Dear Sean

I miss him, he was my only dog. I had him since I was three. Can you write some words about him for his funeral? His name was Tornado.

DEAR SEAN:

My dog died. We had to put him down last night because of cancer. We came home today and I actually expected to see him on my bed in my room, sleeping, and he wasn’t. I’ve never had any dog die before… I feel so sad I literally don’t even know what to do.

I miss him, he was my only dog. I had him since I was three. Can you write some words about him for his funeral? His name was Tornado.

FIFTEEN AND SAD

DEAR SAD:

Nothing I write is going to do Tornado justice. Because you didn’t lose a dog. You lost someone.

Once, I had a someone named Joe. He was a strange pup who slept in the bathtub. I’d hear his claws clink on the porcelain. Eleven years, he slept in that tub.

He was a good boy. He sat beside me when I ate, he sat beside me when I worked, he sat beside the shower when I bathed.

A greater dog I have never had.

His coat was thick. Pure black. Ten inches deep. I groomed him in the summers with a pair of clippers and did a god-awful job. He’d have patches of skin showing, and a skinny tail that belonged on a rat.

“Poor Joe,” people would say when they saw him.

But Joe wasn’t worried about his appearance.

He camped with me. He fished with me. He loved tomatoes, hated corn chips. Chased squirrels; hid from sprinklers.

When I wrote my first novel, he laid on my feet. And when I would play Willie Nelson on the radio, he’d close his eyes and give me an open-mouthed smile.

He escaped from my backyard fence one day.

Someone found him on the side of the road. His legs were crushed. They did surgery. I went to see him. He wagged his tail when he saw me come into the clinic. It hurt him to do it, but old habits die slow deaths. I brought him home. His backside was shaved. Stitches everywhere.

I borrowed a lot of money to pay the doctors.

Four days later, Joe died in my living room. I felt like the sun had been blotted out. My stomach soured. I couldn’t eat for a week. Just telling you about this makes my keyboard wet.

Yeah, I know what you’re probably thinking after reading all this. So what? So this:

The greatest person I’ve ever known,
Is not a statue or legend,
He is a walking stomach, with fur and paws,
Who lives to ten or eleven.

He will die before I,
And on that day I will cry,
But not for long, do I reckon,

Comes the end of my life,
The blessed day when I fly,
When I will rejoin him in heaven.

Tornado, tell Joe I miss him.

25 comments

  1. Beverly Stovall - April 9, 2017 11:01 am

    Nothing as sad as losing your very best friend…..

    Reply
  2. Tom Scott - April 9, 2017 11:19 am

    How do you do it?! How do you always know how to get into my soul that I keep locked away from any man. Yet, beast such as you wrote today has a welcome mat for such keeps secrets and loves me, no matter what. Always blessed by your posts. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Gerri Johnson - April 9, 2017 12:08 pm

    I’m sitting here emptying my Kleenex box with my Bear by my side remembering Frankie, and Buttercup, and Boo (yes, I had a dog named Boo) and in my heart I’m saying you can keep your four- square city, and your streets paved with gold, and your harps and clouds, just give me back my buddies and that will be heaven enough for me. Thank you, Sean, for always finding just the right words.

    Reply
    • Kj Gardner - June 8, 2017 3:05 pm

      Gerri, I had a Boo-Boo. My first baby-dog as an adult. She squealed and peed very time I came home, but I loved her so. My Matilda was my quiet one, but she was my human son’s protector.
      And my Riley…. my Riley was my heart. He’s been gone 2-1/2years and I don’t think I can live through another goodbye like that.

      Do you have any extra Kleenex?

      Reply
  4. Esteban Rudman - April 9, 2017 12:55 pm

    Occasionally, you will hear people say, “It was just a dog.” You may also have heard, “He is just a friend. Pity these people. A mere dog. A mere friend. They don’t know the true value of dogs and friends, which I can’t put into words. Our dogs are our friends. In fact, they are less likely to ever hurt us, for whatever reason, than our human friends.

    Reply
  5. Tony - April 9, 2017 1:06 pm

    Dang it. You made me cry in front of everyone. Again.
    Note to self: read Sean when no one else is around.

    Reply
  6. Sam Hunneman - April 9, 2017 1:42 pm

    Lots of wet keyboards today I suspect. Like Janis said, “Take another little piece o’ my heart now, baby…”

    Reply
  7. Kay Keel - April 9, 2017 5:17 pm

    Oh my…you have a beautiful gift that goes straight to my heart most every day! Thank you for sharing it with us!

    Reply
  8. gary jensen - April 9, 2017 7:35 pm

    Yeppers, some of the best people I’ve known have been dogs. And grief is not a 5 step anything. Here’s to the wagleys!

    Reply
  9. Michael Bishop - April 10, 2017 6:51 pm

    Sentimentality in the service of giving others (and ourselves) heartfelt solace. I don’t begrudge it in this context. (But I do in some others, God and my long-dead dad’s late black Lab forgive me.)

    Reply
  10. Brion - April 17, 2017 6:29 pm

    Good job Sean
    To Fifteen and Sad I would say:
    I know it’s difficult to imagine but one day when you think of Tornado it will make you smile instead of cry. I know that it’s true because I’ve buried several in my fifty plus years. You never stop missing them but it gets a little easier to be without them as time passes. All things being equal you will out live several dogs. Don’t be afraid to love the next one just because it hurts when they go. It’s my opinion that people that have never appreciated the love of a dog are missing one of the better things in life. To love a dog and let them love you back is a damn fine thing to do. My 12 and a half year old Lab died in January of this year and this break in my heart pains me to tears most every day but I know it will get better. Hang in there sport, I’m pullin’ for ya.

    Reply
  11. Mary Ellen Hall - April 18, 2017 2:03 am

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this Sean!! My husband & I lost our BELOVED chocolate lab; SUNDAE, 6 years ago. That was the SADDEST DAY of our married life (20 years.) We have no children, so Sundae was our BABY!! I SWORE I would NEVER let myself fall in LOVE like that again.
    Now; we have a 4 year old chocolate lab, named NESTLE’, who also has my HEART COMPLETELY!!
    I also know; when her time comes my heart will BREAK IN TWO!! She is the LOVE OF OUR LIVES!!! 🐶❤
    THANK YOU for this BEAUTIFUL POST!!!

    Reply
  12. Elmira - April 29, 2017 4:49 pm

    We deelnitfiy need more smart people like you around.

    Reply
  13. Ben Smith - June 8, 2017 12:34 pm

    Awesome.

    Reply
  14. Deanna J - June 8, 2017 12:56 pm

    Rip Tornado and Joe, Tell Maggie I miss her!!

    Reply
  15. Lilli Ann Snow - June 8, 2017 1:27 pm

    I needed an eyewashing.
    Thank you, Sean.

    At least I know to be prepared now…but it only took one story for me to get that down.

    Your heart? Mirror for mine.

    Reply
  16. Carroll Wills - June 8, 2017 2:02 pm

    Such a beautiful tribute to your best friend and for all of us who have lived through losing at least one four legged, furry best friend. They are not just animals, they are not just “pets”, they are our children or our very best friends and deserve to be referred to as such. Thank you for doing so.

    Reply
  17. Rebecca - June 8, 2017 2:50 pm

    Family is family whether two legs or four. These companions who love us unconditionally, who are at our side in good times and bad, fill our hearts while they are here and leave a hole when they leave.

    Reply
  18. Jerry Denney - June 8, 2017 2:56 pm

    Well my eyes needed washing out today anyway, so thanks. People can learn much from dogs. God gave us dogs so we would know unconditional love, simple joys and to learn to grieve and move on. They do it selflessly, something most of us could not. Thank You Samson, Mack, Gypsy, Bell, Jake, JoeJoe and now for a while at least, Bentley.

    Reply
  19. Cathi Russell - June 8, 2017 3:22 pm

    And the ugly cry begins. I have loved & lost many dogs in my earthly years and if love could have saved them all, my house would be way too small. Thank you for sharing this. Big hugs to you and Fifteen and Sad.

    Reply
  20. Gail Mitchell - June 8, 2017 4:57 pm

    You hit the target of my heart every time!! I soooo miss all our pets and will see them all, on the back nine, with my Dad one day!! 😘👍

    Reply
  21. Richard Williams - June 8, 2017 5:10 pm

    My life has been enriched beyond any measurable value by my four-legged companions. They have celebrated the ecstasy of the birth of my children, the deaths of my parents and loved ones. We have mourned together the loss of a four-legged companion. I’m 76 now, retired and my wife’s caregiver. My two furry companions, Emma (a Jack Russell mix from a rescue shelter) and Cody (a Pomeranian of endless exuberance, joy of life, and an unlimited supply of unconditional love) are what carry me through each day. I believe God sent these two as my guardian angels. Thank you Sean. You most assuredly speak the Language of the Heart.

    Reply
  22. Nana-C - June 8, 2017 10:40 pm

    Chickie., Dee, Boots, and now, Lacey. First three, Bostons, all different personalities–all dearly loved over a 40 year span. Lacey was urged on me by my 8-year old G’dau., saying “Nana, you need a dog”, shortly after I’d moved from my long time home. “No, I don’t”, sez I. My husband always did the ‘work’ of our pets, and he had passed away.
    She kept on looking through Bostons on Petfinders.com. Landed on Cagney and Lacey–two Katrina rescue sisters now in TN, half Boston, half dachshund. Lacey’s big brown eyes did me in.
    About two months later, we were meeting the van to pick up my new pup, and I’m thankful every day. She’s funny, loving, sometimes annoying– and I treasure her friendship beyond measure. I miss all of the others, and still feel that sadness when you remember a dear friend who’s gone. Lacey will be the last, but because she has been mine by myself, it will be different and awful. Makes me weepy to think of it–so I don’t, yet. She’s a keeper and a lifesaver–and funny every day. Can’t put a price tag on that.
    I’m sorry for your loss, Sean, and your thoughts are beautiful.

    Reply
  23. June Stefanko - June 9, 2017 1:16 am

    Cried some heartfelt tears reading this…remembering Mac, Chelsea, King and Lady with love.

    Reply
  24. Colleen Kelly Mellor - June 10, 2017 4:02 pm

    I’ve never had a dog, but dog-gone it, I wish I’d had. You touched my soul today with your post.

    Reply

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