Ellie Mae

I was at a wedding last week. There was a small reception with cocktail weenies, cheese plates, and an ice sculpture.

Instead of a DJ, there was a band from a local high school. They had long hair and various chains on their body parts. Their music was a cross between 80s progressive punk, and a nitroglycerine truck colliding against a 747 taxiing on the tarmac.

In the middle of the evening came my favorite portion of any wedding reception: when the tipsy brother-of-the-bride gains control of the microphone.

Others took the stage after him and began sharing memories, offering toasts. One gentleman picked up the mic and delivered a memory about being a college roommate of the groom. Four hours later, he finally got around to his toast.

Next, a young woman took the stage and read a speech that was written on a stack of notes the size of a term paper.

Then, the father of the bride told a story about when the bride was a girl. It was a sweet memory. He talked especially about a beloved member of the family, a deceased redbone coonhound named “Turkey.”

The man talked about this dog as though it were a blood relative, he covered the highpoints of their lives with the dog.

He talked about all the times that Turkey begged at the table, or when Turkey learned how to “load up” in the truck, leaping into the passenger seat. The times spent walking through the woods with Turkey beside them. And the day Turkey died.

I listened, but I wasn’t thinking about Turkey. I was remembering a black-and-tan bloodhound I once loved.

Her name was Ellie Mae. She had a black face with two tan eyebrows that moved with her every expression. Ellie rode shotgun in my truck each day of her life.

When I went to the store, she went to the store. When I went to work, she went to work. When I camped, so did she. When I ordered barbecue takeout for supper, she ate the barbecue, I ate the bun.

And every night after dinner, I would wrestle with her. Oh, she loved to wrestle. Her mouth was so big, she could fit my entire forearm in it. That eighty-pound girl could’ve torn off my arm if she’d wanted, but she would’ve never done that. She would only place a gentle mouth over my arm and pretend growl.

I’ve never met a dog who liked to wrestle the way she did.

She dog went to work with me when I played music in beer joints with crappy bands. At night, she waited in my truck with the windows down.

And on breaks, restaurant employees would feed her. A dishwasher, a cook, or some hapless dog-loving waitress would visit my truck and give Ellie a to-go box of pulled pork. Ellie Mae was the mascot of my life.

And in many ways, she still is.

She was the first face I saw in the morning, the last goodnight lick I received. Not a moment goes by that I don’t remember how courageously she hobbled into the veterinary clinic to meet her end.

She knew why she was there, but she was not afraid. Even though her owner bawled, she was calm. I wish I could be half as brave as that dog.

The man with the microphone wished the young couple well. Then he raised a glass and proposed a toast to the late Turkey.

The whole room held champagne flutes high. I raised my aluminum can as high as it would go.

And it was during this moment, the old man on stage motioned to the back of the room. Two boys came forward with a box, wrapped in shiny paper, a ribbon around it, and air holes in the sides.

The father said to the bride: “We took the liberty of getting you and your husband a housewarming gift.”

The bride opened the box to reveal a pair of redbone ears, and a slender hound face. The woman in the dress lifted the little puppy into her arms. Applause filled the room.

“Isn’t she pretty?” said the bride.

And I had to excuse myself.

I stepped outside and looked at the rock-salt stars above me and wondered what’s up there. I don’t know exactly what lies beyond. But I believe there is a God.

And I hope, above all, that he likes to wrestle.


  1. Mike - January 9, 2023 7:26 am

    Yup, dogs are in heaven because dog is God spelled backwards.

    Dutch, Dollar, and Buck – see you in few dog years.

  2. Ginga Smithfield - January 9, 2023 10:44 am

    God blessed us so richly when he gave us dogs!! I love them all more than words can say!!!

  3. Gwen - January 9, 2023 11:19 am


  4. Renee Welton - January 9, 2023 11:48 am

    You get me everytime. I like to read your posts early in the morning, before I put my makeup on….♥️

  5. Oliver Rhett Talbert - January 9, 2023 12:09 pm

    Oh, you know He does. Been doing it since way before Jacob. And He’ll put your arm in His mouth, growl occasionally to remind you of His restrained power over you, and lick you good night too.

    • Jackie Spadt - January 9, 2023 4:01 pm

      Mr Talbert, a great analogy I will always remember.

  6. Melissa Brown - January 9, 2023 12:19 pm

    Yes, l believe all our dogs go to heaven and are waiting there for us. God Bless you Sean.

  7. Jeanne - January 9, 2023 12:56 pm

    Sean, if, in Heaven, there’s a Lion lying down with the Lamb, there’s probably an Ellie Mae that loves to wrestle!

  8. Anne Arthur - January 9, 2023 1:34 pm

    Your ability to love is endless, Sean, especially when it comes to dogs.
    A toast to all the doggies up there who wait for us.

  9. mccutchen52 - January 9, 2023 1:40 pm

    Mine was Cleatus and Peaches and I miss them constantly,

  10. Ed (Bear) - January 9, 2023 1:42 pm

    I accused my wife of being like Ellie Mae Clampet of the Beverly Hillbillies recently. We’ve got lots of wild critters feeding from our porch and yard. We even have a cement pond on our driveway. Actually it’s more of a cement puddle. I know this isn’t related much to your article today but I couldn’t help myself. I miss my cat, Peyton too.

  11. Marlo Kirkpatrick - January 9, 2023 1:48 pm

    Ugly crying. One of the things I’m most looking forward to when I relocate to Heaven is seeing my dogs again (along with one cat and a pet rat). Be good until then, Frosty, Icy, Flurry, Blizzard, Snowflake, Batman, Buttercup, Buster, and Homer. I’ll see you at the Rainbow Bridge.

  12. Lyn Brown - January 9, 2023 2:03 pm

    Aw, Sean. Once again, a great, cathartic cry. Phew.

  13. Donna Barger - January 9, 2023 2:13 pm

    Our dog we have now is named Ellie Mae! She is a beagle mix. We rescued her! She is the sweetest dog ever!

  14. Carolyn Allen - January 9, 2023 2:18 pm

    Ellie Mae stories are still my favorites‼️ 🥲🐾

  15. charmaine riley holley - January 9, 2023 2:27 pm

    I cried for a week when Ellie Mae died and now all over again. 💚

  16. Shirlea - January 9, 2023 2:48 pm

    My coffee is good watered down again with good tears! You, Sean Dietrich, were meant to live and write in “a time such as this”.

  17. Stacey - January 9, 2023 3:15 pm

    I’m sure God loves to wrestle Sean, I’m absolutely sure he does!💖

  18. sjhl7 - January 9, 2023 3:24 pm

    Such a special story about a special “friend”!

  19. Cassandra - January 9, 2023 3:32 pm

    Great post. If you haven’t seen this video, I recommend it and a box of Kleenex. God and dog by Wendy J Francisco.

  20. Pat Deas - January 9, 2023 3:35 pm

    How do you do it!!! Day after day I’m either laughing or crying or both!

  21. Peggy M. Windham - January 9, 2023 3:38 pm

    You love your dogs like we do! They are loved by my husband and me like our children, because they are! We miss all of our furry children every day! We are down to one 15 year old Mini Schnauzer named Gracie and we cherish every minute with her.
    Thanks for sharing this story.

  22. Melanie - January 9, 2023 3:55 pm

    The best wedding gift ever. And I miss Ellie Mae. 😭

  23. Peggy - January 9, 2023 4:54 pm

    I chuckled out loud and then i cried. Please also raise a glass to Ollie, to Rusty, to Samantha, to Charlie, to Ringo, to Boopsie, to Gus, to all our furry babies and friends…
    I LOVE your writing.
    From Peggy, a southerner born and raised in the northside of Jacksonville, FL.(sometimes considered a part of southern GA) and currently residing in northern Leon County, FL.

  24. Beverly Lewis - January 9, 2023 5:04 pm

    We have a rust colored long haired 1 yr old dachsy named “elliemae”. It is a good password for me to remember! BTW, met you thru
    Andy Andrews and laughed all the way thru “Your Are My Sunshine” . plus some other books by you and AA. Bev L

  25. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - January 9, 2023 5:08 pm

    Ellie Mae was a special dog and you will see her again in Heaven. Wasn’t this a neat story? Who talks about a dog at a wedding!

  26. Bev Lewis - January 9, 2023 5:18 pm

    We have a 1yr old rust colored long haired Dachsy named “elliemae”. (a good password if you need one) She is so loved here!
    Bev Lewis

  27. David - January 9, 2023 5:56 pm

    One of my favorites!

  28. Carol - January 9, 2023 5:57 pm

    Thanks for sharing another great story….Dogs are lucky to have people like you in their lives…and I’m certain they must feel the same way….Thanks again…

  29. Glenda Joiner - January 9, 2023 6:52 pm

    You are an awesome writer. I enjoy your stories and the way you communicate your thoughts, You have a different creative approach to weaving your ideas into a captivating narrative.

  30. Gina T from NC - January 9, 2023 7:00 pm

    Sean, I have no idea whether or not you see these comments, but I would encourage you to find and read another fine (old) essay by Eugene O’Neill about his beloved dog Blemie.) You won’t be disappointed.
    Love from NC -GinaT (four good dogs live in my heart now) ❤️


  31. MAM - January 9, 2023 7:01 pm

    I love your dog stories, Sean. They usually bring tears, but well-earned by the dogs they represent. We miss our furry friends that have left us, but because dogs are so loving and forgiving, they may be the majority of creatures in Heaven. I look forward to seeing them again! Keep up the awesome writing, Sean. You make every day more pleasurable!

  32. Melissa Norman - January 9, 2023 7:28 pm


  33. Jannie Bryant - January 9, 2023 8:59 pm

    Thank you for bringing up memories of all be beloved dogs. Judy who had her litter of puppies in my bunk bed when I was12, Babyface, the family dog, at least 2 Brandys, Dazey and Lizzie who I will never forget, I was blessed with them for 15 years. So many more. Dogs give unconditional love. I’m looking forward to a big reunion one day. Thank you Sean.

  34. Bill Henderson - January 9, 2023 9:26 pm

    I simply say “thank you” for sharing. What a story.

  35. Barbarann Beckett - January 9, 2023 9:57 pm

    This made me laugh and cry big tears at the same time. Also, loved meeting you Sat night with my Episcopal friend, Andy.

  36. Cynthia Kamstra - January 10, 2023 1:23 pm

    Little creeks trickling from my eyes.


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