Thelma Lou

Then, the bloodhound looked at me with wild, mildly Satanic eyes. And I realized that we were playing a game.

There are certain days in a man’s life when, for whatever reason, he has the urge to chase a runaway bloodhound up a Tennessee mountain.

This puppy, Thelma Lou, happens to be an expert at running. All it takes is the right breeze to hit her nose, and she’s off for Canada.

She was on a leash today, trotting beside me. We reached an overlook. The view was green and majestic. I remarked to myself, “Take a gander at them mountains.”

And it was during this moment of deep reflection that I noticed Thelma had chewed through her leash. All I could see were hindparts, bouncing merrily through the Greenest State in the Land of the Free.

“Don’t panic,” I told myself. “Just remain calm.”

I called her name. I shouted it firmly, but not aggressively. And I clapped. Lots of clapping. Clapping is important when calling a fugitive dog so that others nearby are sufficiently aware of what a human toadstool you are.

So I walked the trail, looking for a dog, clapping. I heard rustling ahead, and I could see her.

I used my high-pitched baby voice: “That’sagoodgirlyesyouareThelmaLouyesyouare.”

And I was so busy calling her that I almost forgot that I’ve hiked this trail before, as a kid. I was with my father at the time.

I remember that day well. We both wore coonskin caps from a gift shop. That day, my father referred to me as Davy Crockett. I called him Daniel Boone.

We sang songs, we ate peanut butter sandwiches, we carved walking sticks. I still have those sticks.

When we hit the top of a mountain, my father looked over these very hills and whistled at them.

He said, “Would ya take a gander them mountains.”

He was a good man.

Anyway, I saw a dog in the distance. Her head was down, her tail was up. When I got closer, I could see she was eating something that had apparently been passed through the system of an elderly possum.

I clapped. “Get away from that!” I said.

She wagged her tail.

“Come here to me!” I said.

More wagging.

“I’m removing you from our will.”

Wagging and howling.

Then, the bloodhound looked at me with wild, mildly Satanic eyes. And I realized that we were playing a game.

Thelma’s rules of this man-versus-canine game were simple: (a) run away from the man chasing you; (b) roll in poop.

I ran after her. Lots of clapping.

Our game lasted longer than I wanted, but in the end I won. I caught the fugitive. Then, with her in my arms we stood at a scenic overlook, and I whistled at the view.

I sing a few verses from Fess Parker’s “Ballad of Davy Crockett.”

I carried the bloodhound back to our room. My clothes were covered in a what looks like apple butter. This puppy has more raw energy than a classroom of caffeinated first-graders.

I washed the bloodhound in the shower. I used Suave shampoo and conditioner. She enjoyed her bath so much that she ate an entire bar of soap and part of a washrag.

“That was a very disobedient girl,” I explained to her. “Daddy’s disappointed in you for running away. It hurt daddy’s feelings when you did that, do you understand me?”

I think she does. Because this dog is smarter than some folks might think. I can tell that within that brilliant brain of hers that she’s thinking to herself:

“Hey, this bar of soap tastes exquisite!”

I dried her with a towel, then we fell asleep on the bed. She was tucked in my armpit, snoring.

And while I write this, I am wearing a coonskin hat I just bought at a gift shop in town. My dog has already chewed the raccoon tail into pieces.

Would you just take a gander at them mountains.


  1. Sandi in FL. - May 11, 2018 8:04 am

    Sean, I think you’re beginning to like Thelma Lou just a little bit! You’re going to spoil her so rotten she’ll stink. Make more happy memories with her and share them with us, your devoted readers. I’m delighted that lil’ Thel makes your heart happy.

  2. Sandra Smith - May 11, 2018 9:58 am

    I am gigglin’ out loud at O’Dark thirty in the morning, and MY dog is looking at me like I’m crazy ! They figure us out pretty quick, don’t they !

  3. Kelly - May 11, 2018 10:18 am

    Oh the glory of a puppy! Your adventure brought a huge smile to my face early in the morning. Many happy trails with Thelma Lou????

  4. Connie Havard Ryland - May 11, 2018 10:38 am

    Puppies. ❤️ Always either rolling in something or eating something they shouldn’t. Gotta love ‘me.

  5. Cathi - May 11, 2018 10:38 am

    Thelma Lou is trainin’ you! Enjoy dat baby!

  6. Trina V. - May 11, 2018 11:11 am

    LOLOLOL. Thanks for the laugh this morning. It brought back memories of a day, long ago, when my shih tzu Elvis decided to take off not long after we moved into our house. I was walking down the street in front of my house in my pink robe yelling “ELVIS!!” I was probably clapping as well. He was a runner, so that wasn’t the only time I walked through town calling his name, but I tried to make sure I was fully dressed. Thinking back, I have to wonder what impression I was making on our new neighbors. ??

  7. Edna B. - May 11, 2018 11:55 am

    Oh my goodness, what a wonderful morning giggle I’m having. Ain’t puppies just wonderful? Thelma Lou is training you just fine. I love the stories of your new adventures together. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

  8. Melanie Tighe - May 11, 2018 12:06 pm

    What a great description of the furry garbage disposals that are doggies! Some of the more exotic cuisine mine have dined on include sunglasses, lawn furniture, Malibu lights, flip flops and a 1991 Ford Escort dashboard. Priceless memories ❤️ Love to you and Thelma Louise.

  9. Bobby Hamil - May 11, 2018 12:38 pm

    A great column to jump start the morning. Went to a Rick
    Bragg book tour last night, and a good read by Sean of the South this AM. I think I’ll pull out one of Lewis Grizzard’s books from my library, and I’ll have a trifecta!

  10. Sue Cronkite - May 11, 2018 1:01 pm

    Bring her on down to the Gulf of Mexico. I’ll bet she can swim from here to Panama City.

  11. Lauren Ulrich - May 11, 2018 2:18 pm

    You are amazing–everyone else I know would have just about run out of patience with Thelma Lou, but you find the joy, love and positivity in everything this puppy does. In fact, in everything you come across in life. Your writing is as powerful a force for good as the daily reading of scripture.

  12. karen - May 11, 2018 2:32 pm

    We had a lab who brought over 40 ground hogs to our door one summer. This count , after I decided to make slashes on the garage wall. Who knows the actual number. One day I saw him coming with one in his mouth. He tried to run to me but the Ground hog was so heavy , he would stop and rest and come ahead , so proud. See, this great GH I got for you!
    Point of this this , I know first hand that apple butter.
    Love my dogs so.

  13. Jack Quanstrum - May 11, 2018 2:41 pm


  14. Lynn Pappas - May 11, 2018 3:25 pm

    This made me smile!!???

  15. Anne Godwin - May 11, 2018 3:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing your world with everyone. My Dad died when I was 8. I wish I had your ability to recall such details. Keep writing. That was a good laugh!

  16. Mary Anne - May 11, 2018 3:49 pm

    Sean, loved this story. We all have our puppy-chew stories. Our golden retriever puppy once chewed the legs off my new Adirondack chairs. Nothing in our back yard was sacred. Enjoy your Thelma Lou!

  17. Jakki - May 11, 2018 5:15 pm

    I’ll look out for your puppy up here in SK & you can look out for my red-tick rescue Coonhound ‘Uma’ when she next runs away from me – for hours & hours & hours. I swear that hound will be the death of me.

  18. Heidi - May 11, 2018 6:09 pm

    My dog Walter can sit, stay, shake, lay down,roll over and speak. Come? No way in hell. Unless you have a squeaky baby or cellophane type bag with treats AND he feels like it on a particular day. He will actually get really close so you think you have him & then bolt. It’s his favorite game. Ugh.

  19. Gerald Dowling - May 11, 2018 6:52 pm

    What is it about spoiling a dog that’s so bad. I seemed to have specialized in spoiling dogs over the last ten or fifteen years.
    I remembered when I worked down in the Key’s my Momma called me one day with the food news she had received her check in the mail from the President of the United States and she was headed out to stimulate the economy buying a dog. She was tired of going out for ride past my grandparent’s grave every afternoon by herself. I have discovered my little rescue dogs seem to enjoy a ride in the afternoons, especially when we take a short cut through the cemetery past Mommie and Daddy Dick’s head stones.

  20. Phyllis Taunton - May 11, 2018 7:54 pm

    Your writings, every day in my email, are sure to elicit either laughter or years – sometime both during the same piece. Thank you so much for sharing your memories and experiences. Love to Thelma Lou, and yiu!

  21. KAREN - May 11, 2018 8:14 pm

    Love this story, thank you for sharing. Reminds me of the Red Fern Grows, Little Anne and Little Dan. He wore a coon skin hat also. Thank you!!

  22. Jack Darnell - May 12, 2018 3:34 am

    You definitely need a chain leash!!! But thn if you had rather chase, go for it. LOL Enjoyed the story!

  23. Dru - May 12, 2018 4:34 am

    Great story. Our little rescue-spaniel-Pomeranian mix, Cokey, was a runner. One winter morning the tears on my face nearly froze as I ran, called, looked, called till I thought I would die. In utter despair, I stopped, and a thirteen-pound cyclone whirled into my arms, nearly knocking me over. She had been crying, too. Oh happy day.

  24. Esteban - May 12, 2018 2:13 pm

    Some dogs won’t need their Master’s call, preferring to roll in poop instead. But the Master still loves them. How similar to the human condition!

  25. Donna PARTON - May 12, 2018 9:08 pm

    Sweet littke Thel. Sounds like she is a rounder.
    Also sounds like Y’all in my neck of the woods.
    Have fun!

  26. Patricia Gibson - May 13, 2018 6:40 pm

    Love it! So glad Thelma Lou is ssfe.

  27. Mary Ellen Hall - May 29, 2018 4:56 am

    I’ve been there; done that, w/ the puppy rolling n the poop!
    I guess ALL DOGS DO IT!! NOT PLEASANT; but part of having, & LOVING YOUR PUP!!?

  28. Emily - May 30, 2018 4:24 am

    Woo! Yeah that has happened with Clifford all of three times… thank goodness for Walter (his non-bloodhound buddy) who let’s him know it’s time for food and cuddles. Thelma sounds like a hoot!

  29. Terri Boykin - July 11, 2018 11:07 am

    Love you and Thel, Sean.

  30. Catherine - July 11, 2018 11:19 am

    A leash is no match for a Thelma Lou…

  31. Ronala Turner - July 11, 2018 12:56 pm

    Shawn, I SO get this post. I have a 14 week old Black & Tan Coonhound puppy that became mine on June 2. I lost my 10 year old Redbone Coonhound to cancer back in January and “Annabelle” has been such a comfort to me. Now, not every day of course. I play the “let’s run away game” at least once every day. Her energy level in the evenings is something to be reckoned with! I’m thinking that doggy day-care may be in her future. 😉

  32. Valerie - July 11, 2018 1:12 pm

    Yes. The TN mountains are my very most favorite things to gander at.


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