I was going through old photos the other day. Photos of us. My God, how we’ve changed.
I found pictures from when we were younger. I was skinnier, you had less gray on your snout and long floppy ears. You were all ears when you were a puppy.
I found the picture of the day I first got you. We both grinned at the camera.
What a day. I’ll never forget it. Someone let go of your leash, you ran toward me, ears flopping, tongue hanging out. Your paws had no traction on the wood floor. You looked like Bambi on ice.
I told you that you were a “good girl.” You gave a wide-mouthed, satisfied look because you understood those words. All dogs do.
It is the highest form of praise man can give a dog.
I also dug up pictures from our first day trip together, on the beach. I learned how much you liked swimming. It was at Fort Pickens National Park, I let you run straight into the Gulf of Mexico. Splashing. Jumping.
I got it all on camera. What I didn’t capture on film was the park ranger issuing me a warning for having a dog on the beach.
“This is a national park,” he said. “No pets allowed on the beach.”
You licked his hand while he wrote a ticket. Then you squatted and left a steaming parting gift.
I have all sorts of photographs. Some from the days when we still used disposable cameras from the drugstore. God, how times have changed. Those things are antiques now.
I’ve taken you camping a lot. You’re the perfect camping partner. You don’t talk too much, you enjoy sleeping late.
My favorite photo of us was snapped when we were in the truck together. That’s our place. You in the passenger seat. Me driving. You’ve destroyed the upholstery, hairballs everywhere, nose saliva on the windows.
I love it.
Anyway, when I looked through photos, it made me glad. Way-down-in-my-chest glad. Because loving you has been one of the best parts of my life.
Yeah, I know, you’re just a dog. But not to me. To me, you’re some-ONE. My friend. My swimmer. My squirrel chaser. My fugitive. The silhouette in my living room window when I arrive home.
While I write this, you are sleeping on my bed. I am looking at you. You’re snoring to beat the band.
I’ll admit, I don’t like watching you age. You’re twelve, that’s ancient in dog years. You’re slower than you used to be. Your hair isn’t as shiny as it once was. Your pelvis is peppered with arthritis.
I don’t know what I’ll do when you leave me. The truth is, I don’t remember what life was like before you—and I don’t want to. Because before you, it was youless, and I don’t want to live in a youless world.
I don’t know why cruel foreign dictators live until their nineties, but dogs only get a decade. I hope heaven knows what it’s doing.
I love you, Ellie Mae. You’ll never be able to read this, and even if I read it aloud to you—which I just did—you wouldn’t understand it. You’d only snore louder. It’s just as well. I guess I wrote this more for myself than I did for you.
Either way, I just want to tell you how much you mean to me. One more thing.
You’re a good girl.
A real good girl.
Susan Patterson - February 20, 2018 7:22 am
My heart. My 14 year old sweet girl 3/12/2017 and my best boy 8/4/2017. Never again, Sean. Isabella and Tucker.
CKD - February 20, 2018 10:32 am
I learned from a early age that I would outlive my furry family members. However, the heartbreak of losing them, couldn’t compare to the joy they brought into my life. Love to you and Ellie Mae. You are a lucky duo.
Kelly - February 20, 2018 10:33 am
God knew what he was doing when He gave us dogs. My dog is also my Someone and fugitive. Thankful for every moment we have together. Bless your Ellie Mae.
Steven P Bailey - February 20, 2018 10:48 am
Dogs are te best. Beautiful story.
Ken M. - February 20, 2018 11:08 am
This is one of my favorites. My pooch of almost 17 years has been gone now for 6 months and I still ache. Too bad we’re all not more like dogs. The world would be a better place, for sure. Cheers to you and Ellie Mae… and thanks for your writing.
Martha Owens - February 20, 2018 11:44 am
I hope you and Ellie Mae have more happy years to come. I’m experiencing similar feelings of remembering the good times past and hoping for more years with my special “good girl” who is almost 14. Having some eye problems and a special diet, but otherwise a happy pup!
candyalso - February 20, 2018 11:45 am
My eyes just leaked~
Connie - February 20, 2018 12:06 pm
Weepy eyes this morning for this one. My fat good boy is sitting in my lap while I’m waking up for work. He’s 6 this year but lived a hard life on the streets before we got him. He’s spoiled now, as is his “sister” who was rescued a year later from a ditch weighing just over a pound. They fill a space in our hearts I didn’t know was empty. They rarely leave the house or the yard except to go to the vet, because they hate riding in the car, but they are loved. They are truly our babies. I’m glad you have your Ellie.
Sandra Smith - February 20, 2018 12:43 pm
I lost my twelve year old girl last March. She still pops in from time to time tho. I know she’s here, just as surely as I know what I’m writing. It’s hard, Hard, HARD…and, I miss her like crazy. Kisha is a REAL GOOD GIRL !
Brenda Reece - February 20, 2018 12:59 pm
I lost my 14 yr old best friend two weeks ago. It’s been harder than I ever dreamed. I still look for her when I come in the door, rush home to take her for a walk, listen for her wagging tail. I have worked from home the last 4 years and she has been my coworker as well. She was the best good girl and I miss her so much!
Victoria Coleman - February 20, 2018 1:13 pm
Nela - February 20, 2018 1:50 pm
You sum up how I feel about my sweet boxer named Diesel. I have loved him the second I saw his picture from the shelter and immediately adopted him. That was five years ago and he is my baby.
Oh, and yes I tell him all the time:
You’re a good boy!
Then I get his kisses.
Thank you, Sean!
Mary louise Livingston - February 20, 2018 2:11 pm
This is the truth. I can’t imagine life without Minnie and Jack, and I don’t want to.
Kathy Daum - February 20, 2018 2:13 pm
I lost my girl in October. Pictures are good.
Walter R Singletary - February 20, 2018 2:27 pm
Sean, I had to read this through the tears in my eyes. I’ve been blessed all my life to have either a “good boy” or a “good girl” in my life. I have wept, nay, wailed at the loss of such boon companions. I weep and celebrate over good dogs in literature. My wife and I love dogs. Wouldn’t give you a nickel for all the cats in the world unless I had a firm deal to sell them for a dime, but we love dogs. One of the best was deaf. Best natured, best behaved dog anyone could ever want. She was named Cheney. I’m weeping now remembering her. I think dog is God spelled backwards because they bring so much love and and so many good things to our lives. Dogs make us better people. And I believe that there is no hotter place in Hell that where those go to suffer endlessly when they have been cruel to a dog.
We now have Max. He is the soul of Cheney (a 90 lb. bull dog, by the way) in the body of a 23 lb. rescue. He loves us and we love him and to even think that the day may come that he leaves us to go to doggie heaven is nearly unbearable. Thank you, Sean, for loving dogs. And helping us to love ours more.
Margaret - May 5, 2018 2:16 pm
ALL pets are “good girls” or “good boys” to their parents, no matter what they are.
Pam - February 20, 2018 2:28 pm
The dog stories are always the tear jerkers. But the time we have with them is worth it. Wishing you and Ellie Mae more years together. (My daughter got a book of dog stories when she was about 10 – she never read it because she knew they would make her cry.)
Meg - February 20, 2018 2:36 pm
Oh my goodness..you’re an artist and a writer. How’d you get so lucky; I mean blessed! Love, love the dog pic.
Steven - February 20, 2018 3:07 pm
Mine was named Penny. Actually Penelope Ann. I know, silly. She didn’t like her formal name either. I didn’t get to choose her. God chose us for each other. There was an add in the Pensacola Journal – Puppies. $15. I pleaded with my mother. She relented. My dad and I went to the little white frame house on Old Palafox. I jumped up on the old porch while he sat in the car. An older lady came to the door. “Boy or girl”? “Girl,” I remember saying. “You got money”? “Yes, ma’am”. “Just a minute”. She shut the door. A few minutes later it opened just wide enough for her to stick a scrawny copper colored puppy through the crack. “$15”. I gave her the cash. The next morning our maid looked at the puppy and said, “huumph, wasted yo daddies money. That pitiful lookin dog ain’t gonna make it through the day. She wormy”. That was in the summer of 1968. That dog became my best friend for the next 16 years. I’d share some of our adventures – trips, fights, college – but I’d probably cry. She died about a month before my wedding. I was 30. She was supposed to be part of the ceremony but thought about it and opted out.
Fred - February 20, 2018 3:22 pm
The song Mr. Bojangles says it all – his dog up and died, after 20 years he still grieves. I miss my old golden Sabie more than anything in the world. My wife and agree that she was the kindest, smartest, most beautiful dog in the world. My wonderful daughter gave me a beautiful painting of her Christmas so the good ole girl will be with me until its my time.
muthahun - February 20, 2018 6:08 pm
Bojangles reference is perfect. Thanks for reminding me.
Linda Reaves - February 20, 2018 3:38 pm
It is so befitting, Sean, That I should open my mail to your post this morning. My brother just called to say that my 91y/o moms little dog , Gabby, passed in the early morning. We are all wondering how our mom will fare with her Gabby not breathing by her side. Gabby was two years passed her natural age and I truly think she was living just for momma. I’m headed there now to help brother. I guess Daddy’s real glad to see Gab this morning. She was his little buddy…even though she was a girlie. ?❤️ Loved you words about Ellie Mae
Carol - February 20, 2018 3:40 pm
thank you for this piece! i too have a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful (well, you get it) pooch named Sparky … a 60-lb hunk of poodle/old english sheepdog mix … amazing what one can find at rescues, isn’t it? i have friends but no parents, children or husband … Sparky truly is my love dog … and i too dread his getting older … he’s almost 8 now and i’m 72 … wonder who will outlive who and which would be better to go first. okay, enough of that. i just wanted you to know that i appreciate you for this posting and for many others you write.
Laura Ellis - February 20, 2018 3:49 pm
What a beautiful tribute to your wonderful dog! Our beloved Golden Retriever- Jonah – went to Heaven three months ago. He was the joy of our lives! Jonah was beautiful outside and within. He was so loving and kind to everyone. He had a intuitive sense of when others were hurting and sad and he would just go up to people and comfort them. My heart was completely broken when God decided He wanted Jonah to be with Him. I know that I will see my “Jojo” again in Heaven one day. I agree with you –
Dogs reach perfection in a decade or so. We humans take a lot longer. Thank you again for this beautiful writing.
Darrell Adams - February 20, 2018 4:13 pm
Beautiful story. My good girl came to our door as starving puppy that someone had dumped. The vet said that she may make it and she has and have become our love of life. We are sharing some of the same experiences with our good girl as he he did with his.
John Grider - February 20, 2018 4:40 pm
The Once Again Prince
We who choose to surround ourselves with lives
Even more temporary than our own,
Live within a fragile circle,
Easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps,
We still would live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only certain Immortality,
Never fully understanding The necessary plan….
Phyllis Hamilton - February 20, 2018 4:54 pm
Oh! I understand every word you wrote. My Katie means the same to me. I often think what will I do if she leaves this world before me. I don’t know how I could live without her.
Jack Darnell - February 20, 2018 5:02 pm
WE have a grand-dog, Janie. Age about the same as Ellie Mae. She’s a good girl, and deaf. I have a book in the oven now it will be ‘Me ‘n Ace’. I always enjoy these visits and yep I do understand your words…..
muthahun - February 20, 2018 6:11 pm
Amen. Buster, Ariadne, Khanzi, Meka, Tara, Heidi, Erin, Tara Two… best dogs, all. Love Ellie’s portrait, Sean. Your line drawings are lovely.
Kathy - February 20, 2018 6:12 pm
Read the excellent piece on y’all on al.com. Loved it!!!!
Jo - February 20, 2018 6:20 pm
Perfect. Every dog lover/owner/mourner can relate.
Joan Dake - February 20, 2018 7:00 pm
My heart resonated as I read your words on the screen. “I don’t know what I’ll do when you leave me. The truth is I don’t remember what life was like before you–and I don’t want to. Because before you, it was youless and I don’t want to live in a youless world.”
Marcia De Graaf - February 20, 2018 8:09 pm
I also have a 12 year old dog who is showing signs of aging. I relate to everything you said. My heart hurts as I see her age, but we’ve had many wonderful years together. She was a rescue, but I think we rescued each other. I’ll treasure the time we’ll have together. You sure know how to put so many things into words. Thank you for that. Say hi to Jamie for me.
Jakki - February 20, 2018 9:06 pm
I have had to say goodbye to my 15 year old best girl Florence and my 14.5 year old best boy Rumely in the past 18 months. I whispered those same words to them as they slipped away in my arms. My heart still aches for them and the many wonderful memories are still in my head.
Yes, our good girls and boys have our hearts and the best thing you can do when that saddest of days comes, (once you can stop crying) is to rescue another. http://www.ABTCR.com
She/he will never be Ellie-Mae but will have her own special place in your heart.
Its called ‘paying it forward’….there will be another hound out there that needs your love.
Jennifer Martin - February 21, 2018 12:15 am
You made me get all teared up! I have loved and lost so many dogs in my life, and everytime I say I won’t do it again, but I always do! God knew what he was doing when he gave us dogs, I just wish it didn’t hurt so much!
Candee - February 21, 2018 12:46 am
Breaks your heart, don’t it! We had a black lab that played golf with us, he had better golf edict than any human golfer I know! He would get your golf ball out of the woods for you, hold his breath and pick your ball of the bottom of the lake, he was the Super Star of the Golfcourse. I miss him, but we have another Black Lab now, he is a nothing like the Golfer Dog, but I love him just as much! Still hard to let any of them go!
Mary Ellen Hall - February 21, 2018 1:38 am
SO VERT SWEET; SEAN!! I feel the EXACT SAME WAY about my BEAUTIFUL PUP, Nestle’.
SO VERY HARD to imagine life without her!!
Jody - February 21, 2018 3:05 am
Thanks for the loving tribute to Ellie-Mae. I am sharing my heart with a 10 pound poodle mix. He was a rescue at the local shelter. I had very recently lost our precious Lady Jayne she was 14 and had cancer when I was contacted by a worker at. the shelter. She asked if I would foster a small dog who had been returned 4 times to identify behaviors that they could work on so he could have a successful placement. After bringing him home he was on his very best behavior and I knew he was where I needed him to be. His name is KEEPER and he fills our home with joy
Dianne - February 21, 2018 4:42 am
Loved this blog today. I, too, have often wondered why our fur babies can’t live longer. Each of our three babies lived 15, 15 1/2, and one month shy of 15. Each was special in her own way, but saying good-bye is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I do believe that they will be waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge when my time comes, and what a happy day that will be. Thanks for sharing Ellie Mae with us.
Judy Ennis - February 21, 2018 1:05 pm
Once again your sweet tribute to Ellie Mae pricked my heart. My girl, Avery, was my best friend, constant companion, and house-mate for 15 years. I think about her and miss her so every day. Our pets seem to bring out the best in us and give us that unconditional love that we as humans sometimes are lacking. Love on your sweet girl and give her a hug from me. I’d give anything to be able to love on my Precious Avery.
Ann Vanvleck - February 21, 2018 3:40 pm
As owner of an 18 year old mutt this is in my heart
Lorraine Bradley - February 22, 2018 2:05 pm
Beautiful message. Thank you, it made my day and it voiced my feelings totally. Thank you so much. God Bless.
Becca Burke Allison - February 22, 2018 3:00 pm
We lost our best girl, Miss Fluffernut the Love Dog, a few years ago. Fluffernut would sleep in my husband’s arms. She was the color of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, and as a puppy, would tear through the house like a ” fluffy headed nut dog” – hence the name. We still miss her, and her portrait hangs in an honored spot.
Patricia Gibson - February 23, 2018 12:58 am
I so get this! I love love love my furry kids!
Pam - February 23, 2018 3:29 pm
I love (most) all of your posts, but I especially love the ones about dogs. They are unconditional lovers. They are the closest thing to loving the way Jesus loves. We humans just can’t seem to get that “unconditional part.”
Leah Lloyd - March 3, 2018 12:22 am