One of the first things you learn when you become a dog-person is that normal people look at you funny when you talk about your dog too much.
This is usually because these people have normal healthy lives, with real kids, real jobs, and retirement plans.
Well, I never had any of those things. I spent adulthood working crummy jobs. I don’t have kids. And retirement is a three-syllable word used in Charles Schwab commercials during baseball games.
The highlight of my workdays was coming home to find the silhouette of a bloodhound in our front window. Her name was Ellie Mae.
In her heyday, Ellie was obsessed with a cat in our neighborhood named Dexter. Dexter was born of Satan and had eyes like the kid from the movie Poltergeist.
Dexter would torment Ellie by visiting our backyard and sitting right in Ellie’s food bowl as if to say, “Look! My butt is on your food! How do you like that?”
And thus, Ellie became transfixed with Dexter and his feline butt. Ellie would sometimes spend entire days at our window, keeping track of all the illegal activities Dexter committed in our yard. She would turn circles, whimpering.
Dexter would make eye-contact with Ellie through the glass. He would stare her down until she hurled herself against our window hard enough to shatter it.
Dexter was a professional competitor when it came to games between canines and felines.
There was the time, for instance, when I drove to the bank. Ellie came with me. She waited in my truck with the engine running. I ran inside. I was writing a deposit slip when the teller pointed out the window and shrieked.
“Your truck!” she hollered.
My vehicle was rolling into a flower bed.
I sprinted through the parking lot and when I reached the truck, I realized that my crazed bloodhound had knocked the gearshift out of park. She was having a real fit.
That’s when I saw Dexter crouched in the backseat, hissing.
Of course, Ellie Mae was interested in more than just cats. Her other interests included: pork, remote controls, scented candles, snotty rags, eyeglasses, Masterpiece Theater, and squirrels.
She was also interested in me.
Maybe that’s why we were so close. I never had a dog who wanted to be near me that often. I couldn’t leave the house without her, or go to the bathroom for that matter. I never slept without her beside me.
When Ellie Mae started to develop white fur around her snout, I took to calling her my old lady.
My wife used to say that if God had made Ellie human instead of dog, Ellie would have tried to kill my wife and elope with me to Las Vegas.
Her words, not mine.
During Ellie’s last years, her joints started bothering her, and her hip went bad. It was difficult to watch the old girl moan when she walked up stairs. My once athletic dog was now sleeping all day, and she didn’t have the energy to go to fishing with me anymore.
Ellie lived for thirteen years, but I can’t help feeling that my dog’s short life was only half lived. I wish I could have given her more belly rubs. I wish she could have eaten more table scraps.
And at least once, I wish she could have known the pleasure of catching a squirrel.
When a doctor injected colored solution into her veins, Ellie closed her eyes forever, and she took a piece of me with her.
In some ways I grieved for Ellie harder than I grieved my own father. Probably because it’s safer to grieve a dog than a human sometimes.
When you grieve for a human, there can be landmines beneath the surface of your memories, waiting to explode. Step on one, and you bring back all sorts of painful stuff.
But when you mourn for a dog, there are no landmines. There are only memories of a loyal animal who would have walked in front of traffic for you.
You mourn in unusual ways. You find yourself sitting in your truck alone, staring out a windshield. Your truck engine is off. You’re parked in your driveway. You just got home from the bank and you’re thinking of her.
Your upholstery bears her remnants. Hair. Dirt. Nose marks on the windows. There is a tiny cedar box of her ashes on your dashboard.
You place your hand on that box sometimes and say, “We sure had fun, didn’t we old girl?”
And you see something on your truck hood. It’s Dexter. He’s sleeping. That poor cat misses her as much as you do.
Some people might look at you funny when you talk about your dog too much.
And just keep on talking.
Bette - April 23, 2019 6:35 am
chrisineedstoshare - April 23, 2019 7:21 am
We miss Ellie with you. ?
Cathi - April 23, 2019 8:08 am
All the dogs I’ve had over the years and I do talk about them. They’re amazing, beloved & missed beyond words….you found those words and then some.
Linda - April 23, 2019 8:11 am
I love this story. No kids here either, just fur babies. I have #3 and #4, Mattie and Mardi. #1 and #2, Frenchie and Maggie, each lived 14 years and each left this earth with a little piece of me too. Forever in my heart those two! I will keep talking. ?
Carol Heidbreder - April 23, 2019 9:29 am
Yes,you did find those words. They are devoted companions, side partners as my grandmother used to say. They watch us and have us figured out better than we ever realize. And all they really want is US! And we all want to be wanted.You are so right. To lose them is to lose a part of ourselves. We are forever changed. Let those folks keep right on looking at me funny. I have a treasure they know nothing about. Their lose!
Nell Thomas - April 23, 2019 9:41 am
They may think you are kinda nuts when you post more pictures of your fur babies on FB than your grandkids. I let their parents select and post what they want of their children- sit back and get a thrill out of seeing it.
We have a Dexter. A evil eyed gray cat, Mr. Gray, that is allowed to sleep and served 3 hots a day plus snacks on the back porch, a cardboard house lined with wool blankets and a heating pad for freezing cold nights. He has caused a lot of turmoil around here for sure. I am his one and only friend in this world. He has even been featured of FB. So I know what’s it’s like to deal with a Dexter and to lose an Ellie too.
Thanks for this one. Great story.
Martha Owens - April 23, 2019 11:00 am
So many of us can relate to your loss of Ellie! I lost my special furbaby last November after over 14 years together. Her little wooden box of ashes and mementos are on the mantel in my room. Even those of us who have children, grand children and even great grandchildren find that we spend most of our days in the company of only our furbabies. I spent 6 weeks without a dog, and decided to fill that void with another dog. I have had my rescue pup for only 4 months, but she has wiggled her way into my heart. As we get older, we realize we can have more than one special companion.
I look forward to reading your comments every day!
Sue Tomlinson Baldridge - April 23, 2019 11:11 am
I could feel the keen loss of your furry companion in your words. I dread that day when I have to talk about mine in the past tense. I have 2 gorgeous rescues who own me lock, stock and barrel, and about whom I talk ad Nauseous! Nothing like a furry child.
Arlene Stevens - April 23, 2019 11:20 am
It’s been a year now since I lost my beloved Millie. My 13 year old black cocker and perhaps one of the best friends I’ve ever had. I couldn’t stand another day looking at the cedar box. It didn’t seem right for me, and especially not for her, she hated confined spaces. In the year since we lost her we were hit by Hurricane Michael and we lost all of the trees in our large city lot. We filled it back up with 20 foot white crepe myrtles that will grow very large. It’s the quintessential Southern tree. There are 20 of them in our yard now and we expect them to bloom out in a beautiful snowy white and just the fact that there is a vertical piece of wood with something green on top makes us very happy. The only tree in our yard that will not bloom out white is a pink cherry tree smack dab in the middle of the backyard… In plain view from some of our favorite places. We chose the tree with special purpose and intent so that it would always stand out and be different… So that we would always look at it and remember that underneath it lies the cremains of the most loyal, faithful and affectionate sidekick a person could ever have. A living monument to a life spent in loyal service, love and devotion. A loving tribute to the sweetest girl I’ve ever known. Our beloved Millie.
Chasity Davis Ritter - April 24, 2019 4:12 pm
That is a beautiful tribute to your beloved family member
Sue Carol Browning - April 23, 2019 11:23 am
I assure you that many of us know exactly how you feel. We are very excited about your visit in August. We are all dog people.
Angel Bradford - April 23, 2019 11:40 am
Dear Sean, My Chico, who would have turned 15 on August 6th, died in my arms 2 hours ago. I held him until my mother told me I had to let him go. She bought him for me when he was only 3 months old and fit in the palm of my hand. He never weighed over 3 pounds, but he thought he was 10 feet tall. I’m sitting here now wondering how I am going to go on without him…
kathleenivy - April 23, 2019 4:24 pm
I am so sorry for your loss of Chico. Wish I could give you a hug. I am glad you had Chico in your life.
Ginger Clifton - April 23, 2019 11:45 am
Love it. Buster is there now. Thirteen and sleeping all day.Painfully going down 2 steps to his yard, still loving me. I am preparing his meals and feeding him by hand and aware that what we have is special.
Marcia De Graaf - April 23, 2019 12:01 pm
Amen, Sean. Our dogs hold such a special place in our hearts. I still grieve over all of mine that have passed, and have a lump in my throat as I see my chocolate cocker Charmaine get more grey in the muzzle every day. But she’s filled my life and heart with joy! I’m so thankful for her and treasure her every day. I understand how you feel. ???
Steven P Bailey - April 23, 2019 12:06 pm
Donna - April 23, 2019 12:09 pm
Cheers to the ultra-grand Ellie May (and her nemesis Dexter). Wonderful memories!
Alice - April 23, 2019 12:12 pm
Dear Sean again your story has brought tears to my eyes it is sad very sad when the day comes to let our fur babies go so glad you had Ellie and I love reading your stories about her God Bless you Sean love you
Keith Gammon - April 23, 2019 12:14 pm
You say it all perfectly
Connie Havard Ryland - April 23, 2019 12:30 pm
Sweetie, I have actual human children and grandchildren and I still talk about my dogs. I love them more than I ever thought I could love anything that wasn’t related by blood. It’s crazy I know. But I share their pictures on FB. I have pictures on my phone. I tell everyone how cute and sweet and funny-well, you know, all the adjectives. Thank you for sharing your love. I never trust a person who doesn’t like dogs.
Susan Kennedy - April 23, 2019 12:59 pm
Susan Kennedy - April 23, 2019 12:58 pm
This was for JJ, Snoopy, Emmy, and Chloe. Thank you. ??
Lisa Perkins - April 23, 2019 1:10 pm
I totally understand. Ellie Mae was your doggie soul mate. I’ve loved all of my dogs, but my doggie soul mate for 14.5 yrs went to heaven almost 2 years ago. I haven’t gotten another pup yet. I scour all of the local rescue groups and shelters online and I want to rescue ALL of them… but then I just keep looking for the one that looks into my soul like my boy Peppy le Pew did. I know it sounds silly. Thanks for the memories.
Katy Maddox - April 23, 2019 1:29 pm
Sean, I, too am a dog person… it occurred to me just now that the quality dog people possess is how little it requires for us to love. We don’t hold interviews and ask for impressive resumes or pedigrees; we also don’t abide fools. Come to us with honesty and an open heart and we are all yours- even with one eye and three legs, as is the case with my “Bailey”. Dexter may miss Ellie, but remember: all dogs go to heaven, but cats go to hell!
Jane Sparacio - April 23, 2019 2:30 pm
This saddens me to think of the pain you just caused an individual that lost their fur kitty. All fur babies are God’s creation and deserve our respect and love.
Janet Mary Lee - April 23, 2019 8:14 pm
Going to assume you are tongue in cheek., Katie. All animals travel back to our Creator. Some understand God better than many humans. If you have missed out on what makes cats tick, you have missed a Blessing indeed.. Dogs and cats are different. You have to understand cats a little differently. Dogs are right there, always. If you learn and earn, the love of cats, you have given thought to a special kind of God’s creatures. I have mostly dogs, but love all animals, and miss having a cat with my dogs as when I was young. It never quite worked out… They have moved with me, been overseas with me, and been a single dog, to a pack of 4. Rescues…That rescue me..But we hear you Sean. I still have all of Ellie’s posts and “her signature” in one your books. I treasure it and all my furbabies. They spend more time sharing love than some of my kids. And they see me growing old and accommodate. They are and have been incomparable a love. ( Other than the Lord!!) … My last prayer is to live with my last furbaby..longer than she does, so she is not left. She has arrangements I hope she will never need..
I have loved them all..Heaven must have animals to be complete..I think…and we will see our babies again!!
Gary Farmer - April 23, 2019 1:42 pm
I love all dogs and all dog lovers! We keep our son’s dog Molly during his work week. She is our 13 year old granddogger and that makes me her loving pup-paw!
Carolyn Allen - April 23, 2019 1:54 pm
Other than God’s love for us there is nothing that equals a dogs love. Their love is so pure, honest
and sincere. Those who don’t love dogs will never
“get it” and that’s okay…they can’t help it…it’s just not in them. But those of us who do, your Ellie stories are our favorites, Sean. Please don’t ever stop writing about her.
Leslie - April 23, 2019 2:02 pm
Jane Sparacio - April 23, 2019 2:24 pm
You and I lost our fur babies around the same time and the loss is almost unbearable. I left Mo., moved to Al. and the loss is still so fresh. I live today because of Chancey. While cutting her hair she sniffed my chest three times. In that moment I knew I had cancer. Stage four right breast, stage 3 left breast… bilateral mastectomy. She never left my side during my recovery. I was seven months shy of my five year anniversary when Chancey went into congestive heart failure. I kept my promise to her that she would never suffer and the vet put her to sleep. There are times I can feel her near me, and I would give anything to hug her, hold all 85 pounds of her again and tell her how much I love her. I can feel your pain Sean. We were blessed.
Jill - April 23, 2019 2:51 pm
Raising my cup of coffee in salutation to Ellie, Rascal (my boy of 14 who traveled on) and all the other loyal dogs I recall from my years as a child. I collected stray dogs instead of dolls. They were family. Still are. Da***t, you have me crying here. Touching and certainly relatable.
Edna B. - April 23, 2019 2:52 pm
Of course we talk to our fur babies. They are family. I talk to Pogo all the time. Sometimes I don’t think he understands what I’m saying, but it’s okay. As long as I’m talking to him and lavishing lots of love on him, he is one happy little camper. You have a wonderful day Sean, hugs, Edna B.
natalierimel - April 23, 2019 2:54 pm
I talk too much about our Daisy Mae, lady Beagle! I once had a woman tell me she didn’t like dogs. Blasphemey! I think she had Dexter’s eyes, probably related somehow. Anyways, I always say that Daisy Mae is conspiring against me so she can have my hubby, Shawn, all to herself.
Last night, as I sat next to my hubby on the couch, Daisy Mae laid in her bed and gave me “the look” and whined. We told her to come on the couch with us and she came and stared me down until I moved and she curled up next to him. But, at bed time, she jumped in the bed and laid on my head. So, I think she does love me but not like she loves my hubby. She is a daddy’s girl!
Gayle M. Bailey - April 23, 2019 3:01 pm
You made me cry. Been there too often, and too recently. And undoubtedly will again (unless my current pup wins out & has me injected with that endless peace juice & saves my ashes in a little cedar box by his blanket)
Joan Krawcheck - April 23, 2019 4:14 pm
As I told you at Southern Voices we recently lost our 15&1/2 girl. Your article is spot on. Missing Isabella every single day. Ellie Mae too!!!!
Charlu Kent - April 23, 2019 4:18 pm
You can never talk too much about a Beloved Beastie ??❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
kathleenivy - April 23, 2019 4:19 pm
Well Sean, I have human children (who I love deeply), a retirement plan (if you call checking out bridges to live under a plan) and a decent (overwhelming) job. I still feel about my dogs the way you describe … and talk about them too much. Sophie my Bichon was my favorite. Her photo is on my desk and she is part of my heart. She and I developed language … I knew what she was saying from another room, and we had trust that was bone deep. I love my current dogs … a lot, but the connection with Sophie was something beyond description. I know God loves me, so have hope that Sophie (and all my animals) will be with me in heaven. I am glad you had, and will have, Ellie Mae. God bless you Sean.
Tim House - April 23, 2019 4:48 pm
I feel you… So close to home it hurts. As I read this, I remembered our Vash, who we went through the same entire thing. Now, we are rather close to it again, with our sweet old Ariel. It won’t be a whole lot farther down the road, until Spunky will be “up next”…
Shelton A. - April 23, 2019 5:24 pm
I have a sweet dog who has to lick my face before I turn out the light for sleep. She’ll beside me until I settle and then she goes to the floor beside me.
Linda Moon - April 23, 2019 6:50 pm
Pyper, the dog, lived to be 18. Spunky, the cat, lived to be 19. Calhoun and Smokey, the two cats, are now 15. Just ask me, and I’ll tell plenty of tales about all of them. YOU keep on talking and telling tales about Ellie. I don’t mind at all. And I won’t look at you funny if we ever meet again.
Lauren Ulrich - April 23, 2019 7:38 pm
Actually, it was good to hear about Ellie Mae again~
Jones - April 23, 2019 8:03 pm
Keep writing—your stories about Ellie Mae, Thelma Lou and Otis are great…whether adventurous, happy or sad. We love our beloved pets hard and we hurt hard when we lose them…but what joy and companionship they give us! Thanks for sharing your stories and posted pictures!
Bill Brown - April 23, 2019 8:08 pm
Meet Bear – my Ellie – a15 # jet black fur ball – part poodle – part traveling salesman. I was a grown man about 55 or so when I lost him and to think of him now at age 80 still brings blurry eyes. Folks that have never known the unquestioned love of a dog are missing one of life’s true blessings.
muthahun - April 23, 2019 8:57 pm
Aw, dammit, Sean. Now all my Zumba ladies are gonna wonder why my eyes are red.
Anne P. - April 24, 2019 12:55 am
My eyes a leeeeekinggggg can’t see to typpppppe.❤️ U Sean.
Skip Page - April 24, 2019 1:34 am
In 2008 we rescued a small blue female Weimaraner, her name was
Gracie. Every night she would come up to the man cave and snuggle on the bed with me. When I took a ride in the car Gracie was with me because she was my best friend. On March 14, 2017 we took her to the vet to get her teeth cleaned but she never woke up from anesthesia. We were truly devastated and the loss still haunts us. Her ashes are in the man cave and she is my screen saver. in April of 2018 we needed another Weimaraner in our lives so we rescued ELLIE a sweet 2 year old. She makes us laugh every single day and we love her dearly for attempting to keep us young. You never forget any dogs you have had and dog people always have room in the hearts to love another and another and another……..
Charaleen Wright - April 24, 2019 4:53 am
Estelle - April 24, 2019 10:30 am
Dogs are love in a fur package. ♥️
Mary Lee Morris - April 24, 2019 2:59 pm
I have an Ellie Mae. She is a beagle/dachshund mix, I think. She love me as yours did you. I have no idea how old she is, because she was a rescue. I try not to think about when I have to say good bye. Reading you words brought tears to my eyes.
I had a lab/shepherd mix for 14 years, and when I had to put him down, I nearly died myself. Oh how well they wiggle into our hearts. They were like my children.
Steve Winfield - April 24, 2019 3:41 pm
Jack was a coon hound mix that lived 20 years. What a friend he was. Five hematoma surgeries on his ears. Got attacked by some mean dogs once & had to have a lung inflated. He has a beautiful grave out back with a cross & a truck windmill. He loved trucks. Also slept with me every night.
Now I have Oscar Mayer the weenie dog. Believe me, he’s no Jack.
Brett Campbell - April 25, 2019 3:37 am
Great column and I love the drawing of Ellie.
Lisa Pelham - April 25, 2019 5:11 pm
This is beautiful. Thank you.
Emily - April 26, 2019 12:45 am
Amen Sean, amen.
Robert Gandy - April 26, 2019 4:52 pm
Up until 4 years ago I couldn’t have understood your relationship with your dog. I do now. I have haven’t had a dog in close to fifty years. We now have three. A beagle we got four years ago and since then we have taken in two rescues for a total of three. I am not looking to the day that we lose one of them. Thank you for daily writings. Also thank you for your two kind stories about our son Marcus Buckner.
Mary Ellen Hall - April 29, 2019 3:47 am
I’m SO VERY SORRY for your loss of your beloved Ellie, Sean! My husband & I lost our SWEET Chocolate Lab Sundae, six years ago. IT too was an unbearable time!
We also have no children, so Sundae was our BABY-our hearts were BROKEN!!
However; about six months later; a PRECIOUS Chocolate Lab, 8 week old puppy, helped heal our broken hearts!!! I think I remember, that you now also have a new pup.If you’re like me, just can’t go long without one!!!?
GREAT READ SEAN!!!! THANKS!!!
Mary Ellen Hall - May 18, 2019 2:27 am
I SO FEEL YOUR HEARTBREAK SEAN!!? I too personally believe the LOSS of your 4-legged “Best Friend;” is without a doubt the MOST HEARTWRENCHING, HEARTBREAKING EXPERIENCE a person can go through!!
My husband & I lost our 9 yr. old Chocolate Lab; about 6 yrs. ago, & sometimes the thought of her still brings TEARS to my eyes.?
However now; we have another 7 yr. old Chocolate Lab, who brings us MUCH, MUCH LOVE & JOY!! I also know our 1st Lab; Sundae,? would have LOVED this lab, Nestle’! ?
THANK YOU for this BEAUTIFUL STORY SEAN!!!❤
Pat Yard - May 23, 2019 7:04 am
Beautiful, touching words at 2 in the morning to remind us all of the joys of past loves. Ive earned the nickname of The Crazy Cat Lady and I wear the title proud. When we lost our 2 Senior kittens, 1 of 17 years and the other just shy of 18 just 5 months apart, 2 huge chunks of my heart went with them. It isnt until that kind of loss that you do realize what a big part of your life they are. Or have been. 18 years is a long time to fall asleep each night with their soft purrs next to you. We both said we were done, no more pets. That lasted 3 whole sleepless nights. On the 4 th day, I went down to the local rescue and found Oliver in a metal cage all by himself. And since have rescued another, Saber, to keep him company. I guess our lovin’ aint over yet………
turtlekid - May 23, 2019 1:23 pm
Dexter made me laugh. I can visualize the demonic way he tormented Ellie Mae, there are always different aspects to situations, and you caught both of them! Emotions!! ??
Gale Smith - May 23, 2019 2:50 pm
I still miss every dog that ever owned me from the age of 2. I flew to Tampa last night for my oldest granddaughter’s graduation, so I am missing my beloved 4-legged best friend who stayed behind….he hates to fly. I have the ashes of my 3 prior to him. Got tired of burying my friends and moving away from where they were buried under a favorite tree or by a creek…..military families move a lot. Anyway, someday I will have my daughter scatter my ashes with those of the last of my best friends. It can be from Mallory Square at sunset in Key West; or the St Andrews rock Betty in Panama City; or off the bridge or from a boat here in Tampa. I will be at the beach with my best friends, surrounding my daughter and her family, always nearby them. I do not doubt my spirit will cross the rainbow bridge and I will get to see all of them, including some really great cats…..
Gale Smith - May 23, 2019 2:52 pm
Rock Jetty, not Betty, dang spellcheck.
Rebecca Thomas - May 23, 2019 5:36 pm
I sobbed on and off ( more on than off) for more than two months when my Scottie died. I absolutely mourned worse from his death than some family members. Any creature that can have that much love surely has a soul.
Bretty Page - May 23, 2019 8:52 pm
I lost my beloved furry soulmate March 11 2019 … to this day I am totally devastated beyond imagination. You description of sitting in your truck in your driveway is me every single day …. when I hate to come in my own home … There will never be another Bretty … ever … nor will I ever love another like I loved him.