One Last Chance

Old dog looking sad Illustration: Rex/Shutterstock


Everyone deserves a last shot at happiness – human or not…

As Mike walked past Reception, limping slightly, he wondered why the whole world was split in two. There were the haves and there were the have nots: the sporty ones and the ones at the back of the line, waiting to be picked, trying to blend into the playing fields.

He remembered that feeling so well. Whistling casually with his hands tucked in his shorts pockets. Bending to tie his shoe lace – so no-one would see the disappointment on his face. Staring at an ant crawling up a blade of grass, trying not to burn up with humiliation.

He didn’t want to be on the team anyway. He didn’t care. He couldn’t afford to care. It was too painful.

It wasn’t just humans who got the Them and Us treatment. It was the same here at the Last Chance Sanctuary.

All the pretty dogs were kept in the kennels by the door. The ever-changing, prettily whitewashed “fast track to a new home” kennels. Here lived the spaniels and the collies and the one-ear-up-one-ear-down cute ones.

Right at the back of the block were the Staffies. The ones with the dull coats and the pushed-in faces. The ones with the drooping heads and the mealy muzzles. Don’t forget the odd terrier who’d got tired of being teased and snapped at the wrong person; made one mistake and paid for it with life imprisonment.

Mike had seen it all before…

A Schindler’s List of dogs. Just like as had been when he was a boy – a Schindler’s List of footie players, and him with his gammy leg.

So he didn’t even look into the white washed kennels. He just strolled on down, leaning on his stick, to the last chance kennels where the dogs didn’t even have hope any more.

Mike leaned on the wire netting and read the faded postcard attached to the door: Sam, ten years old. Has a skin condition. Black and tan.

Sam, whose tail had given up wagging – a sure sign that a dog is down on his luck.

“Hey, Sam. How would you like to sit by a fireside and eat the odd sausage for breakfast? How do you fancy a river walk, catch a few flies at sunset?”

Sam opened one eye, disbelieving. Eventually, he got up on his stiff old rheumatic legs. Mike knew what it was like not to be able to run so fast – and knew it didn’t matter one jot.

Mike and Sam. It had a good ring to it. He clipped on the lead he’d brought with him, new from the pet shop that day.

They walked out together. Neither of them looked left or right until they were past the wire fence, past the Reception building and into the car park.

Mike’s old car was where he’d left it – the hatchback up, with a blanket spread out in the back. As they approached it, Sam started looking around him with a sense of wonder. This was new territory for him!

It got to Mike, that look. All that hope made his throat ache and he’d started to blink a bit himself. The sun must have been in his eyes.

Maggie, who worked here as a kennel maid, knew that this was a regular routine – Mike, coming in to the Last Chance Sanctuary to give another four-legged someone their last chance.

Just like Maggie had done for him twenty-five years ago, when he’d given up hope he’d ever have a love of his own.

“It’s never too late to forget about Them and Us and get to a new kind of thinking, Mike, get to more of a Two of Us kind of thinking,” she’d said. Maggie with her ginger hair and freckles and a smile so warm it could power a thousand sunsets.

It should be called Happy Ever After, this place, Mike thought, as he lifted old Sam into the car – not the Last Chance Sanctuary. That’s what it had always felt like to him.

Look out for more animal fiction stories every Monday and Thursday throughout June…

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Karen Byrom

My coffee mug says "professional bookworm" which sums me up really! As commissioning fiction editor on the magazine, I love sharing my reading experience of the latest books, debut authors and more with you all, and would like to hear from you about your favourite books and authors! Email me