Old man and an old dog in Starbucks

Hersch Wilson
4 min readDec 14, 2023

I saw him as I walked into Starbucks. He was a senior guy, a little hunched over, sitting at a table by the door. At his feet was his dog, a German shepherd, with grey on his snout. The dog was leashed but relaxed and comfortable in the store with a food bowl and water under the table.
This being Santa Fe on a midmorning December Monday, it was an older crowd wandering in and out. There were a few with dogs — a woman holding a Chihuahua, another with a Shih Tzu on a leash.
The German shepherd seemed to take it all in with a calm grace, pressing his body against the leg of his guardian.
In a world gone mad, it was a lovely interlude: a coffee shop filled with patient people and dogs.
As I sat there, what struck me most was how the German shepherd’s guardian would occasionally bend down and whisper to his dog. I had no idea what he was saying, but the dog would lean in a little harder as if to make sure he was catching every word.
I wondered about many things — first, the bond between the two. We see individuals with dogs every day. They are mostly loving and kind relationships. (Occasionally, you see someone with a dog that seems just an accessory). But there was something ineffable about this relationship. As I watched him whisper to his friend, I thought about how they clearly depended on each other. If you have an older dog, think about how your dog depends on you — they know the daily routine: A walk, a nap, good food, and the indescribable joy a dog has when you return home, whether you just walked down to pick up your mail or had been gone for weeks. With an older dog, there is the contract. It is that we will be together. Simple as that.

Next, I wanted to know if he was alone except for his dog. Was this their morning routine? Would they go home to a house full of people decorated for the season? Or would they return to a small apartment where it was just the two of them?
I wanted to know if they had grown old in each other’s company and watched the years pass together, sharing the same aches, pains, and trepidations about the future. We assume that humans become wiser as they age (with some notable exceptions), but do dogs become wiser? I think so. Our late Bernese Mountain dog, Nellie, when she was old at eight, had lost an eye to cancer and had had ACL surgery. She would still bark and rumble at the coyotes, but the little things that used to wake her from slumber and make her bay at the moon didn’t upset her. She was content to watch the world pass by.
I got the sense that it was the same for the two of them sitting in Starbucks. The joy of being together and just observing the world pass by. There was no need to get excited or upset, no need to bark or growl, just comfortable with the understanding that they had seen much together and nothing surprises.
The best part of the morning was when the German Shepard got up, stretched, and, dragging his leash, came over to say hello to me (or he smelled the banana walnut bread I had bought). He put his head on my leg; I scratched him between his ears. He closed his eyes for a second or two, then wandered back to his table.
Good dog.
As this special “old” dog slowly settled down with a sigh, his guardian reached down and placed his hand on the dog’s head. It was a simple gesture and one that summed up the morning.
Despite its challenges, of which there are many, and considering the alternative, it is a gift to be old. It is a time of reflection and letting go of all past shortcomings. (no one is perfect!) It is a time for engaging deeply with what matters: loved ones, friends, and, if you are extraordinarily lucky, a dog that curls up at your feet.
As this year rushes to a close with all its tribulations and heartbreak, take a moment to close your eyes and imagine an old man and an old dog sitting peacefully in a coffee shop, just watching the world go by together.

Hersch Wilson’s latest book, “Dog Lessons: Learning the Important Stuff from our Best Friends” is available at bookstores everywhere and online



Hersch Wilson

Writer. Retired Firefighter. Dog Lover. Buddhist Beginner.