Here is the letter I got:

“I’m struggling. My name is Joe, and I’m an addict. I’ve been to drug rehabilitation twice. I actually spent my 21st birthday there. Five years later, I’m still using drugs and I’m lying to my parents about where my money is going. I’m hurting my health, I know. It’s hard because I really want to be sober, but it’s just hard to stop. I guess I’m writing to you because your letters really are therapeutic to me.”

Dear Joe,

Today I sat down to write you a response even though, I freely admit, I know nothing about the nature of addiction. I typed one sentence when something happened. My wife came bursting into my office, shouting, “Otis has gone missing!”

Otis is one of our dogs. Otis is an alleged Labrador who might as well be our oldest child. He smells like a giant armpit and has chewed approximately 39 pairs of my reading glasses. But he is loyal, and he is mine. And we love him.

This dog, however, has been known to dig beneath our fence and explore the greater Birmingham metro area. I don’t know why he escapes. He has a pretty cushy life here. We feed him Science Diet, which costs more per bag than a four-bedroom beachfront condo.

My wife and I tore into our backyard and found a big hole beneath the fence. My heart dropped.

“Otis!” we shouted.


He was gone.

Within minutes we were canvassing the neighborhood. I was barefoot, jogging on the sidewalks, hollering, “Otis! Here, boy!”

None of our neighbors had seen him.

My wife and I split up to cover more ground, cruising side streets in our respective vehicles. We were circling the neighborhood while horrific scenarios were dancing in our heads.

In a moment like this, you find yourself acting irrationally. You find yourself losing your own sanity.

“Dear Lord,” you say aloud. “Please don’t let him go toward the highway.”

So you patrol the highway. After 30 minutes of searching, you start blaming yourself. You mentally flog yourself.

You tell yourself that if ONLY you would have reinforced the fence, he wouldn’t have escaped. If ONLY you wouldn’t have let him into the backyard without supervision, this wouldn’t have happened. If ONLY you would have been a more responsible dog owner.

“I’m such an IDIOT!” you say, pounding your hands on the steering wheel.

You’re lavishly and thoroughly panicking now. Your palms are clammy. Your heart is beating like a Sousa march. Your mind is going into dim corners.

You’re envisioning the corpse of your best friend, lying on Highway 31, limp, his little ribcage crushed. You’re envisioning red stuff saturating his white fur. You’re sick now. Physically ill.

Because you’re remembering when you once had a dog escape from your backyard a couple decades ago. He got hit by an SUV but was not killed instantly. He died in your wife’s arms. You are reliving that private hell all over again.

Now it’s been two hours.

Nobody has seen your dog. Everyone keeps giving you that frowny-faced look, telling you that if they see him they’ll call you.

One of your neighbors can clearly tell you’ve been crying and she starts praying for you in her front yard. This is sweet, but she is Pentecostal so she prays longer than anyone else in Western civilization and your legs start to fall asleep.

And still you keep looking. You visit local gas stations. You visit businesses. You knock on doors. “I’m sorry,” everyone says. “Haven’t seen any dogs.”

And eventually, you go home.

Because what else can you do? It’s been half a day now, the sun is setting and you’re nauseous. You stagger into the bathroom and kneel before the toilet because you feel like puking. But nothing comes up.

Later that night, you’re sitting on your sofa, lost in a morbid daze. Your eyes are puffy, and you realize you were supposed to be writing a response letter to a kid named Joe, but you can’t do it. Because your heart has been removed with a garden shovel.

Your dog is missing. Your dog is likely dead. Your dog IS dead, and it’s all your fault.


A tiny thought occurs to you. It’s a small thought. An infinitesimal thought. A nanoscopic thought. A thought so small you almost ignore it. But you don’t.

Something makes you stand. Something makes you go outside. Something causes you to make a beeline for your backyard shed. You were in the shed earlier today, doing yard work. Could it be?

The crickets are screaming. It’s nighttime. You unlock the shed door and 80 pounds of canine muscle shoots from the door and hits you like a steel cannonball. You fall onto the ground.

You are weeping.

“OTIS!” you shout.

He licks your face.

Your mind and body are so flooded with inexpressibly potent joy hormones that, if it weren’t for the laws of biology, they would cause your entire circulatory system to explode.

And in this intense moment, you realize that you cannot recall being this happy before. Not ever. You might never be this happy again.

Because, you see, what once was lost is now found.

And that, my friend, is how God feels about you.


  1. Laurie Rafferty Pallotta - April 27, 2022 6:18 am

    Wow. Goosebumps all up and down my arms! This is my favorite one. I was complete tearing up as you took us through your search for Otis. And then BAM! That last line… you sir, write magic.

    • Susie D. Shy - May 1, 2022 2:10 am

      Well said!

  2. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - April 27, 2022 6:22 am

    Getting old.
    What a concept.

  3. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - April 27, 2022 6:30 am

    WHOOPS! Sorry Otis. My bad.

  4. sparrowtracks - April 27, 2022 6:33 am

    My favorite post yet!

  5. Marlene - April 27, 2022 6:42 am


  6. Diane D Clayton - April 27, 2022 7:02 am

    This is just beautiful. Thank you.

  7. PurpleIris - April 27, 2022 9:05 am

    Thank you for answering the boy. Thank you for being there for him. God bless him and help him. What a creative way to tell him of his value to our Father. He will remember now.

  8. Connie - April 27, 2022 9:06 am

    Well said!
    Joe, all things are possible through Jesus Christ!

  9. PurpleIris - April 27, 2022 9:14 am

    Prayers for Joe.

  10. Pam Weaver - April 27, 2022 10:01 am

    Amen! So true…

  11. Te - April 27, 2022 10:07 am

    Finding one of my furbabies is missing sends chills down my spine, and I’m not afraid of much. Faced down a cottonmouth, braved 4 lanes of traffic to save a box turtle, grabbed a pissed off chihuahua with a bare hand, but losing a dog? My yorkie, Fancypants, has an adventurous side and takes advantage of any weakness in the yard’s perimeter, and I panic when I discover he’s “gone walkabout.” Because the dog is black, has less sense than a 3 year old, and won’t bark to let me know he’s sitting on the front porch all the time. When I find him, I love on him till he squirms! Got it, Sean.

  12. Dixie - April 27, 2022 10:34 am

    Beautiful…and spot on.

  13. Bette Loyd - April 27, 2022 10:42 am

    Please never stop writing, Sean! A lot of us really need to hear what you have to say.

  14. Susan - April 27, 2022 10:53 am

    One of your best, Sean! Incredible story!! Don’t give up Joe! Praying for you!

  15. Sandra - April 27, 2022 11:21 am

    I’ve been there. It’s the best when their back. I thank God every day for the love of animals.

  16. Janet W. - April 27, 2022 11:33 am

    For someone who claims to know so little about God, you make a good preacher!

  17. Susan W Fitch - April 27, 2022 11:35 am

    WOW! You’ve done it again! Great story, I’ve been there with my dogs- 2 of them swimming with kayaks in the town marina! But your message to Joe is totally true! With God’s help we can get through whatever we’re facing. Thanks

  18. Marianne Bryan - April 27, 2022 11:54 am

    Perfect. Only The Lord ♥️

  19. Deloris Salter - April 27, 2022 12:01 pm

    Joe, hang in there! Don’t stop trying! God loves you, keep your eyes on HIM!!

  20. Lily Kerr - April 27, 2022 12:05 pm

    Sean and Joe, I’m so sad you and Jamie endured this trip through hell – particularly since you endured it in the past. You may have already considered this time, your pain gave birth to a life-changing purpose – one given to your boy, Joe by your boy, Sean. Joe, Sean has held the light for a few hours to show you the escape hatch from your hell that has lasted for uncountable hours. You couldn’t find it all by yourself, despite the efforts of others. That assignment was given to Sean. The next step is for you to completely wrap your your ugly, smelly, pulsing addiction in a red and white checkered tablecloth, leave it at the feet of the Lord, and don’t look back – ever! Otis knew Sean was coming. So much for Sean not knowing the nature of addiction – but he does know the nature of the One whose hand is reaching down, ready to pluck your feet from your quicksand. This time you have an army of Sean’s followers praying for you. 🌷

    • Lorelle - April 28, 2022 7:08 pm


  21. CM - April 27, 2022 12:12 pm

    I felt it all with tears ….including the glorious reunion. Fix your fence:)

  22. Rebecca - April 27, 2022 12:15 pm

    Beautifully written. Lovely message.

  23. Nancy M - April 27, 2022 12:31 pm

    Great reminder of the parables of the lost sheep and of the Prodigal Son! I hope Joe sees your point.
    By the way, isn’t your other dog a bloodhound? If Otis disappears again, put Thelma Lou to work!

  24. Ricky - April 27, 2022 12:34 pm

    Amen! With God all things are possible

  25. Jan - April 27, 2022 12:38 pm

    Such truth and beauty … you are so right. God searches for us and never gives up. Thank you, Sean.

  26. Joretta Parker - April 27, 2022 12:41 pm

    Sean, this such an inspiring message for Joe. Wherever he is I hope he gets the help he needs. I’m praying for him and all other addicts. I lost my grandson from a drug over dose seven months ago.

  27. Trilby - April 27, 2022 12:45 pm

    Love this one. God takes care of drunks and fools.

  28. Shelton A. - April 27, 2022 12:49 pm

    Joe, Sean’s right. God loves you…just as you are. If you ask for his help beating your addiction, he will help you. But you have to help yourself, too. Call it sweat equity. With God’s help you can beat this. Just hang onto him when it gets hard and ask for more help. He understands. Thanks for sharing, Sean. Blessings and peace

  29. Susan Turner - April 27, 2022 12:51 pm

    Thank God Otis is O.K.!

  30. Bkr - April 27, 2022 12:58 pm

    You couldn’t have said it better.

  31. Nedetria Talbot - April 27, 2022 1:04 pm

    And we all said “AMEN”.

  32. Chip Couch - April 27, 2022 1:09 pm

    Well written! As someone who has been in addiction and survived (it took more than one rehab for me), there is hope. Praying for you Joe. You are loved and wanted even though you might not always feel that way.

  33. Sue - April 27, 2022 1:16 pm

    This is beautiful. I so get the analogy. Thank you once again.

  34. Ruth Mitchell - April 27, 2022 1:27 pm

    Joe, your master will reach you where you are. He loves you unconditionally! You hold the key to the door of your shed, and He’s waiting on the other side.

  35. Kristy - April 27, 2022 1:28 pm

    I lost my younger brother last April to a fentanyl overdose. He was 35. This letter touched my heart so much. To know that God also loved my brother in that way is such a comfort. Thank you sir for your kind compassionate heart.

    • PurpleIris - April 27, 2022 2:36 pm


  36. Patricia Gibson - April 27, 2022 1:54 pm

    I know that paralyzing fear and so glad Otis is okay💚Prayers for the letter writer that the addiction can be beaten. That is very hard. God be with them.

  37. Ellen t. read - April 27, 2022 1:56 pm

    Wow! May Joe read all the way to the end and be blown away! Joe, God is crazy about you. Keep going back to Him! Love, Ellen

  38. Mim - April 27, 2022 2:01 pm

    This one definitely steals past the watchful dragons. (C.S.Lewis)

  39. imcdbw - April 27, 2022 2:03 pm

    And I just burst into tears! Everyone should know that each and every one of them are loved as much—even more!— as you love Thelma Lou! It’s mind boggling. It’s wonderful beyond words. And I pray Joe realizes God loves me that much and will help him get clean and stay clean. We’re praying for you, Joe. And we’re thanking Him for Thelma Lou’s safety! Love and hugs to you, Sean and Jamie. You are magnificent.

  40. AlaRedClayGirl - April 27, 2022 2:18 pm

    I once lost an English bulldog who mastered the art of scaling up and over a chain link fence. It was devastating when this “Houdini hound” didn’t return home after one such escape . But even more devastating was the loss of two family members to addictions. Joe must realize that he cannot escape this vice alone. God will be his ever present help if only he asks Him. I pray that Joe will take this step, not only for his sake but also for his family and friends.

  41. shelaine2015Elaine Price - April 27, 2022 2:28 pm

    So amazing to see you come out more and more vocally for our Father…I love watching you reveal more and more of your growth in Him. He is using you so beautifully to minister to these hurting people…Joe, God loves you so intimately and personally…He will never leave you or any of His lost and hurting lambs. He leaves the 99 to search for the one lost sheep…always.

  42. Cindy - April 27, 2022 2:37 pm

    I know that feeling. A similar “lost and found” happened with our cat. One Christmas Eve hubby goes to the shed to get the hidden Santa from the shed. Closed the door. Wd found our hungry and thirsty cat the next evening in the shed. A great Christmas present that was.

  43. Lee - April 27, 2022 2:41 pm

    This melted my heart. Thank You for being You

  44. Gayle Bailey - April 27, 2022 2:45 pm

    Beautiful message! Tell Joe we are all sending strength! Al-Anon pulled me out.. As for the alleged labrador, Mr. Otis: It is embedded in their DNA that they MUST escape any enclosures! Mine always escaped to sit in the front yard. What I did finally, after the electric fence failed, was to bury a 2′ strip of chain link fencing at an angle to the base of the main fence. No digging! So as not to give you false hope, he WILL figure out another escape method.But you’ll get a little break while he does!
    I love your column! It’s a beautiful way to start my morning!

  45. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - April 27, 2022 2:54 pm

  46. Lulu - April 27, 2022 2:56 pm

    I had the same experience with my Happy that you had with Otis. Except she was missing for over 24 hours. I called her repeatedly not 5 yards from that shed. She never made a sound. I would have killed her if I hadn’t been so relieved that she was alive! I loved that girl. And she loved me. I will pray for Joe.

  47. jblackburn34 - April 27, 2022 3:09 pm

    Every minute, every hour, every day that’s how God loves us. I’m thinking of changing my name to Otis…just so he can call out to me, Hey Otis…come back, when I stray too far. 🙂

  48. Debbie g - April 27, 2022 3:55 pm

    Precious. Come home Otis I’m with y’all. Love to all

  49. Frances C - April 27, 2022 4:04 pm

    Love this. I get it. You are the best writer in the world.

  50. Brenda Badenhop - April 27, 2022 4:08 pm

    Beautiful and needed! ❤️

  51. Willson and Bana Roberts - April 27, 2022 4:19 pm


  52. Dottie L. Rogers - April 27, 2022 5:07 pm

    Stunning ending, (sniff) but I’m not crying.

  53. Steve McCaleb - April 27, 2022 5:10 pm

    I hope Joe finds his way back. The more I’m around people….the better I like dogs.

  54. BEX - April 27, 2022 5:11 pm

    AMEN! 🙏🏻

  55. pattymack43 - April 27, 2022 5:16 pm

    Best advice EVER!!!!!

  56. Susie Flick - April 27, 2022 5:27 pm

    Best of luck to Joe in conquering his addiction. And….so glad Otis was safe and sound and found in “lockup”! Years back a new neighbor’s dog got out and I also ran around trying to help her find Oscar. We got tired and it was dark, so we went to our respective homes distressed over not finding Oscar. He did come home earlier the next morning! I have read that if a dog is missing, hang a piece of your clothing outside by the fence, etc and your scent will help lure the dog back home.

  57. Holly Putillion - April 27, 2022 5:39 pm

    I ❤️❤️❤️🐾 this one so much.

  58. Cathy - April 27, 2022 6:07 pm


  59. Jody - April 27, 2022 7:17 pm

    Blessings from Above

  60. Linda Moon - April 27, 2022 7:37 pm

    So at the title I had some apprehension and it was verified because of what your wife shouted. OMG, I quickly thought! And then I read about Joe. We had a “Joe” in our extended family who needed therapeutics. Now my attention has returned to Otis! Whew…what a relief that “something” made you look in the shed. God loves you, Jamie, Otis, and my white ball-of-fur who once got lost but but showed up hours later, gleaming in the green green grass of home. Lost…then found…Thanks Be To God.

  61. Mamacita - April 27, 2022 8:16 pm

    Sean is so right. God is pursuing you just like Sean and Jamie pursued Otis. Only He never sleeps! Things like lost dogs and addiction do not surprise God. He knows this fallen world.
    I hear in your words the desire to get sober. That desire was placed in you by the One who is pursuing you. He will find you. He will win. You will come home.

    • suzi - April 27, 2022 8:27 pm

      Mamacita, you said what was on my heart but I could not find the words.
      Joe, this lady tell you a wonderful truth, God will never give up on you, don’t you give up on God OR yourself…..

  62. Connie Pearson - April 27, 2022 8:38 pm

    An absolutely inspired response. I hope Joe lets it penetrate his heart.

  63. Betty Gayle Dunn - April 27, 2022 9:55 pm

    This post is definitely one of your best!! I’m sorry you had to go through such a traumatic experience, BUT you nailed your response!!!

  64. Lynda - April 27, 2022 10:31 pm

    Sean, that is SUCH A GREAT ARTICLE!!!!! LOVE it!!!!!

  65. Suellen - April 27, 2022 10:33 pm

    Joe, I’d like to recommend a book that I read today. It’s called Hope for the Hurting by Pastor Tony Evans. He lost 5 or 6 family members in the last 2 years. It’s a great guide for how to find your way back from the darkness. It’s a small book and only 125 pages. God loves you and believes in you. I will be praying for you as I’m sure many in this community will. Sean, I’m so glad you found Otis.

  66. MAM - April 27, 2022 11:48 pm

    So happy you found Otis. God was helping you, you know, Sean. When that little niggle of a thought about the shed came into your head, God put the tiny little whisper there. I pray that Joe and every other person dealing with addictions or any other concerns, find God and let Him help. I am trying not to ignore those infinitesimal thoughts that pop into my head. When I follow them, I learn each time that it was God that put it there.

  67. Jackye Thompson - April 28, 2022 12:19 am

    So glad Otis is safe. I,haved loved my dogs like this.

  68. Just another Bozo on the bus - April 28, 2022 1:49 am

    Great response to a tough question, Mr. Sean. Just attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting last night. The speaker was a former drug addict as well as an alcoholic. He said he drifted in and out of rehab centers and various groups, but it was AA that helped him achieve and maintain his sobriety. Can’t say that it works for everyone, but it works if you work it. Prayers for Joe.

    P. S. I’ve been known to lock a cat or two in our barn…but they still love me 🙂

  69. Slimpicker - April 28, 2022 2:58 am

    Joe, I pray that you will listen to a great song by Gene Watson, titled ” Help Me”. God will help those who ask.

  70. Ann Marie Bouchet - April 28, 2022 4:17 am

    What a wonderful column.Prayers that Joe finds the help he needs to end his addictive behavior and get clean. And may he remember that God will not give up on him.

  71. Karen - April 28, 2022 11:59 am

    Praying for this gentleman. We lost a pet chicken. We found her the next in the shed. I am glad Otis is okay.

  72. Sonya Tuttle - April 28, 2022 12:06 pm

    Tears, because I know that feeling.

  73. Dale Parsons - April 28, 2022 3:22 pm

    Oh my gosh!! You had me with the title, but the last sentence was a warm strong hug. Thank you, it’s true. Thank you.

  74. Cathy miller - April 28, 2022 3:33 pm

    Thank you. Amen!

  75. Judy Waldrop - April 28, 2022 3:43 pm

    Oh Sean. That’s why I love you.

  76. Amy K. Ray - April 28, 2022 5:29 pm

    I’m hoping that the young man will be reading these comments that are in support of his journey – it’s a tough journey, and I know for I once was lost but now have been found. I’ll add him to my prayer list that God please show him the path to freedom and hope that comes with the willingness to do the work. And as I continue to put in the work, I’ve been granted a life with riches that is beyond my wildest dreams. It’s not always easy, but it’s way better than the life I had like his. And thank you for sharing his story Sean.

  77. Rhonda - April 28, 2022 5:39 pm

    This is one of your BEST EVER!!!!!!!!!!

  78. Dianne - April 28, 2022 5:44 pm

    This is beautiful…thank you!!

  79. Christina - April 29, 2022 5:40 pm

    Best response ever!

  80. Sylvia - April 29, 2022 6:58 pm

    Love it Sean. I wasn’t sure how you were going to tie it up, but of course you did in a great way❤️

  81. Robert L Chiles - April 30, 2022 1:29 am

    I love the parable of the lost sheep, but I never fully understood it until I read it as translated in the southeastern Gullah dialect. “When one a Oona don bin loss one o Oona sheep, wa you fa do, eni? Ya pit de odder 99 sheep saf in de pasta. Den Ya gwine saach fa em fa an wide till ya fin em. Ya pit em cross ya shoulda an carryim to ya yaad an ya hail ya frien an ya nayba an ya say ‘I don bin loss one o my sheep an now I don fin em, Les we make merry! You be too heppy!
    So too. God is “too heppy” when we get found, just as you were “too heppy” to again see Otis. I pray Joe will be “too heppy” to know how much God loves him.

  82. Theresa Videan - May 1, 2022 2:13 am

    Dear Sean, thank you for describing amazing Grace so well. We are all, at some point, lost in the dark.
    Dear Joe, from someone whose child is stumbling in the dark, please don’t give up. Keep trying. Your parents may get frustrated, may push, but they love you and won’t give up on you, just as Jesus won’t give up on you. Amazing Grace.

  83. Steve (Lifer) - May 1, 2022 3:04 am

    You is one lucky man. In so many ways. I wish I’s you.
    My dogs are cool. But not as cool as yours.

  84. Bonnie - May 3, 2022 9:20 pm

    Wow! You, my friend, are amazing


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