The eponymous story from which Dan Clark has taken the title Puppies for Sale is one of the most beloved stories from the original Chicken Soup for the Soul book. Starting with this story's powerful message of understanding, Clark follows it with nearly 300 unforgettable tales that lift readers up and pull at their heartstrings.
1 Understanding Puppies for Sale
A store owner was tacking a sign in his store window which read PUPPIES FOR SALE, when a little boy appeared. 'How much are you selling the puppies for?' he asked.
The man told the lad he didn't expect to let any of them go for less than $50. The boy reached in his pocket, pulled out some change, looked up at the store owner and said, 'I have two dollars and thirty-seven cents. Can I look at them?' The store owner smiled and whistled. From the kennel, a dog named Lady came running down the aisle, followed by five tiny balls of fur. One puppy lagged behind. Immediately, the little boy asked about the limping puppy.
'What's wrong with that doggie?' 'The veterinarian told us the dog is missing a hip socket,' said the store owner. 'He'll always limp like that.' 'That's the one I want to buy,' the lad said quickly.
The store owner replied, 'No, you don't want to buy that dog. If you really want him, I'll just give him to you.' The boy came close to the store owner's face and said angrily, 'I don't want you to just give him to me. That doggie is worth just as much as all the other puppies and I'll pay the full price. In fact, I'll give you $2.37 now and 50¢ a month until I have him paid for!'
The store owner replied, 'No, no, no. You don't want that dog. He's never going to be able to run and jump and play like the other dogs.' In response, the little boy pulled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted left leg, supported by two steel braces.
'Well, sir,' he said, 'I don't run so well myself and the puppy will need someone who understands.'
The young boy who had been wearing a steel brace on his left leg for the last four months walked through the front door of his home with a newly purchased puppy in his arms. The dog didn't have a hip socket and, when placed on the floor, it walked with a serious limp. The boy's selection of a physically challenged puppy intrigued his parents, for he had been down-and-out. But with his new companion at his side, they sensed a newly revitalized spirit of hope and enthusiasm emerging from his soul.
The next day the young boy and his mom went to see a veterinarian to find out how he could best help his little dog. The doctor explained that if he stretched and massaged his puppy's leg every morning and then walked with him at least one mile per day, the muscles around his missing hip would eventually strengthen to the point of no pain and less of a limp.
Although the dog whimpered and barked out his discomfort, and the boy winced and hassled with his own leg brace, for the next two months they religiously kept to their rehabilitation regimen. By the third month they were walking three miles every morning before school began and they were both walking without pain. One Saturday morning when returning from their workout, a cat leaped out of the bushes and startled the dog. Breaking loose of the leash, the dog darted into oncoming traffic. With a speeding truck only seconds away, the boy ran into the street, dove for his dog, and rolled into the gutter. He was too late. The dog was hit and bleeding profusely from the mouth. As the boy lay there crying and hugging his dying dog, he noticed that his own leg brace had broken off. With no time to worry about himself, he sprang to his feet, picked up his dog, cuddled it close to him and started for home. The dog quietly barked, giving him hope and turning the boy's jog into an all-out, adrenaline sprint.
His mother rushed him and his suffering pup to the pet hospital. As they anxiously waited to see if his dog would survive the surgery, he asked his mother why he could now walk and run.
'You had osteomyelitis, which is a disease of the bone,' she said. 'It weakened and crippled your leg, which caused you to limp in severe pain. Your brace was for support. It wasn't necessarily a permanent condition if you were willing to fight through the pain and hours of therapy. You responded well to the medication, but you always resisted our encouragement for physical therapy, and your father and I didn't know what to do. The doctors told us you were about to lose your leg. Then you brought home your puppy and you seemed to understand his needs. Ironically, as you were helping him, you were actually helping yourself to strengthen and grow.'
Just then the operating room door slowly opened. Out walked the veterinarian with a smile on his face. 'Your dog is going to make it,' he said. And, the boy learned that when you lose yourself, you find yourself. It is more blessed to give, then receive.
A young girl was leaving for school, and her mother reminded her to come straight home when her last class ended. Thirty minutes late, she finally walked through the front door. Her mother scolded her. 'Where have you been?' she asked. 'I've been worried sick.'
With a concerned face the daughter sweetly replied, 'I walked home with my friend, Sally, and she dropped her doll and it broke all to pieces. It was just awful!' 'So you were late because you stayed to help her pick up the doll and put it back together again?' her mother asked. 'Oh, no, Mommy,' she explained. 'I didn't know how to fix the doll. I just stayed to help her cry!'
John McMaster became a superstar basketball player in high school. For each of his three years on the team he was All-Conference, All-State. In his final season he was named the Most Valuable Player of the league. John's mother never missed a game—home or away—regardless of the travel distance or weather conditions. His mom was always in the bleachers cheering her son to victory.
Interestingly, John's mother was totally blind! What's the message? Although the mother could not see her son, he could see her. Support makes the special difference!
One Moment in Time
One day Henry Winkler, the actor best known for his portrayal of Fonzie on the television series Happy Days, decided to take some time off and treat himself to a matinee movie. To avoid fans making a fuss over him, Winkler entered the theater from the side exit door. He shuffled his way into an aisle and found himself a vacant seat.
As Henry turned around to sit down, the little girl sitting in the row behind him smiled broadly, pointed her finger and slowly said, 'Fonzie.' Winkler immediately snapped into the Fonzie character, flipping his hair, swiveling his hips and glancing left and right.
In his signature pose he then pointed his finger at the girl and said, 'Whoa!' To everyone's surprise, the lady sitting next to the little girl passed out! The theater manager came out to assist the woman. Lying in the aisle with a cold pack on her forehead, she was asked one question: 'Why did you pass out?' Pointing to the same little girl, she replied, 'My daughter is autistic and that's the very first word she has ever spoken in her entire life!'
A young Japanese boy was spending the weekend with his elderly grandfather. The rendezvous would take place at the train station, for the grandfather lived in a village on the other side of the mountain. The boy's parents dropped him off, hugged both of them good-bye and drove away.
As the two of them waited in line to buy their tickets, the grandfather discovered that he had left his wallet on the previous train. He didn't have any money. It was cold and blizzardy, and he asked the ticket lady if she would loan him yen valuing $50. The grandfather promised he would pay her back later that night. Because of the Japanese culture's deep and abiding respect for its elders, the ticket lady believed the grandfather and paid for their tickets.
An hour later, they arrived in the village. They walked 15 minutes through the horrible weather and finally entered the cottage. Hungry, tired and soaking wet, the grandfather went to his drawer and retrieved some money. 'Let's go,' he said. His grandson rebutted, 'But Grandfather, I'm starving and we're going back to the train station in three days. Why can't you just pay her back then? It will cost you the price of two more round-trip tickets to go now, just to pay back two one-way passes.'
Putting on a dry overcoat and handing his grandson a wool blanket for his comfort, the 80-year-old grandfather put his arm around his grandson's shoulders and taught him the lesson of the ages. 'Son, we must get there tonight before the counter closes and she goes home. This is not about money. This is about honor. I gave her my word, and we must always keep our promises!'
What Goes Around Comes Around
A unique directive was initiated at a high school in northern Utah, where students with a physical or mental challenge were fully integrated into the mainstream classes and curriculum. To make it work, the administration organized a mentor program that teamed up one special-needs student with a mainstream student who would help him or her along.
The athletic director presented the idea to the captain of the football team. John was a tall, strong, intense young man—not the patient, caring type needed for this kind of program. He made it clear this 'wasn't his thing' and he didn't have time to be a mentor. But, the athletic director knew it would be good for him and insisted that John volunteer.
John was matched up with Randy—a young man with Down's syndrome. The minute they were introduced they became inseparable. Reluctant and irritated at first, John literally tried to 'lose' Randy, but soon John welcomed the constant company. Randy not only attended every one of John's classes and ate with him at lunchtime, he also came to football practice. After a few days John asked the coach to make Randy the official manager responsible for the balls, tape and water bottles. At the end of the football season, the team won the state championship and John was awarded with the gold medal as the Most Valuable Player in the state. Randy was presented with a school letter jacket. The team cheered as Randy put it on. It was the coolest thing that had ever happened to him; from that day forward Randy never took it off. He slept in his jacket and wore it throughout each weekend.
Basketball season started and John was also the captain and star of that team. At John's request, Randy was again named the manager. During the basketball season they were still inseparable. Not only did John take Randy to special occasions—like dances as a joint escort for his girlfriend—but he also took Randy to the library to tutor him in his classes. As he tutored Randy, John became a much better student and made the honor roll for the first time in more than a year. The mentor program was unveiling itself as the most rewarding year of John's life.
Then tragedy struck in the middle of the state basketball tournament. Randy caught a virus and suddenly died of pneumonia. The funeral was held the day before the final championship game. John was asked to be one of the speakers. In his talk John shared his deep abiding friendship and respect for Randy. He told how Randy had been the one who had taught him about real courage, self-esteem, unconditional love and the importance of giving 100 percent in everything he did. John dedicated the upcoming state finals game to Randy and concluded his remarks by stating that he was honored to have received the MVP award in football and the leadership plaque for being the captain of the basketball team.
'But,' John added, 'the real leader of both the football and basketball teams was Randy, for he accomplished more with what he had than anyone I've ever met. Randy inspired all who knew him.'
John walked from behind the podium, took off the irreplaceable 24-carat-gold state football MVP medallion that hung around his neck, leaned into the open casket, and placed it on Randy's chest. He placed his captain's plaque next to it.
Randy was buried in his letter jacket, surrounded by John's cherished awards, as well as pictures and letters left by others who admired him. But this is not the end.
The next day John's team won the championship and presented the game ball to Randy's family. John went to college on a full athletic scholarship and graduated with a master's degree in education. Today John is a special education teacher; he also volunteers 10 hours a week for the Special Olympics.
The heroine of this story is an eight-year-old girl in a Pennsylvania orphanage. She was painfully shy and had such annoying mannerisms that she was shunned by the other children and regarded as a problem child by the teachers. Two other orphanages had managed to have her transferred. Now, once again, the director was seeking some pretext for getting rid of her.
One afternoon it appeared that an opportunity had arrived. An ironclad rule held that any letter from a child in the institution had to be approved by the director or a house mistress before it could be mailed. The little girl had been observed sneaking down to the main gate and carefully securing a letter in the branches of a tree that overhung the wall of the orphanage. The director could scarcely conceal her elation.
She hurried down to the brick wall. Sure enough, the note was visible through the branches of the tree.
The director pounced on it and tore open the envelope. She pulled out the note and quickly read it. Stunned, she stood staring at the piece of paper, then hung her head. It read:
To anybody who finds this: I love you. Take It to the Max Take Relationships to a Deeper Level The other night I had to take my four-year-old daughter to the hospital. Sitting in the emergency room, I just wanted to fit in and look like and be like everyone else. A macho man came in with his son, and the physician asked about the problem. 'My boy fell down and broke three bones in his leg. Didn't even cry!' I thought, Oh, perfect. A mother came in with her little girl. The physician inquired about her daughter. 'My daughter fell off the beam at the gymnastics meet and badly twisted her knee.' I thought, Oh, perfect! The doctor finally asked me why I was there with my daughter. I said, 'She has a raisin stuck in her nose!' Everybody laughed. I just wanted to fit in, but my little girl taught me that it's okay to be outside the lines!
A father came home from work and his five-year-old son met him in the driveway. 'Daddy, welcome home, Daddy. Will you play baseball with me?' His father flippantly responded, 'I have too much work to do. I don't have time. But I want you to know that I love you.' His little boy replied, 'Dad, I don't want you to love me, I want you to play ball with me!'
Take Competition to Its Highest Fulfillment
A young girl with a serious mental handicap ran in the 50-yard dash competition of the national Special Olympics track-and-field meet. When she lost the race, she turned to all the timers, track personnel, meet officials and fellow athletes, and taught them all one of the greatest, most profound lessons of competition. With an IQ of 42, she said, 'I finished at my best, and you have to give it your all and finish best before you can ever finish first!'
Take Mistakes to Their Sweetest Solutions
A little boy spilled cranberry juice on the new carpet in his living room. Shaking with fear and sobbing giant tears of pain, he humbly walked into the kitchen to confess. 'Mom, I am so sorry. I just spilled my big glass of juice on your new carpet. I feel very, very bad.' His mother hugged him and said, 'It's okay. Don't be sad. We can get you another glass of cranberry juice.'
Take Work to Its Greatest Enjoyment
As we were coming in for a landing at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, our Delta Airlines jet hit heavy turbulence and bounced all over the sky. When we finally touched down, the flight attendant spoke over the cabin public-address system. 'Welcome to Dallas, Texas. If you enjoyed your flight, tell your friends you flew Delta. If you did not enjoy your flight, tell your friends you flew Southwest.'
Take Embarrassment Out of Play
One afternoon at a sales convention, the closing speaker, an 82-year-old man, made us fall out of our chairs laughing, as he wittily responded to several faux pas at the podium. He accidentally dropped his speech, and the stack of three-by-five cards scattered everywhere. He responded by saying, 'I'm sorry I'm a bit jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me!' The microphone went out and he yelled, 'Some days you're the bug, some days the windshield!' He spoke from the heart for a few minutes, and then apologized for having to leave early. He said, 'I've got to go. Tonight my wife and I are sharing our wedding anniversary with you. Yep. Me and my wife have enjoyed 17 great years of marriage—17 out of 55 ain't bad!'
Take Private Victories Way Beyond Public Victories
At a gala fund-raiser, I was sitting next to the distinguished actor, Mr. Gregory Peck. Throughout the evening, every other celebrity had been acknowledged and introduced—all except Mr. Peck. A journalist finally approached him to apologize. He simply replied, 'No apology necessary. If you have to tell them that you are, then you aren't.'
Dan Clark is one of today's most popular speakers. As a member of the National Speakers Association, Dan has received the NSA's highest designation: Certified Speaking Professional (CSA). Dan has been electrifying audiences in all 50 of the United States and 14 other countries since 1982.
Dan is a successful businessman, actor, song writer/recording artist and award-winning athlete who overcame a crippling injury that prematurely ended his football career. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.