Survivor and Symbol of Hope (RIP, Grandpa 4/25/20)

Sometimes things happen for a reason and you don’t know what it is until a little time passes. I believe that the day four-pounds of ragged, toothless, geriatric dog peeked out from a ditch as we were passing by was the beginning of a life lesson for me.

Just a week before Christmas and it was going to be a sad one. I’d canceled all festivities and wanted to wallow. But a little mild-mannered gentleman took my mind off my own problems as I concentrated on his.

It was raining that day and we had a brand new car. My Ben stopped at my insistence but once we got a look and a whiff of what smelled like death on this little pup, he refused to let him in the car. We all know how that would go over. I stood in the rain holding this pitiful critter and told him I’d walk the five miles home.

In the rain.

With the dog.

Sighing in frustration, he let me hold the dog on my lap after promises that I’d only get him medical help and try to find his family for him.

The old fellow sat up in my lap and looked straight ahead as if to say, “Finally. I thought you’d never show up.” He was ready to go.

We arrived home and I fed him, then got him a warm bed and let him settle in for the night. The next day I took him to the veterinarian, who told me that it appeared to be a senior dog, at least 12-14 years old and in horrible health. Barely four pounds, he was tangled, matted, covered in fleas and so very skinny that you could see every rib. His jaw also appeared to be a little sideways, probably an old injury that healed on it’s own, the vet said. (I internally cringed at the thought of maybe him being kicked or abused) Unfortunately he had severe gingivitis and not too many teeth, either. His mouth was full of painful pus pockets that needed to be treated before the teeth could be seen to. The vet said it was obvious that he’d been out on his own for a very long time, which would later show as he passed all the sticks and leaves he’d been eating.

They had to shave him to free him of the tangles and fleas.

The vet asked me how much I wanted to put into his care since he was a stray, very old, and maybe too close to starvation to save. I replied whatever it takes to make him comfortable. They shot him up with antibiotics and told me he probably wouldn’t live long.

During all the handling this little man was quiet and patient, standing there with a proud but hopeful look in his eyes. An expression that said “I know this isn’t easy but I know you want to help me.”

I brought him home. A tiny shell-shocked and eerily quiet little fellow who didn’t even have the strength to bark or climb onto the couch. We called him Grandpa and he ate very well but otherwise slept most of the time, snuggled into the softest and warmest thing I could find, my beloved Pashmina scarf from our trip overseas. I devoted every minute of the holidays to caring for him and as I concentrated on making him feel safe and loved, we got through Christmas. During this time, I posted his photo on every lost dog site I could find so that if someone was out there looking for him, they could be reunited.

We had a lot of possible connections, but none of them panned out to be his real family.

Because we were at full capacity and dealing with a trauma-pup, I tried to fulfill my promise and find him a new home to live out what might only be weeks or months of the rest of his life. We tried two new places but they didn’t work out and I brought him back both times, silently thankful for more time to love on him.

Then he got sick. Very sick with vomiting and bloody diarrhea every day. We spent a lot of time at the clinic until we finally found out he has CIL, an intestinal disease that can be fatal. That began a journey of trying to find a diet he could handle. We tried many things before resorting to home-cooking and finally we hit upon the right combination of cooked meals mixed w/prescription kibble.

I continued to look for the perfect home and Grandpa was changing. With a new, strict diet he was gaining strength and he found his voice again. He also found joy in following around my pups, attaching himself to Riley Radcliffe as his closest buddy and comrade. He began to understand the affection I poured on him was a good thing and he wanted more, always coming to me to be tucked into my sweater for a little nap.

Soon I could see my Ben trying not to show that he was always warming up to our little Grandpa. It was hard not to, as the little guy just oozed friendliness, and forgiveness for the way humans had treated him so far. He began having a great time gallivanting around the yard with Riley, sniffing out critters. We even caught him eating a bird once and we lectured him, and assured him he’d never go hungry again. He made us laugh daily with his bobbing tail and the long tongue that always hung out the side of his mouth. And he was so very eager to please! To belong! We found out that his age was actually a plus because he was much lower key and more affectionate than a younger dog. But we both agreed that we just couldn’t handle another dog, especially one that was so old and would have many needs.

But then Grandpa and I had a moment.

It was more special than all the others put together. I had taken him out into the December cold air one morning to potty and when he was done, he ran back to me. I tucked him into my sweater to bring him in and once inside, I decided to keep him there for a few minutes to warm his skinny bones. We sat down in the rocking chair and he tucked his little head under my chin and burrowed deeper, even closer to my chest. Usually he was fairly stiff, unsure of being dropped or who knows what else. But this time, I felt his body begin to slowly relax. Soon he began a soft little snore and I looked down and saw total contentment on his sleepy face. I realized that I might just be the first human he completely trusts and is willing to let his guard down with.

I melted.

That sweet, love and trust-filled moment was all I needed to convince me that Grandpa had already found his home.  And he wants everyone to know that rescuing older dogs is a gift and not a chore. Like him, he knows that the senior pups who have nearly given up hope only need someone to give them a chance. Let them in and they’ll show you that you won’t be rescuing them, because they will rescue you first.

For more stories on rescued dogs and those needing homes, please follow Kay Bratt, Director of Advocacy for Yorkie Rescue of the Carolinas, at her website



Edited to add that after two and half years of devotion, from us to him and him to us, we laid Grandpa to rest on April 29, 2020. Grandpa was a very tiny pup with a huge heart of gold. When we brought in Primrose and Bitsy, mom and daughter fosters, he loved on them. Clara, too, in the short time she was here. And especially our newest Bratt Pack member, Rango. He’s a younger pup with a lot of trauma issues. Grandpa allowed Rango to snuggle up to him for naps. When I take Rango to the vet, Grandpa was the first one to check him out upon return, kissing his face with that loopy tongue and telling him it’s okay.. he’s home now.

Honestly, our hearts are so broken and empty, grieving for the light he brought to our lives. Thank you to all who have donated in his name to go toward future seniors that find their way to the rescue I work with. It means so much that his death has brought in kindness. For such a lovable soul who never met a person or critter he didn’t like, Grandpa would appreciate that.

We now have a YROC store where you can buy a shirt or tote bag, or other swag with Grandpa’s image (as seen here with graphic) on it to support other senior dogs who make it to be rescued. You can find that here:   YROC STORE 

Or grab my latest memoir that tells more about Grandpa’s story and those of others, too. (( BUY HERE ))




  1. Peggy Sheppard on September 5, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Love this story. I was already in love with Grandpa and now I love him even more.

    • Cindy on June 2, 2021 at 3:16 pm

      God led him to you and your love. It was meant to be that he found you.

  2. Pam Gardner on September 5, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    I adore Grandpa and his story. I think he may be an angel in disguise❤️

  3. Robin Batterson on September 5, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Ah, so sweet, knew part of his story now know the rest.

  4. Keri on September 5, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Loved Silent Tears and Scavengers Daughter series!! Follow you on fb 🙂

  5. Denise on September 7, 2019 at 12:24 am

    I just finished Wish Me Home, which I read in two days; I couldn’t put it down! I loved it! The story made me cry and laugh and I’m a sucker for animals, dogs in particular, so this story was right up my alley. I’m so thankful Kindle recommended your book and I definitely will be reading more. I loved Hemi! I lost my beloved dog/companion/buddy of 13 years in January and my beloved cat of 9 years in May. I had been considering adopting a senior pup before and since I lost Lizzie, and after reading about Grandpa (who is precious), I’m definitely going to seriously consider it. Thank you for this great story and I look forward to reading many more of your novels!

  6. Nancy on January 16, 2020 at 7:41 am

    That is a very snazzy outfit. Love the hat. I am the Mom to an adopted older Maltese. When I adopted him he was blind, but I was able, through a wonderful pet ophthalmologist, to restore sight in one eye. He now has doggie dementia, but still has so much joy that he brings to us everyday. We all will age. We all will have challenges. But we all have value, even in old age. Grandpa proves that. Loving a Senior pet is rewarding and you will have that love from a grateful tiny dog that luckily chose you.
    Best wishes

  7. Leslye Garrison on April 29, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    So sweet. We too rescued a broken little pup named Toby. Most likely a throw away breeder that could no longer breed because of his horrific condition. He too smelled like death. His teeth were as bad as Grandpa’s and he too was literally skin and bones. He was scared and distrustful. That was 7 years ago and he is currently 13 years old we think. He is my wife’s Velcro dog and he has stolen both our hearts. This last weekend we had him at the ER Vet Hospital and found out that he has pancreatitis. He is better but it was a reminder that we don’t have a lot of time left with him. My wife has cried a bucket of tears. One can never replace such a beautiful little man. He too snuggles into his mommies chest and is so trusting. We are thankful that our little boy cane our way. I’m so sorry that Grandma is gone but it is wonderful that you gave him such an amazing, loving couple of years. Prayers for your broken heart.

    • Kay Bratt on April 29, 2020 at 12:37 pm

      Thank you for rescuing Toby. It’s such a special relationship we have with these pups who we know have suffered. My husband told me he’d never known a human could shed that many tears as I did this weekend.

    • Kim on July 30, 2021 at 11:39 pm

      Love this story about Grandpa!! Beautiful. May we all show kindness to others whenever we can.

  8. Diane Foster on April 29, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    I too rescued a pair of senior sisters that had been used for breeding only. I spent money at the vet for rabies shots and then over$600 at the vet for dental. When asked why I said if they are going to be my dogs they are going to be treated like my dogs. Good food, our bed, treats, and lots of love later I understood how much they gave me. When they past, I was so broken hearted but it is hard to find seniors to help in Maine. Given the chance I will do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you for Grand Pa’s story.

  9. Kat on April 29, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    This was a bittersweet story. I cried😢and smiled🙂. Your Such a awesome person, to have taken a sick animal and invest time and money. Grandpa pup was happy with you and he may not last as long as he did without you.
    God Bless you, and Grandpa pup is resting peacefully because he knew he was loved.. Rest in heaven Grandpa pup 🐕

  10. Patricia on April 29, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    Grandpa was a special pup and I fell in love with him.So glad he was rescued by this loving lady and showed him all the love of this lady.I lost my baby about a year ago and I still cry for him.He will live in my heart from now on.I love you baby boy,he would have been 17 years old this past September.

  11. Kristine Cappadona on July 6, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    What a wonderful story of love & devotion! I rescued a senior who was skin & bones, with few teeth too at age 14. Fortunately I had almost 5 years with her & she too brought so much love & joy to our lives just as Grandpa did to yours. Seniors are truly special. She too passed on 2/29/20 so I’d like to think they are friends in Heaven. Thank you for sharing your story. Senior rescues truly appreciate all your love & have so much love to give and are so loyal. Thank you for saving, rescuing & giving Grandpa the love & forever home he deserved.

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