I name her Jessie. I bathe her in the hotel shower. I shampoo her three times until the water isn’t brown anymore.

Geneva, Alabama—my wife and I are driving Highway 27. The sun is shining. The sky is blue.

I’m on my way to speak at the Farm City Banquet in Coffee County, Alabama. There, I will stand onstage and deliver mediocre entertainment to three hundred folks wearing cowboy hats and eating barbecue.

My brakes screech.

A dog.

It’s a puppy, sitting in the center of a two-lane highway. Two green eyes, auburn hair, and floppy ears. There is some hound in her.

She’s planted on the yellow line, staring at my windshield.

I flip on my hazards. The puppy whimpers when she sees me come near. She is small. I can see every rib the Good Lord gave her. She licks my face.

There are few blessings greater than puppy breath.

I move her from the highway, into the grass. I bid her goodbye. She wanders into the road again.

So, I reason with this animal.

“Stay outta the highway, girl,” I’m saying. “You’ll get run over.”

She barks at me.

I carry her to the nearest porch—a shotgun house with rusty water heaters in the yard and a lopsided porch. Nobody’s at home.

I place her on the steps.

No sooner have I shut my vehicle door than I see a puppy on the pavement again.

I don’t have time for games. I’m running late. I have to be in New Brockton in thirty minutes. I explain this to the dog. She only licks me.

“Don’t lick me,” I warn her.

She licks.

And I will love her until they lay me down.

She falls asleep in my lap while I drive. I hear her snore. We arrive at the non-pet-friendly hotel. My wife checks in; I carry a large cardboard box through the lobby. The box is whimpering.

“Sir, what’s in that box?” the clerk asks me.

“Don’t mind me, I’m a columnist—sort of.”

“Very good, sir. Enjoy your stay.”

“Much obliged.”

I name her Jessie. I bathe her in the hotel shower. I shampoo her three times until the water isn’t brown anymore.

Later that night, Jessie is in my bed. I place her between my wife and I. Jessie begins the night by our feet.

2 A.M.—she’s resting on my stomach.

7 A.M.—her muzzle is buried in my ear. I can smell her breath.

I pet her. Jessie isn’t healthy, I can tell this. She’s got worms, fleas, and when she breathes, it’s labored. She needs a vet.

There’s a woman in Coffee County who is part of a no-kill refuge. Jo is her name. I call her. She meets me in a Chick-Fil-A parking lot to take Jessie.

For a final goodbye, my wife and I take turns kissing Jessie’s head. She licks us, I don’t mean to cry. Besides, I haven’t even known this stray dog for 24 hours.

But I hate goodbyes.

We place Jessie in the backseat of Jo’s car. I remind Jessie to be a good little girl. She stares at me. She doesn’t need reminders.

Jo drives away. I can still smell her puppy breath.

Someone once asked me if I was certain that God existed. Yes, I am. I know it with all my heart.

Because only God could’ve made dogs.

36 comments

  1. anne trawick - November 18, 2017 7:33 am

    Oh, boy! Makes me remember every dog I have ever loved.

    Reply
  2. Chris Longcrier - November 18, 2017 8:18 am

    I named mine L.B. I turned him over to a nice lady who I knew could give him a good home. We just couldn’t handle a full grown Basset hound we reasoned and we can’t. One night with him, the hotel shower, the 2 a.m. walk, the snoring, the growling at the tv when a villain came on a Gunsmoke episode.
    We did the best for him, my wife reminds me. And she’s right. But the hole in my heart will never heal. I will see you in Heaven L.B.

    Reply
  3. CKD - November 18, 2017 10:37 am

    And only God could have made you…a man with a heart.

    Reply
  4. Sarah - November 18, 2017 11:22 am

    I would be lost without my dog. She soothes my soul.

    Reply
  5. Kelly - November 18, 2017 11:41 am

    Bless your dog loving soul. Listening to my Yellow Lab tear up his morning rawhide as I read your story. Sweet morning music to me.

    Reply
  6. Deborah Bundy - November 18, 2017 12:02 pm

    Sitting here with one of God’sstrays snuggled against my hip. Nice tribute to those trusting pup souls.

    Reply
  7. Susan Hatfield - November 18, 2017 12:15 pm

    Just saw a news story. People with dogs live 33% longer than those poor bereft souls without dogs. We have to. Who will take care of them otherwise? Dog is God spelled backward. They bless us with his unconditional Love.

    Reply
  8. Perri Geaux Tigers Williamson - November 18, 2017 12:18 pm

    I’m really curious about the tone of voice you used when you told her not to lick you. I mean…I think you would have your readers believe it was some kind of stearn voice. I am certain your regulars see right through this charade. Puppy breath and the highjinks of children render everyone putty. Let us know if you want to confess to the type of stearnness witnessed in the movie “As Good as it Gets.” Cause I’m sure that if you had bacon in a ziplock in your jacket pocket nothing could have stopped you from using it!

    Reply
  9. Connie - November 18, 2017 12:55 pm

    While I’m reading this, I’m sitting here with one of my rescued dogs in my lap. He’s about 4 years old, they think. Part chihuahua, part something. When we got him, he had heart worms and a shotgun pellet in his side. He weighed 10 pounds. What kind of human shoots something that small? He is the most loving creature God ever made. The other rescue is wandering around getting into things. She’s a little over a year old. When we got her from the shelter, she would fit in my hand. Someone had abandoned her and her sister in a ditch. She’s part Dachshund. She’s crazy but we love her. Thank God for no kill shelters and the wonderful people that staff them. We don’t have to be perfect for dogs to love us.

    Reply
  10. Leia Lona - November 18, 2017 1:12 pm

    You have made me cry twice this morning, while reading 2 of your essays. It is going to be a great day.

    Reply
  11. Jo Brooks - November 18, 2017 1:24 pm

    Jessie is so lucky to have found you. And I was lucky to have heard you speak and to meet you and Jessie. All four of our dogs send their thanks for saving Jessie; they know what it is like to need a home.

    Reply
  12. Annie H. - November 18, 2017 2:40 pm

    You, Jessie and Jamie made a Thursday night in New Brockton a little better place for a moment in time. I’d love to tell you were the highlight of the night, but I think it might have been that gentle, puppy breathed, green eyed, red head with the fifty cent sized paws, snuggled up to anyone who would hold her that I’ll remember most… Thanks for rescueing her!

    Reply
  13. Shirley J Brown - November 18, 2017 2:49 pm

    Amen!

    Reply
  14. Wendy - November 18, 2017 3:12 pm

    Our 12 pound four-legged family member thanks you too, Sean. We named him Pax which means peace in Latin. However he’s not very peaceful when he hears the slightest sound outside. He barks & barks s’more. Now that I’m disabled, it’s a blessing that Pax is my guard dog if my husband has to be running some quick errands away from home. When someone comes to visit, we have to tell them that he won’t bite but thinks you’ve come to play with him. Question: how can a super friendly dog be a guard dog too? 🙂

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - November 18, 2017 8:19 pm

      Love, Wendy, the best kind…

      Reply
      • Wendy - November 20, 2017 11:06 pm

        🙂

        Reply
  15. maryann fannin - November 18, 2017 3:36 pm

    You write what is in our hearts!

    Reply
  16. Jack Darnell - November 18, 2017 3:46 pm

    Hey dude, a dog is just a dog (until you touch it). Good read, thanks.

    Reply
  17. Walter Singletary - November 18, 2017 3:48 pm

    We have a rescue mix named Max. One of the two most loving of the doggie gifts God has given us. We are pretty sure that when He takes Max home, He’ll have to take us too cause we can’t live with broken hearts. DOG is GOD spelled backwards for good reason. All of our blessings have come from God and He has brought many of those blessings through the love of a good Dog. Rinty. Cheney. Tammy. Max.
    Thank You, Lord!!

    Reply
  18. Melodie - November 18, 2017 6:22 pm

    Wow, This sounds so familiar, it could be my story. Someone dropped off a pup on our country road. I saw the sad little thing chasing the car with it’s people inside. How can anyone be so cruel? We took her in, named her, Jessie and got her to the vet. She tested positive for heart worms. It’s hard to keep a rambunctious shepherd mix, still, while being treated for heart worms, but, we managed. Jessie was one of the best dogs that ever owned me! She grew to the age of 15. It broke our hearts when it was time for this one to cross over the rainbow bridge, I’ll tell ya! Everyone loved Jessie, and Jessie loved everyone, right back. Thank you for these sweet memories. I’m looking at a photo of her right now, that I keep close to my computer. ♥

    Reply
    • teachenglish67 - November 18, 2017 6:33 pm

      And then there was Moxie for you and your Beloved. She came into my heart, too, in 2010 when I came to visit. We shared time together; she let me pet her…..something you said was interesting since she didn’t let others touch her like I did. She will always have a special place in my heart. I’ve had dogs, but not a puppy. All the dogs I’ve had have been adults which helps (but not much) when they have to go on their journey over the rainbow bridge.

      Reply
      • Melodie - November 19, 2017 1:04 am

        Yes, Moxie also grew up with Jessie and was loved by many. She lived to be 19. Moxie loved you, too. ♥

        Reply
  19. Cin Bailey - November 18, 2017 7:26 pm

    So true! Dog love is the best kind!

    Reply
  20. PJ Johnson - November 18, 2017 7:40 pm

    Amen!!!

    Reply
  21. Janet Mary Lee - November 18, 2017 8:22 pm

    Thank you for finding a place for her to be safe! I knew you would!!

    Reply
  22. Linda Chipman - November 18, 2017 8:23 pm

    I have a rescue named Starla with the longest legs I’ve ever seen on a dog. She has been like Velcro from the day I brought her home. And puppy breath is one of the best smells on earth.

    Reply
  23. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - November 18, 2017 11:17 pm

    At least you only found the one puppy. The same thing happened to me last week when I was driving on the road I rarely takecto get home. One skinny puppy on the road, but 3 others nearby! Of course, they didn’t belong to the only house near there. A rescue group offered to take them and I was so relieved after just one day with them. But, oh how sweet, and yes, God exists in puppies. I know I saw God that day too.

    Reply
  24. Marcie - November 18, 2017 11:19 pm

    How do i send an email to Sean?

    Reply
    • Jon Dragonfly - November 22, 2017 3:33 pm

      Top of this page, on the right. Click “CONTACT”

      Reply
  25. Jody - November 19, 2017 12:53 am

    My rescue dog had been returned to the shelter three times. I received a call from a wonderful worker who was concerned about him. I took him to see what behavior needed to be addressed so that he could be adopted After 10 days I named him Keeper and he and I have been buddies for the last year. He adopted me. 10 pounds of spunk personality and love. Nothing needs to change. Some days he walks me. And other days I walk him. I am so thankful that Keeper kept his best talents a secret from those who “tried him out”. He has blessed me in countless ways. Thanks Sean for reminding us of the special gifts dogs bring to our lives.
    I

    Reply
    • Jo Brooks - November 22, 2017 12:54 am

      Bless you! What a happy ending 🙂

      Reply
  26. Mary Ellen Hall - November 19, 2017 3:04 am

    ABSOLUTELY LOVE this story Sean, mainly because I ABSOLUTELY LOVE DOGS!!!

    Reply
  27. Marty from Alabama - November 19, 2017 5:42 am

    You expect me to read this and not cry? Ain’t gonna happen, especially after loosing my sweet little Dingo two weeks ago. Talk about hurt! I still have two to love,but you love them all in their own special way. Right? Good night, you dog-loving man.

    Reply
  28. Pam Hamilton - November 19, 2017 4:12 pm

    Please go back. Get her. Jesse picked you.

    Reply
  29. jim morris - November 21, 2017 5:15 pm

    You cannot be serious…you left her, after giving her a name?…I don’t care if your apartment does not allow pets…MOVE!..It matters not if your wife doesn’t like Jessie…Get another wife..you can replace her…you cannot replace Jessie…she picked you…there is a contractual agreement here!…offer and acceptance…she offered herself and you accepted…get your butt back there mister…or we will see you in court…

    Reply
  30. Patricia Gibson - November 21, 2017 6:12 pm

    You are so right!!!

    Reply

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