She’s a pretty girl. Sophisticated walk. All business. She’s trotting a dirt road, wearing a purple collar, no tags.
I’ve seen her here for a few days now. I have a feeling she’s far from home.
I call to her, but she’s skittish.
I finally negotiate her into my truck. But not because I am skilled in canine dialect—I am not. It’s because I bribe her with raw, room-temperature hamburger. She pees on my seat cushion. She is old.
I take her home.
She’s white, but covered in mud. She hates baths—this I discover the hard way. I turn on the garden hose; she breaks away and runs for Nolensville, Tennessee.
I am able to coax her to return with more ground beef. She eats another pound. This dog is going to land me in the poorhouse.
I scrub her with Dawn dish soap. I have seen television commercials featuring eco-activists washing baby ducks rescued from Gulf oil-spills. They use Dawn.
I call her Bobby Jo Gentry.
Then, I dial the vet and ask what I ought to do.
The lady on the phone laughs. “Just love her,” she says. “You might never find her owner, might have to keep her.”
Bobby Jo becomes part of my life for a week. She sleeps with my dogs in my bedroom. I buy a forty-dollar dog bed, a neon-orange collar, and canned food for elderly animals.
She gains weight. There is nothing I like more than fat dogs in orange collars.
She falls into my daily routine. We become friends. I talk to her. She listens. She’s gentle and humble at heart, the only of my dogs who likes watching baseball with me.
A knock on my door.
It’s a weekend, midday. I am listening to Atlanta play Milwaukee while in my office.
I look out the window. An unfamiliar car in my driveway. Jehovah’s Witnesses, maybe. I am prepared to answer the door, speaking the unofficial version of Spanish often used in John Wayne movies.
It’s a woman. She’s from Virginia, early-sixties. She’s visited ten streets looking for her pet. She lost her dog last week while on vacation. A white one. The dog gets confused, she says.
She called the veterinary offices. They told her to call me. She dialed my number, but couldn’t get me because Atlanta was playing Milwaukee.
The old girl comes running when she hears the familiar voice. She limps when she runs.
“Lacy!” the woman yells.
It’s a miracle of the realest kind. And I can’t believe I was party to it. The old dog gives me a few licks since we both know this is goodbye.
I tell her to take care of herself. That was years ago.
A few days ago, I got an email. The subject line: Bobby Jo Gentry.
Bobby Jo has gone to be with the Lord. She is buried in a neon-orange collar some stranger gave her.
I hope God watches baseball.
Michael Bishop - March 26, 2017 11:33 am
You almost had me at “Lost,” but when I saw you were adding “dog” to it, I was a goner.
Joyce - March 26, 2017 11:55 am
“Beautiful!”, she says with tears dripping down her face.
Frank - March 26, 2017 12:00 pm
In another lifetime, when I was young and my heart and mind were still pure and cynicism was just a hard word to spell, I could write as well as you, Sean.
OK, maybe not even half as well!
John Gray - March 26, 2017 12:23 pm
“Tis better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all”.
I’m not sure who Alfred Lord Tennyson was, but he must have had a Bobby Jo in his life too.
Constance Ridgway - March 26, 2017 12:43 pm
I love you Sean even though you make me cry. Turning hearts of stone into flesh again isn’t an easy job but you do it well. Thank You Lord!
karen - March 26, 2017 12:52 pm
aw sean, ya did it again. put a BIG smile on my face. you da man.
David Jones - March 26, 2017 2:02 pm
I read your writing every day. Without fail. I don’t usually respond, as I think everyone doesn’t always need to hear my opinion. But today I need you to know that you are a truly gifted writer. I don’t think I’ve read a single work of yours without being deeply moved. Every single piece. Please keep it up, and know that you are a gift to us all. Someday I’d like to sit with you and buy you a cup of coffee.
Bobbie - March 26, 2017 2:21 pm
I love to read your posts and I do read them, nearly every day. They usually stir some kind of emotion…today it was all out “bawling”!
Thanks so much for caring enough to share.
You are so gifted.
Esteban Rudman - March 26, 2017 2:30 pm
Great story. BTW Dawn not only gers dogs clean, if you leave the lather on 5 minutes before rinsing out thoroughly, it’ll kill fleas. Works like a charm on the old rescued dogs.
Byron Audler - March 26, 2017 3:57 pm
Made me smile and cry a little, all in the same sentence .
Aimie Whiddon - March 26, 2017 4:52 pm
Reminds me of my Beau, he was a lightered knit Jack Russell. We had recently purchased a Maltese who had some issues and past the day sometime stole my Beau. As we live on a dirt road in Crenshaw County and not many travel it unless you live on it. That particular day my husband and father in law were taking down an old house up the road and Beau followed me in the midst of my insanity of losing my 8 week old Toby. That was the June before hurricane Katrina We hunted for weeks and Beau never showed up, about a month after Katrina the vet called. Beau was in New Orleans in a temporary FEMA park. We made contact we the man but we never got my Beau back.
Regina Peavy - March 26, 2017 10:04 pm
Kay Keel - March 26, 2017 11:07 pm
Oh. My. Goodness! That one brought tears to my eyes!
Jeannie - March 27, 2017 12:59 am
Bobbie Joe was a lucky girl to have you find her!
Mary Ellen Hall - March 27, 2017 2:40 am
I LOVE “Lost!!” I LOVE ANYTHING about dogs!! This story is such a SWEET one, about two people who loved the same dog!! THANKS SO MUCH FOR SHARING!!!
Paige - March 27, 2017 4:48 am
Dagnabit. Today’s my birthday, and me and my pup Georgie are just sitting here, winding up the day. Don’t know how I found you and your site. That ending. Oh, that ending. Every time I reread it I make some awful choking sound. When I stop crying, think I’ll go read some of your other work.
Sam Hunneman - March 27, 2017 1:57 pm
oh god oh god oh god… missed this yesterday ’cause the kids were home. Likely a good thing ’cause I would’ve been blubbering. Gonna go hug my coonies now, and share with the rescue group. Thanks, Sean.
Tish - March 29, 2017 12:04 pm
you are so blessed !! and you have me crying in my coffee !! I also just read the Troy story… so sad…lived in Ozark where I did most of my growing up, passed thru there many times. Bless you again for sharing
mary wilson - April 4, 2017 3:18 pm
“Awesome! Thank you for loving that stray!” I say as I sit here CRYING MY EYES OUT!
Deanna J - May 26, 2017 12:21 pm
I love my dogs, and for u to take one and love it is wonderful! Love your stories!
Sheryl Ridgway - May 26, 2017 1:24 pm
My 4 year old.Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, who is a goofus (probably due to identity issues, because he looks like a blue heeler) is very plump because he’s been on steroids since a year and a half years old when he got arthritis. I must say he looks wonderful in his NEON ORANGE collar. Don’t want to think about his passing. Don’t get me started on my 7 yr old border collie…I’m already crying from your story.
Charlotte Wates - May 26, 2017 1:54 pm
You are an amazing writer, you keep my attention with every word!!!!!
Sandra Simpson - May 26, 2017 1:56 pm
I enjoy you writing everyday when I drink my coffee. You bring back warm memories of how a lot of people used to be a lot of the time. I’m glad you still are. Thank you!
VICKI YAWN ANDREWS - May 26, 2017 2:25 pm
Awww shoot Sean!
Trina V. - May 26, 2017 6:01 pm
I knew I should have stopped reading when I realized this was about a dog. We had to put our 11 year-old rat terrier, Bama, to sleep Tuesday because of renal failure. My heart is broken into a bajillion pieces.
Gene Bramlett - May 27, 2017 12:25 pm
Not lost. Found.
Janet Mary Lee - August 17, 2017 7:51 pm
Thank God for old dogs..young dogs…lost dogs who are found dogs!! And you!!
Charaleen Wright - April 13, 2019 4:43 am