets by friends and family.
My first dog ever was a black puppy I got when I was six. She was the best, smartest dog ever! My neighbor actually used her as a baby sitter, because she would sit next to the baby carriage and if she didn’t know you, you were not getting near that boy. She’s been gone a long time now, but I miss her still. I hope you and Sarge have many years together.
Thank you so much for sharing Sarge’s story and highlighting the plight of black animals in shelters. This is unfortunately true for both cats and dogs for a couple of reasons. One, potential adopters tend to look right past them and see the more showy, colorful animals. Two, black animals do not always photograph well, which reduces their visibility on Petfinder, etc. It’s unfortunate because they have so much love to give.
We had a black rescue dog when I was growing up. My Mom put her foot down and said no big dogs, but when a friend said it was us or euthanasia, we ended up with a black lab who had been badly abused. He was the best dog and I still miss him decades after we lost him to old age. He used to walk the rounds every night by which I mean he would check on everyone in the house every 20 minutes every evening. He was very protective of all of us but so very gentle with us too.
Oh, this is so charming! I love the turn-abouts. Glad you found each other!
I had no idea that black dogs were less likely to be rescued and I don’t understand why. I’m glad you recognized that you and Sarge were destined to be together.
What a sweet story Grace! I’ve lost my heart to many canine and feline souls over the years and it’s always wonderful to hear of one finding his or her forever home.
Many years ago my father went to the LA dog pound and brought me back a black Chow Keeshond cross that he would not leave the pound with until he saw him stand and curl his tail over his back. The person he was with told him that Bart’s tail did not do that, Dad told him yes it did because He could see the flat spot in the hair on his back where the tail rested. Bart stood up and his tail curled over his back, Dad got him right away and brought him back to Michigan to replace my big black shaggy dog that I had for over 10 years. I had Black Bart (named because he was rescued from a doggy jail) for about 12 years and it took a long time to replace him. I still miss my black friend. I agree with the comment that my Bart and my two favorite horses had better be waiting for me at Heaven’s gates or I want to go where they are.
I love your books, they are on my keeper shelf and on my Kindle so I can read them any time I want a good and comforting read. I have a hard time waiting for the next one.
Lovely writing. I can’t imagine my life without my pets – three corgis (one black & white), two black cats, and two big black horses. I personally do not understand the black animal stigma for any species, especially since it is my favorite color for a pet.
We have a rescued black dog now. Bella was described as a “”six pound poodle mix””. We live in central Florida on the ocean side. We drove to nearly Atlanta to get her. She was already close to twelve pounds and had big paws. We had never had anything but toy poodles(some rescued, most pedigree). The rescue lady said she was a very sweet dog, so we brought her home. She’s close to thirty pounds now, but she IS a sweet dog and likes to fetch and get her tummy rubbed. We’ve had fourteen dogs(including puppies) during our 35 year marriage. Most lived 14-16 years and we still remember and talk about them. Life would be sad and boring without them.
Thank you for telling us about Sarge. He sounds great! :-)
I love your books. I’ve read nineteen so far and have fourteen more to go. I’m going to need special shelves to hold all your books, but I can’t seem to give them up. Thank you for writing them. They suit me just fine. :-)
Such a sweet tale about Sarge. We had a similar situation when we went to adopt a dog from the SPCA, and came across a Border Collie cross who just laid quietly in his crate while all the other dogs were making noise. In fact, we almost didn’t see him where he was curled up along the door of the crate. He seemed so grateful that we found him that I couldn’t leave him there. We brought him home to live with our two Shelties, and it took awhile for him to come out of his shell, but now he’s the snuggliest one of the bunch. He must have been very loved before being abandoned as well, as he was house trained, leash trained and adored car rides. And yes, he’s mostly black, but I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t adopt because of that!
Love comes in all forms, doesn’t it? What a lovely tale!
Thanks for sharing Sarge with us
What a sweet story! I rescued our pooch off the playground where I was teaching after someone dumped her. While it had been a couple of years since we lost our two lovies, my husband claimed he “”wasn’t ready””. Ha! He fell immediately in love and the rest is history. Bless you and bless Sarge.
One of my feral cats had kittens, and one of those kittens, a tortie, ended up with a serious eye infection. Because she couldn’t see out of one side, I could catch her. Took her to the vet, where over the course of a few days, she conquered the whole staff (and a big chunk of my disposable income for the month). Did I go home with that kitty?
NO, I did not. One of the vet techs asked if she could provide her a home, and the kitty was a Valentine’s Day gift to the The Husband. When last seen, husband was wandering around Pet Smart, his basket overflowing with toys for his precious little lovie….
It’s never too soon to fall in love again.
Oh how wonderful that your torti kitten found a perfect daddy! I have always had a super soft spot for torties – maybe because they have the reputation of having bad catitudes. Maybe because I’ve almost always counted a torti amongst my mini pride of cats.
Grace – you are so very gifted at involving our hearts and minds in a story. Thank you for this special one about Sarge! I recently rescued a cat with the same MO. While the kittens frolicked around us, she sat curled up saying she had been through enough already and didn’t expect much. She now is known as Lap Glue Russian Blue. We have been rescued by her.
Love the name! She and Besom could tell stories. And the Russian Blue is a gorgeous creature.
This brought tears to my eyes…we have a big black dog who we rescued. My boy Tommy was shy at first but you could see that there was this sweet sweet boy hidden under all that shyness. He’s my heart dog. Nothing like a rescue dog (or cat)!
We rescue each other. It’s a good system.
Bless you for rescuing Sarge and bless all who adopt instead of shop. I was chosen by a big white Poodle a few years ago. He limped and was shaved down by his rescuers because of neglect. Atticus bloomed into a fluffy white Poodle with a distinctive thump-thump walk, then we lost him to cancer. His last month was like a Poodle bucket list. We now have a tall, dark Poodle who came our way through the rescue because he was a wooly rogue of a puppy (two strikes against him). He’s quite the reformed gentleman now. :)
My mastiff was a fuzzy mastiff, and the breeder acted like that was a bad thing. Silly breeder! He was a GREAT dawg, and I do miss him.
This is why I’m listing my house next week and moving to a furball-friendly neighborhood. Been too long since I was under paw.
Good for you! Get those priorities straight, and then we want to see pics on Facebook!
My Irish Setter Erin reacted in a similar way when I saw her at the pound. While the rest of the dogs clamored for my attention, she stood at the back of the run looking at me. When we made eye contact, she barked once as if to say, “”Here I am. Get me out of here.”” We already had a male Gordon Setter and my husband was biased against Irish – “”Too flighty as a breed”” was his judgment – but she ended up being a wonderful companion until she passed at age 13. That was in 1989 and I still miss her every day.
They are such a beautiful dog, too. I haven’t seen many lately, but if I had plenty of room, I’d consider an Irish setter… also a Scottish deer hound, a Leonburger… what am I saying? I’d go with the big, black mutts.
Sarge’s story led me to tears, especially when you realized there were so many big, old black dogs in need of a home. I’m so glad Sarge got chosen. I have a stray cat, Sam, who nudged his way into the house last winter and hasn’t left since. He is great with the other cats and has become a member of the family. Another stray, Baby, does not play well with others and can’t come in. He lives outside in shelter I’ve provided and eats me out of house and home.
Black cats are my favorites, and I’ve never been without one in over 30 years. I will always choose the black cat, but somehow, the strays keep choosing me. Thank you for realizing just how much black dogs and black cats need.
I’m down to one black cat in the house, and she’s something of a personality. For years, she hung out over in the barn, looking after the horses. She’d scoot around in the rafters at feed time, or I’d be mucking, and I’d feel these eyes on me…. there’s Besom, perched on a window ledge, or overhead…. The horses left but Besom remained queen of the barn. I’d bring her in the house and she’d vamoose like the fiends of hell were after her.
A couple years ago, I was sitting at the computer, typing away, and I felt EYES on me. I looked up, and there was Besom, perched on the piano, looking at me like, “”What? You’ve never seen a cat sitting on a piano?”” She’s been a house cat ever since, even though they can all come and go as they please. She ought to get co-author status on several books, so diligent is she about lap duty when I’m writing. If only they could talk…
You both just know it, when the right one comes along.
I didn’t, really. I was just going to pick up a second dog because dogs are pack animals, and two really aren’t that much more trouble than one (when your back yard is already fenced), and so many need a good home. I had no idea what a gem I was getting for very nearly free.
What a sweet story! Sarge is lucky to have you and vice-versa!!
We’re a good pair. If Sarge had been my first pet, I’d be a dog person, but I also would have been measuring all subsequent dogs against him. I think he’s a one in a million pup, myself.
We lost our best girl in January and are waiting until our boys are home from school in the summer before we rescue another pup. In the meantime our other dog is happy to play fetch. We are still thinking about whether to adopt a puppy or an older dog as our fetching machine will be 10 this year. Love your story about Sarge. There are so many great dogs out there that need love – and clearly have lots of love to give!
I go for the big dogs, old dogs, and black dogs… the puppies have that cute thing going for them, but old dogs have wisdom and heart (and don’t need to chew on everything as much).
That’s a lovely story. Any idea on how old Sarge is?
Not for sure. I’d put him at least at 10 years old, based on how much gray he has, and some of his health issues. He’s quite spry… except for some days.
I think Sarge is lucky to have You!
Thanks, Sue–and best regards to Celeste from Sarge.
What a wonderful story. I’m glad you and Sarge found each other.
So am I, along with Teapot, Besom, Chloe, Murphy, Andy, Ray….
I think I just fell in love with Sarge, too.
He has his heart screwed on right. I had a horse much like him, and again, it was exactly who I needed at the time. When I get to heaven (if I get to heaven), I’m not going in unless I can hear barking, meowing, and whinnying from beyond those pearly gates.
What a lovely story….::sobs:: :)
I think about all the swiss cheese that had to line up to put this dog in my life–somebody lost Sarge, my mastiff died that very week after thirteen years of great health, nobody else had chosen Sarge though he’s obviously a lovely beast, no other dog caught my eye…. Sarge decided I was worth a sniff.
Meant to be, I guess.
You brought a tear to my eye as I recalled years ago picking a dog from a shelter based on his non reaction. He slept through my visit while all his buds were excited. Though he was a puppy and required lots of time, he was the best. I still miss him! Thank you for your story.
Sarge was different, that’s for sure. Every other dog was nearly bouncing off the walls of his pen, but Sarge wasn’t going to put on a show. I think he missed his previous owner terribly, because somebody sure spent a lot of time with him.
What a sweet story! Sarge sounds like a wonderful hero- I’m a little in love with him just from your description.
I think the shelters are full of Sarge’s, and their feline counterparts.
Well, that’s about the nicest thing I have ever read on AAR for an author book give-away. You and Sarge are soooo lucky to have found each other.
We are, and I’d say that’s a common element in a lot of good romances. The one who wins your heart isn’t the one you had in mind, but it’s hard to argue with quiet devotion, and sheer companionability.
That’s Sarge–just a sweet guy.
What a wonderful story. I’m more of a cat person, and our cat is a stray we took in, but I love a good pet story!
I’m more of a cat person too, but cats just can’t create quite the same sense of safety that a pair of big, toothy, barking dogs can. We all get along in my house, which is a testament to the animals, rather than me.
Sarge says, “”HEA’s are us!””
What an absolutely lovely story. Thank-you so much.
Sarge is an example getting exactly who I needed that I didn’t know I needed. I hope he sees me in the same light.
What a lovely tale! And I expect Sarge is as happy with the outcome as you are! Unfortunately, here in the UK at least, there is as Black Cat Syndrome at shelters and cat charities. Such a shame. When we adopted our two girls, Lydia and Emily, at Cats Protection (a national cat rescue charity) we picked two lovely, soft, shiny, 7 month old black sisters, sirens both who rule the roost and give us so much pleasure and now aged 7.
We deal with the same thing here–black dogs, black cats. I have several black cats, and they agree with Sarge–that’s a lot of silliness!