My Best Friends Have Always Had Fleas

The fact is, folks from my side of the tracks have entertained themselves by watching bird-dogs since the earth cooled. All my best friends have had fleas.

I’m parked near the bay, eating salted peanuts, watching a hound dog swim.

I shouldn’t be here. I’m an adult. I have a busy schedule to maintain. I have errands, a grocery list, a dentist appointment this afternoon. I also have a coonhound who likes water.

So, I called the dentist to cancel. “Cancel?” the lady on the phone asked. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes ma’am, it’s just that my dog wanted to go swimming.”

No answer.

Yeah, I know I’m batty. But Ellie Mae lives for this bay, and it’s been a while since I took her swimming. Which isn’t fair. God gave her webbed paws the size of basketballs. Swimming is her birthright.

Today, when she saw the bay water through my truck windows, she howled until I stopped the truck.

I’m a softy.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy this. The fact is, folks from my side of the tracks have entertained themselves by watching bird-dogs since the earth cooled. All my best friends have had fleas.

When she crawls out of the water, she shakes. I toss the duck again.

She lights out after it.

I like wet dogs. I keep beach towels in my truck for such occasions. And treats. And leashes.

We’re joined at the hip. It’s no exaggeration to say she likes to keep me within sniffing distance.

Once, while I was repairing our roof, Ellie Mae attempted to crawl the ladder behind me. She got stuck. It took an hour to get her down.

Another story: once, I found Ellie chewing something in our driveway. In her paws was an open packet of Beech-Nut tobacco.

I hollered at her.

She paid me no mind.

I let her alone. Because the first rule of dog ownership: never touch a hound while she’s chewing tobacco.

She’s part of my life. In evenings, when I pull in our driveway to see a floppy-eared silhouette at the window, I feel good. And when she lets out a low-pitched howl that originates in her belly, she feels good.

Anyway, I don’t know why I’m telling you about this animal.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have any wallet-sized photos of a kid who looks me, holding a fishing rod. There are no Little League uniforms in my dryer, no grade-cards on my refrigerator, no reason to wake early on Christmas.

The guest bedroom my wife and I once promised we’d paint pink or blue is used for storage.

So it’s Ellie Mae.

She gives affection when I’m not in the mood—which is when I need it most. She sleeps beside me, she eats what I eat, lays by my feet. When I’m away, her world is Purgatory. When I’m home, there is reason to howl.

Dentists can wait.

I’m playing fetch with my daughter.


  1. karen - January 25, 2017 3:27 pm


  2. Kay Keel - January 25, 2017 3:44 pm

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing your love for your furry daughter! Our pets bring us great joy, happiness and a love that knows no boundaries. I’ve even raised a few injured squirrels who’ve slept in my shirt or jacket pocket and rode in the car with me, on my shoulder!

  3. sherry k. - January 25, 2017 5:27 pm

    Mhm. Got three. Two rowdy boys and a prissy cocker spaniel. I always wanted a big family.

  4. Kelly - January 25, 2017 5:34 pm

    Beautiful story! I have the same relationship with my Lab (and similar story about dog’s being my children).
    Nothing better than his wagging tail at the end of a long day.

  5. Elaine - January 25, 2017 5:47 pm

    At almost-70 I do know one thing: no life has every joy.
    Friends are generous with pictures and stories of their grandchildren; they share and we laugh together. Fortunately, there are always plenty of ways to use our love.

  6. Beverly Stovall - January 25, 2017 7:05 pm

    This one has to be my favorite……………..well until I read the next one!!!
    Thanks Sean for making my day….

  7. Carol DeLater - January 26, 2017 1:48 am

    It says a lot about a man when he loves an animal so much that he puts his friend’s needs before his own. Loves him so much that he looks forward to the greeting he knows he will receive when he gets home and does not find it an annoyance. I’m liking you more and more. A man who loves animals and old people has a place in my heart.

  8. Gayle Dawkins - January 26, 2017 2:31 am

    As I read this my little fur baby girl sleeps in my lap. When it’s time for bed she will have her head on my pillow as well. Love love love this story. I think I’m in love with Elle too!

  9. Mary Ellen Hall - January 26, 2017 4:25 am

    I LOVE THIS!!! I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about. My husband & I have no children-just a 100lb. Chocolate Lab, that is the LOVE of our lives!!

  10. Tish - February 3, 2017 12:38 pm

    I love how much you love Ellie Mae… I have two furbabies….. my husband just found out he has become allergic to dogs…. I asked him what medicine the doctor was going to give him — he already knew we were never getting rid of the puppies 🙂 (we’ve had a cat and/or dogs our entire relationship and marriage of 40 + years )

  11. John Miller - February 8, 2017 3:17 am

    Love it and can relate. My children are grown and live away. My Shirley (your Ellie Mae) is truly my best friend. She lets me sleep in the bed and snuggles as close to me as she can get. A tail wag and then her dog kisses makes every day ok.
    I sometimes think about her getting old and me possibly have to make that dreaded decision and literally start crying. Love, love, love!

  12. Hannah Hanson - February 20, 2017 1:06 am

    Oh, I had a joyous cry over this tender and heartwarming story. Honor, kindness, and sensitivity are always found in your prose!

  13. Barbara Jones - September 30, 2017 6:28 pm

    Love this story, I feel the same way about my fur baby.

  14. Sherry Holland - December 10, 2017 2:19 pm

    Coonhounds are so special! I adopted a black and tan that died too young from cancer and fostered two others. Adopting again after I move in the spring!

  15. Debbie Clark - April 5, 2018 5:13 pm


  16. Samantha Barnes - April 6, 2018 8:37 am

    Oh, this one hit me in my heart. All your stories touch me but, this one really got me. See just 2 days ago I had to bury my best friend. I felt I was dying. And in reality, I did a little. A part of my very soul left with that little dog. So spoil Ellie and love on her every chance you get because the years aren’t long enough. Savor it. Take the feel of her hair and her smell in. I know my 14 years with my Maggie were too short. Just one more day.

  17. Charaleen Wright - March 29, 2019 4:08 am


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