Waffle House. A year ago. I saw a dog trot through the parking lot. He looked confused. Call it my curiosity, but I went outside after him.
My father’s voice played in my head. He said: “Never chase a dog, he’ll only run from you.”
So, I squatted low and pretended I didn’t care if he came or not. No here-boys, no hey-puppy-puppy-puppies. And I waited.
The folks in Waffle House must’ve thought I’d lost my mind.
He finally came. I could hardly believe it. Black hair, no collar. He wore a look that said he was on his own.
He ate it my front seat. We talked. I only knew him for one day, but I discovered he liked to wrestle.
I dropped him at a no-kill shelter, the workers talked to him in high-pitched voices and performed various acts of belly rubbing. I’ve thought about him ever since.
Dogs are part of my life. A big part. Always have been.
When I was a child, I found a lopsided plastic bag, floating in the creek. It was December.
I waded into the knee-deep water to retrieve it. I expected the worst.
Puppies. Ten of them, looking like newborn hamsters. They were alive. I named them after books of the Bible like any self-respecting Sunday-school student.
After a few weeks, my father and I placed cardboard signs by the road which read: “Free Puppies.”
Three hours; every puppy had an owner. From Genesis to Obadiah.
Later in life, I had a dog named Joe. He was a rescue. I adopted him from a mom-and-pop shelter.
Joe was a strange animal. He slept in the bathtub, buried TV remotes in the backyard, was terrified of sprinklers, and enjoyed the taste of aged cat litter.
Odd dog. But he was mine.
One year, I had the chemically-unbalanced idea I was going to get into shape. I jogged three miles. I nearly died of fatigue on a desolate road.
Joe ran beside me, every step. No leash.
I kept yelling, “Go back home, Joe!”
Joe never fell an inch behind me. He slept for two days thereafter. So did I.
Once, I had a dog who liked to wrestle after meals. She was a good girl. After her last bite, she’d become a canine tornado. She’d bark hard, crouch low, tail wagging.
I’d tackle her. Laughing. Howling. Running. Jumping. God I loved her. We’d knock furniture over, then watch Wheel of Fortune together.
Eventually, she got too old to roughhouse. So, I played with on her dog bed. The old girl would make threatening noises, but that’s all she could do.
She found a permanent resting place in my backyard.
I didn’t eat for a week.
Anyway, yesterday, I received a text on my cellphone while in traffic. I didn’t recognize the number. The photo showed a boy with his arms around a dog. A dog I once found outside a Waffle House.
They were roughhousing.
“Merry Christmas,” the rescue worker’s text read. “Found this in my phone, and forgot to send it to you.”
As it happens, I am having a nice Christmas so far. And I hope it’s a good one for that little boy, too.
But then, I know it is.
Because good wrestling partners are hard to find.
Lucretia - December 23, 2017 10:47 am
Thank you, Sean, for reviving the memories of good friends that have passed over. Merry Christmas.
Kelly - December 23, 2017 12:18 pm
Dogs are the best, especially the ones that like to wrestle and snuggle. Merry Christmas!
Sherry Ann Holland - December 23, 2017 1:05 pm
Two years since I had to say goodbye to my coonhound Percy. Miss him so much. Merry Christmas Sean!
kyra - December 23, 2017 1:12 pm
Good morning, Sean!
Another day, another lump in my throat. I love your words. They hit a home run daily. Today was dog day. I am going out on a limb here–I am not really an animal person. I am a people person. You are a dog person AND a people person. I admire that. My mother told me once that my lack of affection for animals was my only character fault. That hurt. Growing up I had the obligatory dogs and cats. My sister, who is much younger, had dogs. My kids had dogs and cats. And when the last pet died and the kids grew up, I said enough. I travel (business) out of the country about 4 months a year, so having an animal is not practical. Also, I am 70 and pretty set in my ways. But every time you write about animals, a little crack appears in my armor. Today I actually imagined what it would be like to have a dog again. You keep this up and I will have some little rescue mutt underfoot. And it will be your fault!!
Tom Giddens - December 23, 2017 1:24 pm
You are spot on about dogs. After losing my little biscuit eater at 15 years old my wife said ” no more “! I learned about Safe Harbor Prison Dogs in Lansing, Ks . Here they place rescues with trustee inmates 24-7 for 6 months. It’s supposed to rehabilitate the inmate and socialize the pup. After some exchange of pictures and phone calls and waiting until my wife was in Georgia I sent the adoption fee and money for a crate and a Delta ticket to Panama City Beach, FL airport. He arrived in great shape . His prison name was Apollo but I named him Johnny Cash as he is a mostly black Aussie Doodle. Tough as hell and he is my buddy. Can destroy a store bought toy in 60 minutes or less . I’m going to get him a piece of logging chain for his next toy. He is the best and he reminds me to bark a little less and to wag a lot more! I love your blog and look forward to meeting you one day along the gulf coast.
Tom- Miramar Beach, Fl
Carole - December 23, 2017 1:33 pm
My new rescue was found tied to our shelter fence on Easter morning. Within a week he was mine. One of the best dogs I have ever owned. He came with a lot of problems and sheds like a blizzard, but I wouldn’t trade him for anything – all 100 pounds of him. Thank you for advocating rescues, we need them more than they need us I think.
muthahun - December 23, 2017 2:48 pm
Oh man! Now this just made my day. Mags and Woodrow say, “Merry Christmas and please pass the whateveritisyou’reeating” and I shall proceed with my day with visions of you and your pal sleeping for 2 days after running 2 miles. Gotta work up to these things, Sean! Zumba Gold a while before your marathon.
Anne Parrish - December 23, 2017 3:24 pm
Sean, thank you for giving me the best gift! Your daily column helps fill the hole left in my life when Calvin and Hobbes disappeared. Merry Christmas and an abundance of blessings to you, your wife, and mama, and, of course, Elle Mae.
Jackie Darnell - December 23, 2017 4:03 pm
Shucks it is hard to beat a good dog story! THANKS!
CaroG87 - December 23, 2017 5:04 pm
Bless you. My beloved of 10 years passed 12/9/16. On 12/19/17 he sent a new baby my way to love up on — one that needs a little extra TLC, knowing we’d be the ones to do it. I’m a dog girl all the way. Cats are cool too, but dogs own my heart. And my stash of bacon.
Maureen Sudlow - December 23, 2017 8:10 pm
but dogs are always up for it – hope my neighbors never see me crawling around the floor wrestling with our dog – not expected from someone in her seventies…
Ralph - December 23, 2017 11:36 pm
You make my day everyday, I love dogs too. Merry Christmas!!
wendy franklin - December 24, 2017 4:47 am
Sean, thanks for the memories you’ve stirred in my mind and heart of puppies & dogs I’ve had through the years. What joy they bring into our lives!
Dru - December 24, 2017 5:08 pm
This may be your best yet. We lost our little rescue in October after twelve happy years. My daughter had chased her out of five o’clock traffic on the Ross Clark Circle and finally cornered her against the wall of an Outback Steak House dumpster. She was about ten pounds of hungry, matted, fright. For a few days she curled in a box in Caitie’s bedroom looking like the smaller half of a shared Moon Pie. She refused to raise her head when I talked to her. Then one day we had an extended one-sided conversation that included a tentative handshake. For the first time she gave me a look of interest, then trust. Then she smiled. Today is Christmas Eve and I just took my first walk without her. Just couldn’t do it till today. I hope there’s a fluffy twelve-pound gilded tricolor spaniel mix with eyes full of pride and joy and sass and love waiting for me
where I’m going.
Jo - December 24, 2017 6:16 pm
Wonderful dog memories. We have two on the shelf where we can see their pictures until we see them again. Then there are the four that are still with us. Two might be leaving soon, but in the meantime we cater to them and they keep us laughing. All rescues – thank you for championing shelters!