I found a litter. A few days later, I drove to Molino, Florida. I arrived at a farm in the sticks. A team of black-and-tan bloodhounds ran through the grass to greet me. They tripped over their ears and oversized paws.

DEAR SEAN:

My name is well… That’s not important.

I lost my dachshund last night. She was fifteen years old overweight, had seizures, and was incontinent, but she owned my heart.

My wife doesn’t want another pet, but what do I do with this love?

This is just a short note to you ‘cause I knew you’d understand.

MISSING-MY-DACHSHUND

DEAR MISSING:

It’s National Dog Day, which I’m sure you know. At least we know this at my house. This morning, in honor of the holiday my dogs ate pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Of course they were my pancakes and bacon, my dogs stole them from my breakfast plate. But you win some and you lose some.

I remember the day my former bloodhound died, I was away in Birmingham for work. Ellie Mae was thirteen, she’d been sick the morning before I left town.

We‘d taken her to the ER. They gave her meds, stabilized her, and it looked like she would make a full recovery.

The next morning, I kissed Ellie’s long face and left for Birmingham to tell stories and jokes to a roomful of a few hundred folks.

It was a nice day. I remember it well. I drove along the highway, humming with the radio. The sun was shining. By the time I reached Camden, I got a call from my wife.

“Ellie’s not right,” she said. “Something’s wrong.”

I almost turned the truck around, and maybe I should’ve. But I didn’t.

By the time I reached Selma, the vet was on the phone delivering bad news. When I reached Maplesville, my wife and I were already discussing sending her to Heaven, and my gut churned.

“I don’t want her to suffer,” said my wife.

“I don’t either,” I said.

“You think we should… I can’t bring myself to say it.”

“Me neither..”

“I don’t want her to suffer.”

“Me neither.”

“I love her so much.”

(sniff, sniff)

“So does that mean we should put her out of her misery, then?”

“I can’t do it.”

“Me neither.”

“But she’s in pain.”

“I know.”

“What do we do?”

“I dunno, but I don’t want her to suffer.”

A few minutes later, my wife video-called me. I pulled onto the shoulder of Highway 82, outside Centreville. On the cellphone screen, was Ellie Mae. She was panting.

“Hi, Ellie,” I said, through a pathetic cellphone. “Can you hear me, girl?”

She panted.

“It’s me, Daddy. Can you see me?”

I don’t know why I call myself “Daddy.” I have no children. I guess you do strange things when you don’t have kids.

“Ellie,” I said. “I’m so sorry I’m not there. I’m so sorry, honey. Can you see me?”

She panted.

And that was it.

I cried so hard I lost my voice.

That lanky dog, who had more skin and heart than any animal I’d ever loved, was gone. My camping partner, my truck passenger, my fishing buddy. My girl.

That night in Birmingham, I stood before a microphone and a roomful of people who waited for me to tell funny stories and a few jokes. I felt like I was going to puke.

I cried in front of a lot of people. It was not my finest hour.

After the show, an old woman came to me and touched my face and said, “Oh, Sweetie.” She kissed my cheeks and I was embarrassed.

She smelled like Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew, a smell I’d recognize from a mile away.

“You need to hold a puppy, Sweetie,” she said. “That’s how you cure a broken heart. Just touch one. Promise me you’ll do it.”

I crossed my heart.

The next day, I woke up feeling sick. My head hurt from crying. I hadn’t eaten in twenty-four hours. I searched Craigslist for a bloodhound puppy. I wasn’t planning on buying one, I was only following the advice of a stranger who smelled like Granny.

I found a litter. A few days later, I drove to Molino, Florida. I arrived at a farm in the sticks. A team of black-and-tan bloodhounds ran through the grass to greet me. They tripped over their ears and oversized paws.

I held a puppy that had teeth like double-edged razor blades, and eyes like basketballs. I pressed the dog’s forehead against my own.

Her breath smelled like heaven. She bit me and drew blood. She rode home in my lap.

And she’s been riding in my truck ever since.

Anyway friend, I can’t tell you how to feel better. The truth is, I cried at least five times while writing what you just read.

All I can tell you is what a wise old woman told me—a woman who never gave me her name, but left me with her fragrance.

“Hold a puppy. Just touch one.”

Promise me you’ll do it.

33 comments

  1. James e inman - August 27, 2019 7:24 am

    I swore I’d never have another dog, then my son moved back home with his. Looney Lincoln the Lazy Lab has become my buddy and house mate. He’s like me, old, fat and short winded and I don’t know what I’m going to do when he’s gone. Happy dog day Lincoln and friends!

    Reply
  2. Dee Fritzie - August 27, 2019 9:17 am

    The pain never ends when you think back on your baby. I waited quite a while before adopting a new rescue girl. She is now my life (I am an elderly widow), is my best buddy, sleeping partner, and the better part of what life I may have left. YES — hold a puppy, but please rescue one who needs a better life.

    Reply
  3. GaryD - August 27, 2019 9:25 am

    I cried for six months straight, that’s not an exaggeration, when our pit bull died. Haven’t owned a dog since. She was irreplaceable.

    Reply
  4. Jean - August 27, 2019 10:28 am

    I understand what you are going thru. Anyone who has ever loved a fur baby and lost them will know your pain. I still cry over my dobie Jeannie and I can only hope that dogs do go to heaven. I will sure be disappointed if they don’t. Sorry Sean…

    Reply
  5. Elizabeth - August 27, 2019 10:32 am

    I wish you could warn me when you write about animals
    Tears my guts up! We give everything to our pets! Thanks sean!

    Reply
  6. Kim - August 27, 2019 10:48 am

    Anyone who has ever loved a dog will cry when they read this story. You swear you won’t allow yourself to feel this kind if pain you feel when you lose your dog again. It’s too hard. But then your young grandson (my wise old woman) says “Gramma, you are a dog person and if you don’t have a dog in your life, you will never be happy”. So we pour out all that love on a new dog with the full knowledge we have done it to ourselves again. The joy that they bring us, the unconditional love is totally worth it!

    Reply
  7. Meredith Smith - August 27, 2019 11:33 am

    Dear MISSING MY DACHSHUND;
    I am so very sorry for your loss. Dachshunds are a very special breed. I lost both of mine, 5 years and 1 year ago respectively. The most recent one was, like yours, also 15 years old and also had seizures. Coincidentally as do I. She was also a little overweight. But I loved that dog like a child, since I have no kids of my own. I still, a year later, feel like I hear her moving around underfoot. But I know it’s just in my mind.
    Let yourself grieve, remember all the good times your dog shared in your life. And maybe when the time is right, you will be ready for another little low rider. They are little rays of light in your life.
    Be well.

    Reply
  8. Alice Roose - August 27, 2019 12:15 pm

    Dear Sean I am so sorry about your loss it is so hard to lose our companions I am glad you got another fur baby Hod Bless you love you❤️❤️

    Reply
  9. Mike Rogers - August 27, 2019 12:44 pm

    Hey Sean, thanks for running my letter again. Happy to report have 2 rescue Doxies now and a place for my love.I’ll never forget my Abbie but you were right..hold a puppy. Whatever we did to deserve dogs ain’t enough.

    Reply
    • Karen - August 28, 2019 12:02 am

      We have a 13 year old Dachshund – Sam! We got him at 1-1/2 years old. He brought us smiles, laughter and fun. He is our second Dachshund and he is so very special. Sorry for your loss, but SO glad you have loved two more and are healing. We just don’t get to hold these wonderful friends longer ❣️

      Reply
  10. Keloth Anne - August 27, 2019 12:55 pm

    ♥️♥️♥️

    Reply
  11. Connie Havard Ryland - August 27, 2019 1:09 pm

    I cried at least 3 times reading this. Don’t worry-I have kids and I’m momma to one rescue chihuahua mix and grandma to a dachshund/chihuahua mix and a couple of silky terriers. We got my baby because our last one got out and was hit by a car. I didn’t want to try that again but my child convinced me to at least look at the shelter to see what they had. He was beat up, had stitches from surgery, heart worms, and buckshot in his side. Three years old and so shy. Of course he totally stole my heart and is terribly spoiled. But yeah. Get out there and love another puppy. They have a way of healing us. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  12. dale duckworth - August 27, 2019 2:11 pm

    Oh dear, I’m so very sorry! Dogs are fantastical angels, they steal our food, our seat and our hearts. Whatever would we do without their love? I wish I could have been in your audience in Selma. I would have hugged you hard. Another old lady who used to wear Youth Dew. Dale

    Reply
  13. Edna B. - August 27, 2019 2:34 pm

    I love dogs and can’t imaging not having them in my life. My little Pogo is my joy and sunshine. Sure, he wakes me up sometimes at 3 a.m. because he wants food. So I get up and get it for him. But then he snuggles up against me and goes to sleep. I am so blessed. I hope that person touches a puppy soon. Sean, you have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  14. Dawn A Bratcher - August 27, 2019 2:40 pm

    My heart is breaking for you, for me & for the gentleman who lost his dachshund. I can’t help it. Ever since I lost my Buffy, my 16 yr old toy poodle – a feisty little thing that ruled our house – I feel the heartache of others when they lose one of their own. God is so good that He provides a way out of our intense suffering…a puppy or a rescue!

    Reply
  15. Helen - August 27, 2019 2:41 pm

    I have 3 heart warming fur babies. Queen is a long hair chi….Babs is a short hair chi and Milo is a maltepoo. Bab and Queen are the women in the house and my little boy Milo is a spoiled brat. I was only expected to have just the two girls but Milo was living next door with people who didn’t take care of their human children. She told me she was going to put him out on the street because her landlord told her that she couldn’t have a dog there. That could have been true but Milo was so sick, when I let him come on over and live with us, I had to take him to the 24 hour emergency pet clinic. He was just about gone. It cost me $750 for his visit but I felt so sorry for him, I didn’t care about helping him survive. All three of my fur babies have stole my heart and I call them my children. My son call himself daddy to queen and milo and I assume I am granny and babs is his sister. We call them children. Not dogs, but children. I love them so.

    Reply
  16. Shelton A. - August 27, 2019 3:38 pm

    It’s a tough decision and I do know how you feel. My adopted 5 1/2 year old dog is slowly but surely healing me. You do need another dog when you lose one who means so much to you.

    Reply
  17. Linda Moon - August 27, 2019 3:46 pm

    The letter you received from Missing-My-Dachshund was so appropriate and heartfelt. Your reply was, too. You’re good at expressing your heart to others. My husband was out of town when our beloved dog of 18 years, Pyper, was slowly dying and suffering.
    He got home in time to tell Pyper “Good-bye” at the Vet’s office. We went home full of tears and hugged our two other pets, Calhoun and Smokey. That was six years ago, and we’re still hugging and loving on them. And they love us, too!!

    Reply
  18. Jess - August 27, 2019 4:03 pm

    Like a lot of folks that have shared their lives with a pet or pets, t, too, swore I’d never own another dog because of the emotional trauma when the cross over to Rainbow’s Bridge. That what I said when Bailey departed this world…no more pets. Well, that worked out perfectly lousy because now my wife and I have a four-year old sweetheart of a dog and two 3-month old terrors…not terriers….terrors. Okay, I didn’t follow through on my decision not to ever have another dog. It’ll work out, I’m sure. Have a great day, Sean.

    Reply
  19. Steve - August 27, 2019 4:14 pm

    Everyone seems to have gotten a “new” dog. Not me. I lost my Lab 7 years ago this month. I came home from the Vet after midnight and placed his collar on the coffee table. It hasn’t been moved in 7 years. Like a monument or statue, that collar is like Jake. Forever frozen, permanent, irreplaceable. Any other “new” dog would never come close to matching the devotion that dog had for me. The only thing he wanted in life was to be were ever I was. Everyone seems to think they have the best dog, they are wrong. Their was only one Jake. My life is shorter now because of cancer. That collar will be moved one more time, to be with me.

    Reply
  20. susanogden624Susan - August 27, 2019 4:28 pm

    That hole in your heart never really goes away…I have so many over the years that mine is like Swiss cheese. I carry on and even tho I say I can’t do this again, I do. Thelma Lou knew you needed her as much as she needed you…maybe more. Love that face!

    Reply
  21. kathleenivy - August 27, 2019 4:33 pm

    You made me cry Sean … darn you and bless you, you rascal! That woman was wise, I am glad you kept your promise to her. Dogs are angels who teach us and comfort us if we let them. I believe that everyone who has their heart touched by a dog is that much better of a person. Each one is unique, and irreplaceable, and each one we let in to our heart will teach us something different. I believe that we need to let them in, not to replace one another, but because the need for learning and need for comfort has not stopped for us.

    Reply
  22. David P B Feder - August 27, 2019 4:46 pm

    Dear Sean: I felt I’d been writing too much in comment on your articles and was going to lay off but then I read about the loss of your reader’s dachshund. So I take the liberty of writing to “Missing,” too:

    Dear Missing: I learned last week that my 9-1/2 year old dachshund has incurable heart disease. She’s my second doxie; her predecessor lived to be nearly 18. It’s damn hard,there are no two ways about it. Your pain will slowly — very slowly at first — ebb steadily. And then, your next dachshund, the remaining tendrils of your pain will melt away, and you will find that you’ll be left with warm memories that provide not a sad but a supportive layer below the surface of the joyous memories you build with your new pup. So feel no guilt or embarrassment at mourning your dog. Recognize that it’s one of the many foundation stones we are built upon as human beings. Human beings who love dogs. The best kind of humans.

    Reply
  23. Pat - August 27, 2019 5:04 pm

    Dear Missing my Dachshund..please take Sean’s advice “Hold a puppy. Just touch one.” Your new furbaby will steal your heart, although you don’t feel that way right now! I lost my Gracie 6 weeks ago, my husband and I had the same conversation Sean and Jamie had but we did get to the vet in time for her help in crossing the Rainbow Bridge. 6 days later we got two puppies, 5 months and 3 months…man have they kept me busy! We have Gracie’s ashes and speak to her often, but I walked out of the vets office telling them that I was going to look for another! That is such a compliment to the pet you just lost.

    Reply
  24. Tim House - August 27, 2019 5:19 pm

    Overflow… A bit earlier this morning, on Facebook, I was trying to console a friend who is looking at the very same situation, what to do about a dying friend, her dog, using my own reference to having to face the same, reopening the wounds of our loss… Then I read this. I was crying right along with you.

    Reply
  25. Linda Chipman - August 27, 2019 5:26 pm

    I am a senior citizen now and over the years I have loved and lost quite a few dogs. I can vividly remember how I felt when each one was gone. But I’ve learned one thing – if you have the love to give, get another one. There are so very many out there waiting for a forever home.

    Reply
  26. Darla OConnor - August 27, 2019 8:35 pm

    The absolutely only way to fully grieve the loss of a canine family member is to adopt another canine family member to lick your tears away. The new pup does not in anyway replace the pup who has crossed the rainbow bridge, but they do make sure your heart stays expanded in ways that grieving alone will not allow. Each pup is loved differently, but just as much.

    Reply
  27. Cathy Moss - August 27, 2019 9:23 pm

    I rescued a dog 8 yrs ago. Saw him on the local news at noon. Was watching with a good friend. I had been talking abt a dog but my husband was not on board. Three married children, eight grandchildren to love. My friend is a dog woman and she said “ Go get that dog. He’s just what you have been looking for. I drove to the shelter which was near the B’ham airport. They brought him out. He looked like The dog from the movie. BENGIE. He got on his back and my granddaughter who was abt 8 yrs old said she thought he was the dog for me. My children laugh abt how foolish we are over him. They were not spoiled but Our dog is spoiled. My youngest son was laughing abt it the other night bc my husband is rediculous. I told my son that he never should have married and left home. We had to replace the children and Rocket has done his job. Here’s to all of us who have known the love of a dog. Unconditional and constant.

    Reply
  28. Jeri Blom - August 27, 2019 11:24 pm

    Sean, I am crying, for you, for Jamie, for everyone who has ever lost a beloved pet!

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  29. Dick - August 28, 2019 3:01 am

    MY DOG died two years ago, I still have no immediate plans to get over him.
    I scowl at notes about the Rainbow Bridge & such, it does not bring me relief.
    My son moved back home with his dog, so he does fills a hole.
    But never THAT HOLE,

    When friends used to broadcast their loss on social media, I would think,
    “oh, that’s too bad.”

    Now I understand.

    Reply
  30. Nancy - August 29, 2019 1:55 am

    That one really hits home. Currently have four dogs… 3 are over 13…baby will be 9 in October.

    Reply
  31. Judy Riley (from a long line of dog lovers......and passed it on to my children. - August 30, 2019 8:54 pm

    Sad, but great story! Ellie Mae will always be with you!!!

    Reply
  32. Sherry Holmes - September 10, 2019 5:30 pm

    It is sooo hard to say good bye to your loved ones, no matter what “breed” two legged or four… I find that believing that God has put our pets in our lives to love and care for (not as long as we hope) is a blessing in its self. He has also given us the love for not only a new puppy, but to love one from the pound or rescue. They need us too. I like to think our 2-legged adopted sons did as well!!

    Reply

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