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.

 

26 comments

  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

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

    Dogs are wonderful friends! Love your writing!

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

    +++

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

    Oh man…

    Reply
  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!

    Reply
  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.

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

    Amen! Dogs are the best at love

    Reply
  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

    Reply
  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.

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

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

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

    One of the best yet. Thank you.

    Reply
  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???

    Reply
  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.

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

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

    Reply
  15. Sue - April 24, 2017 2:29 am

    This is every dog FRIEND I have ever had. And every one I’ve had to bury. They take pieces of my heart with them when they leave me…

    Reply
  16. Cathi Russell - June 15, 2017 12:47 pm

    The weepy glees, again. Please never stop your writing, my days would be much poorer, indeed.

    Reply
  17. Deanna J - June 15, 2017 12:51 pm

    Love my fur babies! Thank you!

    Reply
  18. Lynnis - June 15, 2017 1:03 pm

    Oh, but yes. My furry family has been filled with all types, mostly mutts but a few discernible breeds. All are missed still, even tho it’s been years longer than what I was blessed with their love and devotion. I didn’t even need jerky. Bologna works better.

    Reply
  19. Susan - June 15, 2017 1:04 pm

    Sean, I’m a 76 year old great grandmother who happens to love dogs too. I love to read your thoughts and someday would like to meet you. You are a good man, I can tell. God bless….

    Reply
  20. Scott Gardner - June 15, 2017 1:10 pm

    Thanks! We’re nearing the end with our family’s furriest member. Blackie is a 16 year-old lab/retriever mix. She’s helped us raise 3 boys to manhood and she loves to lay by my chair and prod my hand with nose until I scratch her ears. Thanks for reminding me what a blessing we have.

    Reply
  21. Marlene Willis - June 15, 2017 2:15 pm

    I enjoy the drawings that accompany your stories on your blog. I enjoy the style and content of your stories. I am a Lower Alabama native who can identify with the people and dogs you write about. Thank you.

    Reply
  22. Joan Dake - June 15, 2017 2:26 pm

    Today is Little Bee’s birthday. She is twelve–not too bad for a Chihuahua. Her muzzle has begun to be gray–but then no doubt my snout is quite gray also! The most wonderful blessing the Lord ever gave to me was to lend Bee to me to be my friend. This essay, “Dog Gone” is absolutely the perfect essay to read today, Sean. Thank you for the tears and laughter you bring forth from all of us.

    Reply
  23. Kathy C - June 15, 2017 2:50 pm

    Love this story. Love your kind heart. Love that you see what’s lovely in what’s around us and remind us daily to appreciate it and be mindful of our blessings. Blessings to you, Sean, too.

    Reply
  24. Sandra Simpson - June 15, 2017 3:31 pm

    I love your writing.
    My four footed children give the best love and comfort.

    Reply
  25. Malinda Daugherty - June 15, 2017 4:39 pm

    My husband’s father drowned when he was four years old. His mother never remarried or even dated. He was an only child and his mother had to work to keep a roof over their heads. His dogs were his brothers and sisters, best friends and confidants. He is 69 now and still weak for a dog. Our boxer Maui is eleven and has had several cancers removed already. It will be a hard time when the time comes, but we love her enough to keep her from suffering. Thank you for being so real.

    Reply
  26. Brenda Gruenewald - June 16, 2017 5:10 am

    Oh, my, I just love your writing. Thank you for these short stories.

    Reply

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