I’m watching my dog run on the beach. She’s running alongside the waves. She stops every few moments to stare.

She’s not, too sure about waves.

It’s Father’s Day, and I’m a father—well, almost. I have a fifteen-week-old bloodhound named Thelma Lou. That’s almost like being a father. The only difference, of course, is that human babies don’t chew your wallet then poop inside your boot.

You read that right. My dog didn’t poop ON my boot—as in: the exterior. She did her business INSIDE my boot. The basic physics behind this acrobatic marvel are astounding. I only wish I could’ve captured it on video, it would’ve been worth millions.

So poop in a boot, that makes me a father. At least this is what I’m going with.

People without kids, like me, still have the same amount of love parents have. That love has to go somewhere. That’s where dogs come in.

My first dog was a border collie. My father bought it. We named it Pooch. Pooch was bred to herd sheep, but since there were no sheep around, he herded redheads.

When my mother yelled my name, Pooch would dart off the porch like a bullet. He’d circle me, yelping, nipping. When he died, I thought a piece of me died.

My next dog was Goldie. A retriever. Long, pretty hair, happy face. I raised her from a pup.

Goldie was Hell on Wheels. She lived beside me. She slept while I did homework, she chased baseballs. In the woods, when I was busy with little-boy things, like catching frogs, or swinging limbs, she watched over me.

Cody was next. She was my father’s dog. She was a chocolate Lab who loved my father. I can close my eyes and see him strolling from the barn to the shed, Cody trailing two feet behind him.

When he died, she laid on a pile of his clothes for a month. Nobody could get her to move.

And Hannah. She was your All-American mutt. My mother bought her after my father’s funeral. Eventually, Hannah had puppies. I kept one. I named him Rolly. He was pure white.

Pooch. Goldie. Cody. Rolly. Hannah. They were my friends. When I lost them, I swore off dogs.

Then, I found a stray walking the shoulder of the road. She was a Cocker Spaniel with no collar. Pure black. Ten-foot ears. I named her Lady.

Lady was one in a million. She slept with me. She rode in my truck. And when a rude girlfriend told me she didn’t want me anymore, Lady chased away my sadness.

When Lady passed I had to take a week off work.

Then Boone. Then Joe. Then Gurgle. Each one, a good boy who didn’t like leashes, hated doorbells, and emitted enough gas to be fire hazards.

Enter Ellie Mae.

She was a bloodhound. I’ve loved dogs before. Lots of them. But none like Ellie. A cedar box with her ashes rides on my truck dashboard. I have a gold plaque with her name mounted on my passenger seat—corny, I know.

But I think of her every day. I mention her after we say grace over supper.

And…

Hello Thelma Lou, goodbye heart.

When I bought Thel on a farm in Molino, Florida, the man told me, “This is the sweetest dadgum dog I ever saw.”

I held baby Thel, she bit my ear hard enough to make it bleed. Then, she licked my face—which was covered in blood. I knew she was the one. He was right, she was sweet. Is sweet.

While I write this, Thel is running on the beach toward a Father’s Day sunset. Occasionally, she walks to the edge of the surf, but she’s too afraid to get in.

No, I’m not a REAL father, I know that. This holiday wasn’t meant for fellas like me. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had “little ones.” I’ve had a few. And they’ve changed me. They made me who I am. They made me a better man, and their love ensures that my life will never be the same.

Neither will my boots.

43 comments

  1. Lisa Perkins - June 18, 2018 5:44 am

    Happy Father’s Day Sean! I am a dog mother, no children, so I can relate.
    Dogs are awesome! Waaayyyy better than most humans 🙃😉🐾

    Reply
  2. Sandi in FL. - June 18, 2018 6:22 am

    God bless you and Thelma Lou on Father’s Day and EVERY day, Sean.

    Reply
  3. Nancy - June 18, 2018 9:45 am

    Yes, you are a father and the very best kind – a loving, giving, caring Daddy. Happy Father’s Day Sean!

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  4. Kelly - June 18, 2018 9:58 am

    From a fellow dog mother, Thank You!🐶 Happy Belated Father’s Day!

    Reply
  5. Glenda H - June 18, 2018 10:21 am

    My, still living Aunt Irma turned 98 in February, she never married and her famous joke is that she “had her children the easy way — let others birth ’em”! For example, in 1949 she rode the train two days from Palm Beach County, FL to Boone County, MO to be there for Mom when I, the first girl child born in the Conrad family discovered America!!! She said the worst part of the trip was riding thirty minutes with my Dad in a rattletrap down the center of hilly roads. When she observed that possibly cars coming in the opposite lane could hit them, he told her “Nah, we’l hear them before we see them, nobody has mufflers on cars up here”. Daddy had been a badass paratrouper in WWII, she observed that she got “closer to God as she prayed on the wild trip to our old farmhouse”. I don’t have children, don’t have dogs, got bitten by an English setter as a youngster, and no kids??? At five, I was managing the four year old, the two and a half year old and changing the baby’s diaper ~ yep Mom was pregnant and weary. I’m not a mother in the traditional sense, but I nurtured and spanked the eight kids born followiing. AND, not often but I’ve gotten Mother’s Day cards and calls so, pretty am sure you merit Father’s Day greetings. “Happy belated Father’s day Sean”. May you run on the beach many many years with Thel!!! p.s. Put your boots out of reach man!!!

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  6. Deborah - June 18, 2018 10:49 am

    I understand completely ❤️

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  7. Sue Cronkite - June 18, 2018 11:09 am

    Ha ha ha!

    Reply
  8. janiesjottings - June 18, 2018 11:29 am

    Happy Father’s Day Sean! You’ve loved, enjoyed & made life sweeter for all your dogs. That’s pretty much what dad’s do for their kids. My husband & I weren’t able to have children but wonder of wonder’s God gave us the privilege of loving & nurturing dozens & dozens of kids through my home daycare business. He even moved a childless couple next door who later had a daughter & son they shared with us. Those kids refer to us as their second mom & dad. We’re the proud recipients of phone calls, texts, cards and sweet FB posts from grown people we will always call our babies. I have kept 3 generations of one family & when the new mommy goes to work that will most likely become 4 generations. We have been blessed and are so grateful for all of our babies.

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  9. Gary - June 18, 2018 11:37 am

    Dogs ARE a man’s Best Friend, and even more.

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  10. Lynn Hedges, A Simple Faith - June 18, 2018 11:47 am

    Oh yes, you are a real father and don’t ever think otherwise. ❤️🐾

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  11. Nancy Rogers - June 18, 2018 11:48 am

    You are just as much a “Father” as the rest of us who have loved another being with our whole heart so much that when they have passed on, our heart literally bursts from the pain. I am glad Thelma Lou is the balm of healing. Happy Father’s Day Sean.

    Reply
  12. Shirley Brown - June 18, 2018 12:18 pm

    I’ve lived longer than you Sean and I know that you have a heart as big as all outdoors. I often wonder why people who have children can’t seem to understand the very thing you stated so well that people without kids still have the love inside the same as people with kids have. Some people think that money and material things make up for the lack of kids but they find out when they’re old or dying that it didn’t. George, Rerun, Sammy, Joey and now Grace are the cats that have and still continue to keep me sane and happy. I think Grace would love the beach. It’s the people at the beach that she wouldn’t like. She’s a mama’s girl and I’m proud to say to say I’m Grace’s mom. PS…I hide my shoes and sandals cause Grace is a chewer.

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  13. Penn Wells - June 18, 2018 12:55 pm

    When you are good, there is no one – NO ONE – better. It doesn’t happen everyday.,.I mean, that just not possible, nor should it be. But I’ve huddled with a few folks and we’re giving you an A+ for this one. Keep ‘em coming!

    Reply
  14. Marlo Kirkpatrick - June 18, 2018 12:55 pm

    I never had human children, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a momma. My babies have been the dear departed Buttercup, Frosty, Icy, and Flurry, and the current Blizzard, Snowflake, Batman, and Joker. I also count the cat, Buster, and Homer, a pet rat, among my fur babies. There is a strong Choctaw heritage in my state (Mississippi), and my husband has promised me he is going to contact the tribe to find out how to pronounce my Choctaw name, which is surely Mother of Many Dogs. I’ll take that in a heartbeat.

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  15. Kathy Daum - June 18, 2018 1:01 pm

    We do lose a piece with each passing. But they also give us new parts. How we do love them!

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  16. Melanie Tighe - June 18, 2018 1:09 pm

    There are plenty of dog dads and moms (like me) out there. Never had human kids but we do have full hearts, made fuller by the love we get back from all our four-legged kids. Thanks for remembering all of us Sean. We’re in good company I think. ❤️

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  17. Edna B. - June 18, 2018 1:11 pm

    They’re right, Sean. Father is the man who takes care of you, feeds you, plays with you, takes you for walks, cuddles with you, and just loves you. Whether you be a furry baby or a feathered baby or a human baby. They all need loving dads. You’re doing an awesome job of it. I hope your Father’s Day was awesome. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  18. tracyfridley - June 18, 2018 1:26 pm

    This is one of my favorites! You are just as much a father as any man with human children! I’m so glad you are continuing to know the joy of puppy love. There is nothing better or more rewarding.

    Reply
  19. Charlu Kent - June 18, 2018 1:37 pm

    Our beautiful beloved beasties are our children 💙🐭❤️❤️❤️❤️

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  20. Ellen Walters - June 18, 2018 1:40 pm

    Amen!!!!

    Reply
  21. Rene M Hodges - June 18, 2018 2:00 pm

    Candy, Toby, Cookie, Buck, Sam, Buddy, Jake and now the wondermutt, Michael Phelps. First three were cocker spaniels, second three were collies, Jake was a Boston and left the earth on 08/08/08 the day of opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. I lasted two weeks until we found Michael Phelps who’s mom was a Boston & dad was a Cane Corso Mastiff. We couldn’t figure out a good name so he is Michael Phelps – who got his 8th gold medal that day. Like the song goes, IF YOU CAN’T BE WITH THE ONE YOU LOVE, LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH.

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  22. Frieda - June 18, 2018 2:10 pm

    Fathers come in all sorts of sizes and situations and just because your children don’t walk upright doesn’t mean that you’re any less of a father. Parents are entrusted with overseeing their children’s needs, including protecting and guiding them. The fact that you have a “dogter” instead of a “daughter” doesn’t change that. Other than you having to take the boots away instead of the truck keys, your role is still the same. Happy belated Father’s Day!

    Reply
  23. Cheryl McWilliams - June 18, 2018 2:49 pm

    I fell in love with your writing when my grandson who is stationed in Alaska called my attention to your articles/posts/stories. I am a true believer, now. I was thrilled when I saw your picture on the cover of the Alabama Farmers Cooperatives magazine’s June 2018 issue! We work with the AFC people, and have for years, as manufacturers’ representatives for factories and know they can tell CLASS when they see it! Loved that article and the recognition given to a true “Sean of the South”! Thank you.

    Reply
  24. Brenda - June 18, 2018 3:11 pm

    Sean, yes you are a REAL father in every sense of the word. God bless you and your big heart! And hide those boots!

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  25. Karen - June 18, 2018 3:16 pm

    Sean, I realize the point of the article wasn’t the pooping incident, yet I couldn’t help but commiserate as I remembered Barney’s youth (he’s now 11). I took him for rides often as a puppy, and every. single. time, he threw up. He apparently felt ashamed of his problem, so always did it in a cupholder or the console. I finally gave up on rides till he was a little older, and upon the next try, he decided my open purse was perfect for puke. One day he looked out the window and realized that there was something outside of the car, and never got sick in the car again. He finally loves riding, as long as we maintain a fairly high speed. Anyway, love dogs, love your dog articles, and a belated Happy Father’s Day to you. In my opinion, you qualify not just for being a dog daddy, but for spreading love everywhere you go.

    Reply
  26. Angie Whetstone - June 18, 2018 3:54 pm

    Don’t ever say you’re not a real father. Of course you are. Thelma Lou and all those others needed a man to to love them, take care of them, protect them and cry over them, just as you have done. That’s what real fathers do to their children, whether the children have two legs or four.
    Whenever you are ready to become a grandfather, holler at me! I’ve got a beautiful, giant, red, 6 month old, 87lb, bloodhound named Duke! He is the sweetest, most handsomed fur boy I’ve ever seen!
    Angie from Texas

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  27. Kathy - June 18, 2018 5:00 pm

    Of course you’re a real dad! Just ask Thel. She’ll tell you!

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  28. Maureen A - June 18, 2018 6:50 pm

    So beautifully said about the love we have inside of us that we need to give somewhere when we have a dog or cat. It is funny how I always seem to “qualify” that I can love when someone asks if I have children…no, but I have a dog. God may not have had human babies in His plan for me, but He knows what He is doing. It is ok to be a father or mother to a pet….Happy belated Father’s Dmay!

    Reply
  29. Carol Stern - June 18, 2018 7:21 pm

    That equals a baby boy peeing on your face while you are changing his diaper ❤️

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  30. Michael Castengera - June 18, 2018 9:56 pm

    I read this as 16-year-old Olivia sits on the floor staring at me. She is nearly blind, nearly deaf and close to death. She is a ‘rescue.’ Her previous owners had left her in a fenced area in a field that they visited once a month. We had adopted her two daughters before we found this out. Then we adopted her. She was angry when we picked her up. So, I sat in the back of the car with her for two hours and fed her kentucky fried chicken. She loved it. And she loved me. Old traits sometimes came back. A hand moving too quickly would remind her of beatings and she would respond. The results were trips to the emergency room in South Carolina and in Georgia for bloody torn arms. She was always contrite. She’s contrite now. She knows death is approaching, and she just wants to be close to the person she loves most in the world.

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  31. Margaret Craig - June 18, 2018 11:14 pm

    Gretchen was my Ellie Mae. She went EVERYWHERE with me- even flew her when necessary. It’s been 24 years and I still miss her. Couldn’t bring myself to replace her – didn’t think it would be fair to the next one. I’m happy you found Thelma to help heal your heart. Of course you’re a father!!

    Reply
  32. Zach of the Dog Park - June 18, 2018 11:18 pm

    Truer words may have never been spoken. This one especially struck a chord with me. As a single guy without human children and living 500 miles from the place I’ll always call home, my dogs are and always have been the center of my universe. From one Dog Dad to another, Happy Father’s Day!

    Reply
  33. Jack Darnell - June 19, 2018 4:19 am

    Daddy moved, as preachers do he took another church. I made his and mama’s life miserable. I had to leave my friends, but one day I was told to bring in a box from the back seat of the family car. It was the end of the worlds problems. It solved rebuilding Germany. It was a black Cocker Spaniel. I named him Ace! Proving my dad knew little boys and dogs because in 1905 he had one in North Georgia.

    Reply
  34. Steve Welch - June 19, 2018 5:25 am

    Trust me, I have had three biological children (two boys and a girl), two step-kids (a boy and a girl), but my last “child” is a 105 pound solid black German Shepherd who will be 10 years old in October. I raised him from 8 weeks old in a kennel by my bed to work as a service dog for Dogs for Autism. However, because of hip issues, I have him back now. He knows about 400 words, and goes to work with me if I am not in court or depositions. I can tell from the tone of his whine if he has to go to the bathroom, or he is hungry, or is just bored and wants to play. When he passes, I will take several days off and grieve. He is no longer able to jump up in the back of my Ford F-150 Crew Cab, so I had to buy steps. The first time I put them up, he looked at me, gave he his “smile” and walked right up into the back seat.

    Trust me, you are a father. Even my three biological children jokingly call him their “brother.” We refer to my wife as “mommy” when talking to him (“give mommy a kiss before we go to work”), and everyone says ” take this to your daddy” when referring to me.

    Thank you for all you do to find the best in each of us. I am in LA tonight (Lower Alabama) at Gulf Shores at a family reunion of 7 first cousins and myself. First time in 20 years we have all been together with our famililies. We are having a ball catching up on everything and wishing we lived closer. I have sent all of them your signup info.

    Glad you enjoyed your trip to Colorado to visit your father’s ashes and back. Sorry for your loss. But I hope you will keep writing these stories everyday that picks up my spirits and makes my day. You have a gift Sean, and the pressure to produce articles can cause a lot of issues.

    Just remember, we would settle on an article every other day, rather than every day, as long as you personally wrote it. DO NOT burn youself out.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Reply
  35. Barbara G. - June 19, 2018 5:56 am

    Fifi, Moni, Chico, Sampson, Gypsy, Sova all wonderful dog mutt babies…. all different, like the flowers in a garden…thank you for capturing the essence so eloquently. Happy Father’s Day belatedly….enjoy that fun pup!!

    Reply
  36. C.E. HARBIN - June 19, 2018 8:48 am

    Okay, I just have to know. Did you look first before you put your foot in the poopy boot or did you discover the ‘gift’ with your foot?

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  37. Pat - June 19, 2018 2:19 pm

    Sean your next to last sentence explains why all dogs go to heaven.

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  38. Lisa Mills - June 19, 2018 6:13 pm

    Wow. This one is a favorite.💕

    Reply
  39. Patricia Gibson - June 19, 2018 9:46 pm

    I know exactly how you feel!

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  40. Shelley - August 15, 2018 10:58 am

    You are a real Dad, and a fine one at that.

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  41. Alice - August 15, 2018 11:18 am

    God bless you Sean I understand totally how you feel toward your babies I am a dog lover myself!such a wonderful tribute to your fur babies❤️❤️

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  42. GigiBeth - August 15, 2018 1:25 pm

    Blood children does not a father make.

    Reply
  43. Unkel Kenny - August 15, 2018 7:00 pm

    we got a Boston terrier when our neighbor died . Her name was Bugger . she took care of three snotty nosed kids. she kept those little faces liked clean and blown dry. Bugger loved water. first trip to cape san blas we drove out onto the beach . there was a light breeze blowing from the west . it made a small lapping wave that apeared to be running away from us heading east. that dog lost her mind and tore off down the the beach chasing that wave. my son finally caught up with her and got a leash on her. uk

    Reply

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