Ellie’s Day

A dog-food can sits in my cup holder—it holds pencils, pens, loose change, and a plastic-wrapped cigar someone gave me at an Ironbowl party five years ago.

Not long ago, I wrote this for Ellie. I won’t ever quit missing you, big girl.


I’m in a truck that hasn’t been cleaned in nearly two SEC championships. There is a coonhound in my passenger seat.

I stop at Chick-Fil-A. The woman at the window knows me. She knows my usual order.

“Morning, Ellie Mae,” says the girl at the window.

Other employees crane their necks out the window to greet Ellie, too.

We come here a lot.

We drive away and eat sandwiches while we ride through traffic.

Like I said, this truck is a mess. Ellie’s half-eaten jars of peanut butter are scattered everywhere. There are dog treats and bottle caps in the ashtray. Empty dog-food cans litter my floorboards.

A dog-food can sits in my cup holder—it holds pencils, pens, loose change, and a plastic-wrapped cigar someone gave me at an Ironbowl party five years ago.

On my dash: Ellie’s toy duck, a dog bowl, and a lasso—which I use for a leash.

This lasso was given to me by a five-foot Mexican man named Esteban.

I sold a lawnmower to Esteban—that’s how I met him. His wife came with him to translate. I noticed lassos hanging in the back of their truck. I asked about them.

In a few seconds, Esteban was doing rope tricks for me and Ellie Mae. Ellie liked this very much. She crouched low and barked. He twirled a flat-loop above her. She wagged her tail so hard it almost came detached.

She was a lot younger then.

Right now, I’m driving into a grass field. There must be two hundred acres of pasture before me. It’s not my land.

I’ve been taking Ellie here for years—long before I ever had permission.

I used to park at the edge of this field and hike over a fence. Then, I’d throw a plastic duck. Ellie would chase it into a small pond. And I’d pray I didn’t get caught by the landowner.

Eventually, I did.

One sunny day, a truck came rolling toward me. It was a white pickup with ten-foot tires.

“Can I help you?” were his first words. He was a giant. I could see my reflection in his sunglasses.

I stuttered. He stared.

And I wondered if they let inmates have dog-visits in county lockup. I apologized up and down, and promised to be his indentured servant if he’d exercise mercy upon me.

He only laughed.

As it happens, he is a nice man who loves dogs and law-flaunting redheads. He was gracious toward me and mine.

“Use this property anytime you want, son,” he said. “It just sits, empty.”

So we have. For a long time. Ellie runs through the high grass. She only spends an hour here, tops.

Today is a good day. I’m about to sing Ellie Mae a song and make her wear a pointy hat. And she’ll look at me like I’m not right.

I wonder if she knows.

I wonder if, within that brain of hers, she realizes that she makes me proud. I wonder if she understands love. I wonder if she knows what today is.

Probably not.

Happy eleventh birthday, Ellie Mae.


  1. Phyllis Hamilton - April 26, 2018 5:54 am

    I think I truly understand your love for Elie Mae. My Katie is the same for me. She has been terribly Ill the last few weeks and I have stayed by her side almost 24/7. I have been eating my meals in bed with her. She must lie still 6 to 8 weeks because of vertebrae disc disease. It’s been a difficult time but she has been my sun, moon and stars above. My heart is with you.

  2. Howard Yeager - April 26, 2018 6:04 am

    Its hard. I know. They just oughta live longer.


  3. Pamela McEachern - April 26, 2018 6:09 am

    What a beautiful birthday for her, and you know memories last a lifetime. I hope you are feeling all the love your fans are sending your way.

    Prayers for Phyllis H’s girl Katie.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

  4. Buddy King - April 26, 2018 9:50 am

    “ I wonder if, within that brain of hers, she realizes that she makes me proud. I wonder if she understands love. I wonder if she knows what today is.”
    Sean you can find peace in knowing that Ellie knew from the day you gave her a home and continues to know today, even though she is in Heaven, all of the above.
    Ellie wants you to celebrate her birthday today just like you always have. She is celebrating in Heaven and will be watching you as you celebrate her birthday on earth!
    Take care and know that you have many people praying for you!

  5. Melanie Tighe - April 26, 2018 9:56 am

    Paw prints on our hearts.

  6. Pam Bishop - April 26, 2018 10:37 am

    I’m glad your writings are comforting you now the way they always comfort everyome else.

    • Sandi in FL - April 26, 2018 11:01 am

      I echo Pam’s remark above. Be comforted, Sean. You will see Ellie Mae again in Heaven. We will recognize all those we loved when we get there.

  7. jill.burhans@icloud.com - April 26, 2018 11:02 am

    Funny and beautiful memory. Ellie May was the dogs of dogs because you loved and understand dogs.

  8. Amy - April 26, 2018 11:14 am


  9. Leia Lona - April 26, 2018 11:17 am


  10. Beth Ann - April 26, 2018 11:17 am

    I love reading your writings about Ellie Mae. I know you miss her something awful but we all are out here crying with you. Hugs, Sean.

  11. Kay - April 26, 2018 11:22 am

    Thank you for putting into words what we all feel when that special one passes on. I still cry for my beloved Maverick like you will for Ellie. You are a GREAT writer. If I could hug your neck, I would!

  12. Dale Kocher - April 26, 2018 12:18 pm

    Hey Sean, my and I have tow pups, Alston and Lucie. Know what you are going through. We cremate and have celebration services for them. They Will be in Heaven with us.. best to you.

  13. Lauren Ulrich - April 26, 2018 12:31 pm

    As you work your way through the grief of losing Ellie Mae, please know that “strangers” who know you through your posts are praying for you. Such a hard road you’re on right now. I look forward to your being able to write for us again. In the meanwhile, thank you for the stories of Ellie you are sharing~

  14. Heidi - April 26, 2018 1:04 pm

    I just found you and Ellie Mae. My heart broke for you when she passed. Your writing of her is beautiful and I can picture you & her so clearly. I cry. I know I’ve missed a lot of years of you two but plan on catching up. I still miss my Gracie Lou….she was a Basset and smelled too. ?

  15. Bobby Hamil - April 26, 2018 1:16 pm

    sweet memories

  16. Laura - April 26, 2018 1:17 pm

    I miss Ellie Mae, too, though we never met. I know her through you and I am crying (again) as I write. She was so special to you- your child. I pray for you and Jaime! Ellie Mae is running in the heavenly fields, jumping in the ponds, having a blast. My nephew dog, Griff, has surgery to amputate his leg today (for cancer). Please pray for us all as we face this- I know you understand. His “Dad,” my brother, was supposed to go out of town next week but he said he would stay home for Griff. I volunteered to stay with Griff but Bob said, “You wouldn’t leave your child after serious surgery and I can’t leave Griff- he is another child to me.” Love you, Sean.

  17. Connie Havard Ryland - April 26, 2018 1:46 pm

    Sending love and hugs. I hurt for you and Jamie. I totally understand. I rushed home from work yesterday to take our smallest baby to the vet because her eye was swollen shut. It was just allergies but my kids and I spent an anxious day waiting to take her to the doctor. Our fur babies are our children, much loved. And I know you will carry Ellie in your heart always. Tears for you.

  18. Skip D - April 26, 2018 1:48 pm

    They understand more than you think. That’s one reason why they are such great friends.

  19. Marty from Alabama - April 26, 2018 2:06 pm

    Everyday you will find a reason to celebrate Ellie and that’s ok. When you truly love a person, even if that person has fur and four feet, you never forget them. So celebrate, my friend, and rejoice in having known such a person as Ellie Mae Dietrich.

  20. Robert dean - April 26, 2018 2:27 pm

    You will quit missing her the day you quit loving her. Love and grief are Siamese twins.

    • Tana Branch - April 26, 2018 2:31 pm


  21. muthahun - April 26, 2018 3:30 pm

    In Philip Pullman’s “Dark Materials” (GOLDEN COMPASS, SUBTLE KNIFE, AMBER SPYGLASS) people have daemons – animals who function pretty much as an external soul. Lots of truth and love in that concept. Sending strength and light your way.

  22. Jack Quanstrum - April 26, 2018 3:55 pm

    Special story!

  23. Janet Mary Lee - April 26, 2018 4:22 pm

    It makes my heart happy to reshare Ellie’s stories. I too look forward to many more stories from you ! I am glad you have this time and space set aside for you . You are a wise soul. Meeting you was a highlight of my life. These highlights are like jewels in a necklace. They are your memories, and I am glad Ellie Mae fills yours! She was a lucky dog to have you guys, and you were lucky to have found her! Lucky is Blessed! And you all recognized it! Sometimes that is what miracles are….Another ((hug)) for you and Jamie and much love sent your way!!

  24. Peggy - April 26, 2018 5:03 pm

    She knows! I totally understand your love for her! I have three I adore!

  25. Ken M. - April 26, 2018 6:12 pm

    My heart breaks for you, Sean. I still keep my Zoe-girl’s collar around my rear view mirror in my truck. She’s been gone for 8 months now and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. The pain will ease, and may one day go away, but the sweet memories will always, always, always bring a joyful tear to your eye.

  26. Edna B. - April 26, 2018 7:50 pm

    What a lovely way to celebrate Ellie May’s birthday. Sean, have you heard Willie Nelson’s new song? It’s called “Something You Get Through”. (It’s on You Tube) It’s about grieving for a loved one we’ve just lost. I pre-ordered the album, because the song is just beautiful. Savor your wonderful memories, Sean. I love hearing about your girl. Hugs, Edna B.

  27. Frieda - April 26, 2018 9:23 pm

    ??❤??❤and lotsa ?? on your big day, girlfriend!

  28. Marsha Eaves - April 27, 2018 2:23 am

    Prayers for you, your wife and Ellie May. Her soul will always hover around you with comfort and peace.

  29. 11 years old - May 4, 2018 3:49 am

    My dog died at 11 years of age. I took her for her annual checkup, and the vet found a mass. But not to worry, just a vascular tumor…a splenectomy and fairly routine. This was a Thursday, and I arranged to bring her in early the next Monday for pre-op tests and then the surgery. Later in the morning, I receive a call from the vet’s office. He wants to talk with me…it’s not what he thought, it is behind the internal organs, and he cannot determine what needs to be done until he proceeds with more extensive measures. I tell him okay, since she is already opened up. About 30 minutes later, I get another call, the vet wants to talk with me again. He comes on the phone. He tells me that the tumor is more extensive and has encased her intestines and colon. He tells me there is nothing he can do to remove what he has found that she would not survive. He recommends that I let him put her down, since she is already sedated and she would not survive even if he stitched her backup. I said okay, but I wanted to see her. He incredulously repeated my request, and I confirmed that yes, I wanted to see my dog. I then talked with the tech and told her that I wanted my dog cremated, and I wanted some assurances that she would not be cremated en masse, but I wanted to know that the cremains I received back were hers and not those of a box of gerbils or cats. I called a friend to let her know what had transpired and for moral support. A few minutes later, I received another call from the vet’s office. The tech asked if I still wanted to see my dog, and I said absolutely…that I was on my way. I called my friend, asked if she wanted to go with me, and she and I drove to the vets office. They led us into one of the rooms, and there she was on the steel table, with a towel draped over the abdomen and back. They had stitched her back up and had prepared her so that I could see her. I bent down, and hugged her and kissed her forehead. I was surprised that she was still so warm…and that she simply looked like she was asleep. My friend and I were in tears. We were allowed to stay as long as we needed. The vet came in, hugged my neck and shared his condolences and comforted me. And he apologized for hesitating when I asked to see her. His tech explained that I wanted to see her to say goodbye. She had no symptoms of any health issues. She was not sick and ailing. She had a hidden mass that did not slow her down. And then I take her to the vet, drop her off, and the next time I see her, she is dead. I loved her so deeply, and she loved me, too. A little girl across the street called her “Super Dog”. Neighbors gave her Christmas gifts She was a rescue, but the roles reversed and she rescued me so completely! It broke my heart…and my heart is still in the process of mending a year later.

    • Mary Ellen Hall - May 7, 2018 12:15 am

      SO VERY SORRY to read about your loss!! I can tell u r still n A LOT of pain!!!
      It is SO HARD when we loose our 4-legged LOVED ONES!!
      To me, they r FAMILY!! My lab; Nestle,’ is EVERYTHING to me!!
      To have lost yours SO UNEXPECTEDLY is HEARTBREAKING!!!
      Sounds as though u have a VERY CARING VET!!
      Sending LOVE & STRENGTH from TEXAS!!

  30. Mary Ellen Hall - May 7, 2018 12:04 am

    Our dogs are SO VERY SPECIAL TO US!!?
    Mine is; Nestle’, a 6 year old Chocolate Lab.? My BEST FRIEND, & SECRET KEEPER!!
    It’s FUNNY how they COMPLETELY CONSUME our HEARTS!! I would do ANYTHING IN THE WORLD, for Nestle’.?
    I LOVE your stories about your PRECIOUS ELLIE MAE, SEAN!!!?
    Mary Ellen & Nestle’❤?


Leave a Comment