One July day, she quit eating. Then came the moaning. Her eyes looked lazy. Lots of drool. Cancer. It happened so fast.

A farm in South Alabama. We’re visiting a friend. She has two Golden Retrievers. Cody and Piper. They sit on the porch, staring while I eat a sandwich.

Cody is my new best friend. He’s giving me sugar.

I ask my friend how old Cody is.

“Six,” she says. “And Piper’s seven.”

That’s middle-aged in dog-years. Just enough arthritis to make mornings tough; just enough youth to make one stupid.

Take, for instance, me. I am a six-year-old dog.

Cody is big, reddish, and runs faster than I can throw sticks. He has a wide neck, big paws. When he gets excited, he pants harder than The Little Engine that Stunk.

He gives good sugar.

Piper is small. She is Cody’s manager. She leads by example. Her virtues are: calmness, patience, loyalty, and gluttony. She has talents, too. Piper can sit for three full seconds.

I finish eating. I’m taking a walk. It’s seven. The sun has just set. Crickets make me deaf. It’s a big field.

Cody and Piper are following. They stay behind, noses near my hands.

“They must like you,” says my friend.

I wish, but I’m afraid there’s more to it than that. The truth is, they’re staying close because I have beef jerky in my pockets.

Old Indian trick.

I’m a pathetic dog admirer. I’ve never met a dog I didn’t talk to. I’ve owned my share, and I’ve even tried training a few.

I’m hopeless at it. I never get past the basic command: “Nonononodammit!”

That is, except with Lady. That dog was smart enough to pass the Bar Exam.

I was young. Lady arrived in our open garage. Black, curly hair. Floppy ears. A gash on her backside. At first, she didn’t give affection, she was too clever for that.

So, I filled my pockets with jerky.

She kept her distance for days. Finally, she wandered near and (snap) I got my sugar.

I gave her one piece of dehydrated sirloin, she gave me the rest of her life.

She had a hound face—too much loose skin. It was hard to tell if she was happy. Her smile looked the same as sadness.

We went camping some. We’d watch sunsets, then we’d split a can of chili—at least I’d try to share. She wouldn’t.

One July day, she quit eating. Then came the moaning. Her eyes looked lazy. Lots of drool. Cancer. It happened so fast.

I dug her hole and almost puked.

The fact is, I grew up without a compass. Fatherless children like me often do. In my life, I’ve found myself looking for folks with the biggest ears. Friends, who listen. Who liked easy things. Like riding shotgun, eating chili, or going on walks.

I’ve had a few friends: Goldie, Joe, Hannah, Moses, Ollie, Rolly, Boone, Gurgle, and Ellie Mae.

They haven’t left marks on this world, but they’re friends. They followed me—even when I had no idea where I was going.

They had high opinions of me when I didn’t.

They gave me sugar.



  1. Kelly - April 21, 2017 3:39 pm

    Tears are running down my cheeks.
    I have the same devotion to the Golden Retriever’s that saved my life and to the Yellow Lab I currently have that is helping me through some tough times.
    From one childless dog lover to another, thank you

  2. Jane Carr - April 21, 2017 3:48 pm

    Dogs are wonderful friends! Love your writing!

  3. Willie - April 21, 2017 4:33 pm


  4. Sam Hunneman - April 21, 2017 5:06 pm

    Oh man…

  5. Tom Grigsby - April 21, 2017 5:32 pm

    My 13 year old toy poodle, Daisy, is my oldest child. She loves me no matter what. Love this story!

  6. Kathryn - April 21, 2017 6:30 pm

    It’s funny – I can’t remember the names and faces of half the kids that I graduated high school with but I’ll never forget the sweet face of every dog that I’ve ever shared a home with.

  7. Patricia Gibson - April 21, 2017 9:21 pm

    Amen! Dogs are the best at love

  8. Carol DeLater - April 21, 2017 9:32 pm

    I’ve had those friends and never needed jerky…though that IS my husband’s trick. Now we are old and empty nesters and and that Pit Bull and Boxer are our babies now. The Pit barely wants a hug but he licks a lot. The Boxer is always up for whatever touching you want at any moment of the day. Some day I won’t have a dog because I’ll worry about what will happen if I have to leave it behind. Awe, that’s silly. My daughter is dog crazy too.
    xx, Carol

  9. Rhonda Contreras - April 21, 2017 10:10 pm

    Oh, I can relate. Bambi, Tiz, Angus, Tucker, Barley, Bear, Wishbone, Mr. Moo-Moo and Bingo. These have been my fuzzy companions in life. Toy Manchester Terriers, Scotties, a black Lab mix, a Jack Russell mix, and, now, 2 Dachshunds. I’m getting kind of like my vet, who is older than me (and I’m looking at Medicare later this year), in that when I think of getting a puppy part of me thinks about it outliving me. Or my having to find someone to care for it if I have to go to a home. Maybe, if anything happens to Moo or Bingo, I’ll go to the shelter and get an old dog.

  10. Gayle Dawkins - April 22, 2017 12:40 am

    Oh how I love this story Mr Sean. I feel the same about my kitties.

  11. Michael Hawke - April 22, 2017 3:03 am

    One of the best yet. Thank you.

  12. Holly Groover - April 22, 2017 2:14 pm

    Love all of your columns but this was maybe one of my favorites . Have a long history of dogs and many other creatures going all the the way back to my childhood. My mother and grandmother were the same. I too can remember all their names and faces they are family so why wouldn’t I???

  13. Anna Ehrhardt - April 22, 2017 11:23 pm

    I have had a few fur babies. Loved them all. It was hard to let go but I will see them again over Rainbow Bridge. Love your column.

  14. Mary Ellen Hall - April 23, 2017 3:34 am

    Where would we be without those LOVING, LOYAL ” FRIENDS?”


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