Today is a good day. I'm about to sing Ellie Mae a song and make her wear a pointy hat. And she'll look at me like I'm not right.

I’m in a truck that hasn’t been cleaned in nearly two SEC championships. There is a coonhound in my passenger seat.

I stop at Chick-Fil-A. The woman at the window knows me. She knows my usual order.

“Morning, Ellie Mae,” says the girl at the window.

Other employees crane their necks out the window to greet Ellie, too.

We come here a lot.

We drive away and eat sandwiches while we ride through traffic.

Like I said, this truck is a mess. Ellie’s half-eaten jars of peanut butter are scattered everywhere. There are dog treats and bottle caps in the ashtray. Empty dog-food cans litter my floorboards.

A dog-food can sits in my cup holder—it holds pencils, pens, loose change, and a plastic-wrapped cigar someone gave me at an Ironbowl party five years ago.

On my dash: Ellie’s toy duck, a dog bowl, and a lasso—which I use for a leash.

This lasso was given to me by a five-foot Mexican man named Esteban.

I sold a lawnmower to Esteban—that’s how I met him. His wife came with him to translate. I noticed lassos hanging in the back of their truck. I asked about them.

In a few seconds, Esteban was doing rope tricks for me and Ellie Mae. Ellie liked this very much. She crouched low and barked. He twirled a flat-loop above her. She wagged her tail so hard it almost came detached.

She was a lot younger then.

Right now, I’m driving into a grass field. There must be two hundred acres of pasture before me. It’s not my land.

I’ve been taking Ellie here for years—long before I ever had permission.

I used to park at the edge of this field and hike over a fence. Then, I’d throw a plastic duck. Ellie would chase it into a small pond. And I’d pray I didn’t get caught by the landowner.

Eventually, I did.

One sunny day, a truck came rolling toward me. It was a white pickup with ten-foot tires.

“Can I help you?” were his first words. He was a giant. I could see my reflection in his sunglasses.

I stuttered. He stared.

And I wondered if they let inmates have dog-visits in county lockup. I apologized up and down, and promised to be his indentured servant if he’d exercise mercy upon me.

He only laughed.

As it happens, he is a nice man who loves dogs and law-flaunting redheads. He was gracious toward me and mine.

“Use this property anytime you want, son,” he said. “It just sits, empty.”

So we have. For a long time. Ellie runs through the high grass. She only spends an hour here, tops.

Today is a good day. I’m about to sing Ellie Mae a song and make her wear a pointy hat. And she’ll look at me like I’m not right.

I wonder if she knows.

I wonder if, within that brain of hers, she realizes that she makes me proud. I wonder if she understands love. I wonder if she knows what today is.

Probably not.

Happy eleventh birthday, Ellie Mae.

49 comments

  1. NovaLee - August 18, 2017 1:26 pm

    Reply
    • Debbie - August 22, 2017 12:07 pm

      Love reading your little stories!!!They put a smile on my face everyday! I think you bring a smile to a lot of people that really need it, I know I do. I was wondering if you have a book, I would love to order one.

      Reply
  2. Catherine - August 18, 2017 1:29 pm

    Happy birthday Ellie Mae. ❤

    Reply
  3. Melodie - August 18, 2017 1:37 pm

    She knows. ♥

    AWwwww….♫ Happy Birthday Dear Ellie Mae, Happy Birthday to YOU!!! ♫ I hope all of your doggie dreams come true, and your human, Sean, does something extra special for you. Something tells me, he thinks you’re pretty darned special, and the love between the two of you, is evident.
    May you have many more happy years going to the grassy field and the drive thru, together . xxx ♥

    Reply
  4. Cathy - August 18, 2017 1:38 pm

    Happy, Happy Birthday to your sweet fur baby Ellie Mae. Hope she celebrates many more!

    Reply
  5. Jill Shaver - August 18, 2017 1:40 pm

    Happy Birthday, Ellie Mae! Love hearing about you and what a great coon dog you are! Jill

    Reply
  6. Trudy :) - August 18, 2017 1:42 pm

    There are two entities which know you better than you know yourself…..Jesus and your dog. I love to listen to Paul Harvey’s SO GOD MADE A DOG. It’s all true and you know it…..if you ever loved and were owned by a dog.

    Reply
  7. Marty from Alabama - August 18, 2017 1:45 pm

    How am I going to explain red eyes when I go into my meeting? Simple. I’ll just say it was Sean’s fault. Then the empty stares hit me – right before the white coated ones!
    Sean, you old softie.

    Reply
  8. Laura Young - August 18, 2017 1:46 pm

    Ellie Mae may not know that it’s her birthday, but she definitely understands love. How could she not when she sees it in dog treats, rubber ducks, lassos, etc. That wagging tail is her saying, “I love you, too!”

    Reply
  9. Marion - August 18, 2017 1:48 pm

    Belated happy birthday, Ellie Mae! Such a lovely story! You two seem like a perfect fit! Man and his dog! I could write this for our younger son and his dog!

    Reply
  10. Lucretia - August 18, 2017 1:49 pm

    Happy Birthday Ellie Mae! Thank you for allowing Ellie Mae to join my lists of birthday remembrances.

    Reply
  11. Connie - August 18, 2017 2:00 pm

    Happy birthday Ellie. I have to stop reading your column at work. People think I’m crazy when they walk in and I have tears on my cheeks.

    Reply
    • J.E. - August 18, 2017 2:59 pm

      You’re not crazy ma’am. You’re a sweet souls is what you are. Don’t you think otherwise.

      Reply
  12. Jan - August 18, 2017 2:07 pm

    Happy Birthday, Ellie Mae! You are my favorite coonhound even though we have never actually met face to face!

    Reply
  13. Jeannie - August 18, 2017 2:08 pm

    Of course she understands love!!!!! I think God gave us dogs so that we here on this earthly planet could understand how simple and unconditional love really is. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELLIE MAE! And my sweet, dear Annalue sitting as close to me as she can, waiting for a small morsel of my breakfast to fall, says to tell you Happy Birthday as well!

    Reply
  14. Diane Enloe - August 18, 2017 2:08 pm

    Awwww…..Happy 11th Birthday to Elle Mae!! 🎂☺️❤🐕

    Reply
  15. Joan - August 18, 2017 2:15 pm

    Happy Eleventh Birthday Ellie Mae. Sharing breakfast at Chick-Fil-A! (my favorite). Little toy ducks and big grassy fields to run through. Lassos and tricks! Riding ‘shotgun’ with your best pal in his truck. Yep, you understand love, Ellie Mae. And so does Little Bee. She, by the Grace of God, lives her days on earth with me. Just sitting side by side in the swing, watching the world go along. She leans against me. I keep my arm around her; we occasionally look at each other and smile. She is wearing her 12th birthday gift of “pearls” and “diamonds” around her soft furry neck. That’s love too.

    Reply
  16. Camille Atkins - August 18, 2017 2:24 pm

    HAPPY HOUND BIRTHDAY ELLIE MAE!!

    Reply
  17. Sandi - August 18, 2017 2:53 pm

    Happy Birthday Ellie Mae. You are loved.

    Reply
  18. J.E. - August 18, 2017 2:57 pm

    Happy Birthday Ellie Mae. First story of yours I haven’t shed a damn tear to man. I wonder if I’m getting to much soy in my diet somehow or if youre just a sho’nuff jerker of tears.

    Reply
  19. Martha - August 18, 2017 3:16 pm

    Happy Birthday, Ellie Mae. Pretty cool that you get to ride around with a human who sees the world better than most.

    Reply
  20. Bobbie - August 18, 2017 3:17 pm

    Happy Birthday, Ellie Mae!

    Reply
  21. Jack Quanstrum - August 18, 2017 3:33 pm

    I am smiling ear to ear!

    Reply
  22. lpmartin - August 18, 2017 3:48 pm

    Dogs may not understand Love, but they are Love. I Love that they are God spelled backward.

    Reply
    • Sherrie - August 18, 2017 4:20 pm

      <3

      Reply
  23. Kathy Daum - August 18, 2017 3:51 pm

    Sophie is 13 1/2. I love her that much,too.

    Reply
  24. Sherrie - August 18, 2017 4:19 pm

    Ellie Mae most definitely understands love. The Pope himself has said that dogs go to heaven. I think that’s where they come from. And they go back there and wait for us to get there, too, someday. Furthermore, I’ll bet Ellie Mae knows it’s her birthday. Dogs are very smart. <3

    Reply
  25. Janet Mary Lee - August 18, 2017 4:30 pm

    Happy Happy Birthday Ellie Mae!! You have one of the best humans, and he has one of the best dogs! Thank you for making all her days special, especially today!! My Chester, May May and I all send sloppy kisses to you, sweet girl!!

    Reply
  26. Rick Watson - August 18, 2017 5:08 pm

    I love a good dog story. I’ve had remarkable dogs too.
    My wife and I adopted a deaf pit bull that someone threw out here last August when it was 100 degrees. We live on a dead-end road, so that happens quite often. He was full of parasites and so thin his ribs poked out.
    I took him to the vet to have him put down. But when he looked into my eyes as Intalked to the vet, I couldn’t do it. I called my wife. She said a vacation at the beach I August would be miserable. I gave the vet my Visa card.
    Ol’ Hook turned out to be a great dog.
    Rick

    Reply
    • Rick Watson - August 18, 2017 5:34 pm

      Sorry about mistakes- autocorrect:(

      Reply
    • Pamela Crisafulli - August 19, 2017 12:37 pm

      Good for you ! 🐾

      Reply
  27. Anne - August 18, 2017 6:09 pm

    Thank you from one dog lover to another

    Reply
  28. Sam Hunneman - August 18, 2017 6:17 pm

    Woodrow, Maggie and I send birthday wishes, Ellie Mae. Arooooooooo!

    Reply
  29. Pamela McEachern - August 18, 2017 6:18 pm

    Happy Birthday Ellie Mae! I’m one of those people that believes it’s no accident Dog spelled backwards is God. We are lucky people when we have the love of our dog. Lolly Sue is my dog, she is eight and has a hart of gold. Long live Ellie Mae

    Reply
  30. Cheryl S - August 18, 2017 10:17 pm

    It’s your day, Ellie Mae! Here’s to a happy day!!

    Reply
  31. Peg - August 18, 2017 10:41 pm

    Happy Birthday, Ellie!

    Reply
  32. Diane Scotch - August 18, 2017 11:04 pm

    This was a tough one. We just put our 12 year old yellow lab down two months ago. We had him since he was 6 weeks old. We are 71 now. Birthdays were big also, cake and singing of course. Can relate to your story and only pray that when Ellie May has to go, it is easier on you. Thank you for your stories. I have truly enjoyed them.
    Diane Scotch

    Reply
  33. Pat Byers - August 19, 2017 12:01 am

    of course dogs know. their smiling eyes and full wag butt show they know what you are saying to them. and they certainly know love. perhaps what they don’t know, it how MUCH we love them. happy birthday EllieMae.
    and thank you for all the words and thoughts you share with us. my day is always brighter, although often littered with tears. you have that power.

    Reply
  34. Marilyn Cook - August 19, 2017 12:25 am

    Love, Love, Love, Sean My two littles are both eleven.

    Reply
  35. Michael Hawke - August 19, 2017 2:20 am

    We love our dogs, don’t we?

    Reply
  36. Robin Smith - August 19, 2017 6:57 am

    Wonderful story! Dogs are special!! They love us unconditionally!! Thank you for sharing this story!! God bless!!

    Reply
  37. Sandi in FL - August 19, 2017 11:18 am

    Ellie Mae is one very blessed dog to have you as her owner, Sean.

    Reply
  38. Pamela Crisafulli - August 19, 2017 12:35 pm

    Love this I do the same but have friends with land that lives close my dogs Toby (golden retriever) and Lady ( German Shepherd) Toby will be 6 on 9/11 and lady I’m not sure her bday I rescued her after hurricane last October here in myrtle beach but doctors say she around 1 they love to just run and play in the pond nothing like the love of a dog it’s so unconditional Toby just had his third surgery torn ACL I feel so bad for him bc he want to run and play and try’s to but I can tell he in a lot of pain so he just puts his head on my lap and watches Lady run around we just don’t realize the energy we once had till our years add up❤️🐕🐕

    Reply
  39. Perri Geaux Tigers Williamson - August 19, 2017 1:05 pm

    Happy Birthday Ellie Mae from Moose Tracks, the unruly German Shorthair Pointer!

    Reply
  40. joan - August 19, 2017 1:43 pm

    Happy Birthday Ellie Mae

    Reply
  41. Mary Ellen Hall - August 19, 2017 11:56 pm

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this story!! I; like you, LOVE MY DOG!! My husband & I have no children, but we have a 95lb. Chocolate Lab. that is the “love of our life!”
    I LOVE when you write about your dogs! You can tell how VERY IMPORTANT they are to you!!
    THANK YOU FOR THIS!!

    Reply
  42. Mary Ellen Hall - August 19, 2017 11:59 pm

    Oh, “HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY SWEET
    ELLIE MAE!!!” HAVE A BEAUTIFUL DAY!! ❤

    Reply
  43. Tammy Walker - August 20, 2017 3:46 am

    Lovely write!

    Reply
  44. Tawanah Bagwell - August 21, 2017 4:56 am

    I love your stories. My 2 schnauzers and I walk every day at a cemetery that is surrounded by farmland. They can run free off the leash there when no one else is around. Dogs need to run free and explore.

    Reply

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