That night in Birmingham, I stood before a microphone and a roomful of people who wore smiles. I felt like I was going to puke. And I lost it. I cried in front of a lot of people. It was not my finest hour.

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:

The day my 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.

42 comments

  1. Pamela McEachern - August 5, 2018 6:04 am

    Oh please hold a puppy, I’ve always thought it is the best way to honor your baby. Giving another sweet baby a loving home is the way to mend the hole in your heart. Sean you and Jamie are the best parents and little Thel is one lucky girl!
    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  2. Beth Reed - August 5, 2018 6:44 am

    I want another dog. I lost my Cisco on Good Friday. He was my heart .My boys are my roommates. They said no to another fur baby. They gave in an then took it back. I’m going to be moving. My daughter and I are going to get a place together if she ends her current relationship. If not then I am not sure where The Good Lord plants me but so far the only thing I know is that it has to be a place for me to have a dog.
    Right now I’m cuddling up with her dog Foxy. She’s a sweet little Demon with razor blades for teeth. She’s enough for tonight. If my daughter ends her relationship then he gets Foxy.
    Not a decision I like but she’s more his than hers and that’s not helping. But we are in agreement that I am going to have another peice of heaven.
    You are lucky to have had some great dogs. Ellie Mae would be proud to know that you are giving Thelma Lou the same love you gave her.
    I know Cisco is waiting to say goodbye when the Lord puts another fur baby in my life. But for now I’m going to be happy giving Foxy a lot of love. XO Sean and Jamie. Your great parents. Beth Reed

    Reply
  3. Leslie in NC - August 5, 2018 8:24 am

    And I just cried 5 times while reading your story. I’m so happy you decided to hold a puppy and I hope Missing-My-Dachshund holds a puppy too. Soon.

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  4. DORIS WILSON - August 5, 2018 10:24 am

    Yes dogs do make you do strange things.I tell them Let mama do it ..or come to mama.I tell everyone I love my dogs better than people.You know the reason why with out me telling you.

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  5. Melanie - August 5, 2018 10:31 am

    ❤️

    Reply
  6. CaroG87 - August 5, 2018 10:33 am

    Yes. Yes. I lost Maddox, my baby of 10 years, in December 2016. Has to say goodbye to him on the 9-month anniversary of my mom’s funeral. It hurt so bad. I kept getting offers to rehome dogs from friends but nothing felt right. I lost 3 more loved ones in an extended season of grief. One year and 10 days after saying goodbye, Maddox sent me a dog who needed some special attention. For seven months now, it’s been my joy to watch a once-feral puppy who became a scared dog learn to relax. We’ve got along way to go but the strides he has made. We don’t deserve dogs, I swear we don’t, but somehow…..

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    • Pat - August 5, 2018 9:17 pm

      Caro I totally agree that we don’t deserve dogs, but thank God we have them!!! So much joy and happiness…

      Reply
  7. Joan Lang - August 5, 2018 10:35 am

    Oh, sweetie…

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  8. Sandra Smith - August 5, 2018 10:51 am

    We lost our heart wagger, Foxy, going on three weeks ago. Picked her up, running alongside Hwy 45, in 09 and after a diligent attempt to find her people, with no success, we were hers. Such a joy she was. I miss her, something awful.
    It is the first time, in I don’t know when, we haven’t had a dog in our house. I actually think it may be the first time, since before we married in 75, and I am, pure jonz’n for puppy breath. I need a snuggle buddy…a, new best friend.

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  9. Mary Ellen Hall - August 5, 2018 11:19 am

    SO VERY SORRY for your loss of your DEAR FRIEND; Ellie Mae, Sean!!🐕 I have been RIGHT THERE; n your shoes, WAY TOO OFTEN!!😭
    I feel there is NOTHING as HEARTBREAKING as losing a BELOVED PET!! OMG, fifteen years is a VERY LOND TIME for you & your BEAUTIFUL PUP, to have each other!! What an INCREDIBLE BLESSING!!!
    SO HAPPY for BOTH u & your LUCKY PUP!!!🐕 What an AMAZING FUTURE is awaiting u two!!
    BELIEVE ME; I CHERISH EVERY MINUTE I have w/ my SWEET LAB, Nestle’!!💟

    LOVE your writing!!
    Mary Ellen

    Reply
  10. Kelly - August 5, 2018 11:22 am

    Please hold a puppy and let your wife hold one too. When the time is right the perfect fur baby will come into your life. My brother had to say goodbye to his buddy, Oskar, a few weeks ago and right now he says “no dogs”. I know he is hurting but also know he and I come from dog people,so it’s only a matter of time before he finds his next best friend.

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  11. Gwen - August 5, 2018 11:31 am

    Sean, you stories are beyond touching . But PLEASE visit some shelters and watch rescue pages and help to promote saving the lives of abandoned and and homeless animals in the south . Please help up to encourage people to spay and neuter their pets .

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  12. Jill - August 5, 2018 11:52 am

    I had to let my Rascal go recently. I made my FB cover/profile a shrine. I have his ashes on my mantle. After I stood in line at Bennets Pharmacy for my own prescriptions I noticed a little red dog tricket made by Willow Tree. Resembles my Rascal, thus sits too beside the urn. Strange as it seems, some call it crazy, I talk to that urn as if Rascal were still with me, lovingly looking at me with his soft brown eyes. During this grief, I have thought of you and Ellie May, and your sweet new puppy. How healing it can be to allow maybe a puppy of my own. I have seeked out Golden Retriever mix puppies, rare to find, but harder to find one that has Rascals eyes. Guess I am not ready. So I think I may volunteer for the ‘read to shelter dogs’ day at Animal Harbor. I loved Rascal just as I would my own daughter, so yes, we are fathers, mothers, sisters to our animal family. Rascal loved me despite my own human faults. I miss the sound of his pitter patter as he followed me from room to room. I sure think I need a puppy to hold. Thank you Sean for sharing your thoughts, your stories.

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  13. AC - August 5, 2018 12:58 pm

    You can always go to the Dog Shelter and help out, it will give you a change to share your love with a lot of grateful dogs.

    Reply
  14. S Brown - August 5, 2018 1:07 pm

    I worry too much about leaving my Grace (a cat that owns my heart) if something happens to me. I understand the love inside that has to go somewhere when children aren’t an option. Keep Thelma Lou close and always give love when you’re able. It’ll come back to you a thousand times over. Love you Mr. Sean!

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  15. Debbie - August 5, 2018 1:11 pm

    You wrote what’s in my heart for my precious sweet kittys. Those I’ve had to send over the Rainbow Bridge and the two I have now. Bella Blue who’s 5 and makes me laugh every day. And Maui Girl, who turns 14 in a couple weeks and owns a piece of my heart like no other pet ever has. Just the thought of telling her goodbye shatters my heart in a million pieces. It will be unbearable, almost … until I hold a kitten. Thank you for this beautiful story, Sean.

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  16. Joy - August 5, 2018 1:54 pm

    Thank you Sean! I remember when my dog died…she was a beagle and loved to chase rabbits…and of course get ticks…she would allow no one but me to pull them off, of course I cried the whole time! I felt like I had lost my best friend when she died and in a way I did. Cause I would tell her all my troubles, and my happy times too. She would just look at me with her big soulful eyes…sometimes it looked like she was either happy or sad depending on our conversation. She understood everything ail told her, I just know she did. Every day you bring back memories of my past. Thank you…thank you…thank you!

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  17. Jeanne Butler - August 5, 2018 2:03 pm

    So sorry for the man who lost his dog. Hope he listened to you and got another puppy. And so sorry you weren’t there when Ellie passed. And glad you got Thelma. Our dogs and cats are our family. We live them just like the children to us they are. Love you Sean

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  18. Bo - August 5, 2018 2:11 pm

    Love. ❤️❤️

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  19. Terri Boykin - August 5, 2018 2:42 pm

    Bless your heart, Sean, love you much. Terri

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  20. Linda Daughtry - August 5, 2018 3:21 pm

    Not really a dog person…but you make me wanna be one!!❤️👏

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  21. Connie Havard Ryland - August 5, 2018 3:41 pm

    People who love dogs that much are special, in all the right ways. Love and hugs.

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  22. Patricia Gibson - August 5, 2018 4:39 pm

    Amen!

    Reply
  23. Rae Carson - August 5, 2018 4:56 pm

    My husband and I were beyond heartbroken when our dear Daisy was gone after a sudden illness at only 11 years of age. We shuffled around our sad empty house for nearly a week before we looked in each other’s eyes and confirmed that there was only one sure cure: the pitter-patter of playful puppy paws. Daisy will always live in our hearts and daily conversation, but the feel of little Penny in our arms soothed our broken spirits and for the past nine years has brought joy back to the household every single day.

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  24. Susan Kennedy - August 5, 2018 5:03 pm

    Puppy breath is the best therapy ever! 💕

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  25. Sue Cronkite - August 5, 2018 5:38 pm

    Perfect remedy for what ails you.

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  26. Barbara Pope - August 5, 2018 5:54 pm

    …and they called it puppy love….

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  27. Edna B. - August 5, 2018 6:16 pm

    Oh Sean, this is beautiful. I almost lost my little Pogo a few days ago. He was at the groomers and he just stopped breathing and fell over. Thank God and CPR. my little Pogo was breathing again. We rescued each other six years ago, and I just can’t stand the thought of losing him. The joy he brings me is priceless. I hope that young man finds his way to a shelter soon to hold another new little dog. Bless you Sean, and you have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  28. MMM - August 5, 2018 7:54 pm

    OH HOW THEY FIND THEIR WAY INTO OUR HEARTS…I sit right now in my yard watching 3 yr old Miss Pebbles Queen of all things bulldog! See she came to me after I had to put down my most wonderful pitbull who was a rescue and the day I met him I just knew he would be the ONLY one to get me through losing my mom…she was ill when I got him but as days went by and became years he was still right beside me needing me when moms day to go to heaven came…he stayed about a year longer…I just know it was to be sure I would be ok…the day he went to join “his nana” I whispered in his ear a favor…just one last thing…if he could see fit to help me find the pup that would NEVER take his place but have a wonderful life here with “his mom”! Do you know that we looked at 5 pitties and for one reason or another each adoption fell through! That is when I met a tiny english bulldog just 3 weeks old eyes just open she and I knew the moment I touched her that we should be together…I waited patiently (NOT) for the 5 long weeks to pass, going each week to see her, til FINALLY it was the day to bring her home…oh how I still miss my Pit Hobie…he carries a piece of my heart with him and always will….but now miss Pebbles has stolen a piece of my heart like so many dogs and cats before her….pretty sure my heart will be swiss cheese when I get to see them all again! Thanks Sean for….puppy breath and may that gentleman find himself just the right pup for heart stealing kind of love! I love you!

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  29. Pat - August 5, 2018 9:30 pm

    Sean had I been at the performance you gave the night Ellie Mae died, I would have been the old woman who made you promise to hold another puppy! My advice to all who has lost beloved pets and I do practice what I preach. When I lost my last cocker spaniel and started looking for another in 2-3 days, I could feel my grief healing and when I found her and brought her home (10 days after losing Tootsie) it was on a Good Friday, and knowing I had to name her something in honor of God’s grace…she was named, Gracie!

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  30. Pete Stribling - August 5, 2018 11:01 pm

    Lucy crossed the bridge about 4 months ago. We went and hugged a puppy today.

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    • Kathy Stribling - August 6, 2018 2:46 am

      ♥️

      Reply
  31. Kelly Joe Ray - August 5, 2018 11:20 pm

    ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN…

    Reply
  32. Shelton Armour - August 6, 2018 1:36 am

    Strange when a stranger’s story (I don’t know you Sean-I’ve only been reading you a couple of months…I like what you write, by the way) turns into your own story. I lost the best dog I’ve ever had just over a week ago to old age, bad hips, and other messy issues. He would have been 14 in Nov. That’s really old for a German Shepherd. I didn’t want him to suffer any more either. I just need to touch a puppy and tomorrow after my exam, I’m gonna. I don’t know if I’ll take one home but I’m going to see what the Humane Society has in the way of dogs. Thanks for the story and the inspiration, Sean.

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  33. Matt - August 6, 2018 1:54 am

    We just put one of our girls down today. I have another I can hold and hug and rub and kiss. So I will. I don’t know if this post came out today by kismet, divine providence or just dumb luck, but it helped. I’m going to hug my other dog and cry in my bourbon now.

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  34. Steve Winfield - August 6, 2018 4:09 am

    Oscar, (here now), couldn’t take Jack’s place if he farted 100’s. But he’s something. Tunnels under the covers every night to set my leg on fire or occasionally share a flea. 3 years now & I cry about Jack still. God lent me him for 20, a long time for a coon hound. Not long enough for a best friend. It’s taking a long time for me & Oscar. I hope we get closer than we are now.

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  35. just a man - August 6, 2018 9:17 am

    There’s nothing like the love of a dog. No matter what kind of a person you are, to them you are God. Last year I held my 13 year old Rocky Boy as the vet injected the release from his exhausting life. Rocky had a disease that robbed him of his red blood cells and he could barely walk even with extreme effort. His little pink tongue came out, his eyes closed, his chest stopped heaving and he no longer struggled for breath.
    I adopted a 12 year old dog last year from the ASPCA. I did it for me, not necessarily him, because I’m 75, I don’t want a puppy that could end up in the ASPCA as an old dog when I die.
    Maybe Tinny, my new old dog and I will approach the Rainbow Bridge together.

    Reply
  36. Trudy Innes - August 6, 2018 3:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this column on this day. It is my mother’s birthday. She’s been gone so many years (she left us before she actually passed, thanks to Alzheimer’s). Even though your words were about your Ellie, they resonated. It was terribly hard to tell my mother it was okay to leave us. And I wish I’d had a needle teeth puppy breath encounter to make it better.

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  37. Cathy Williams - August 7, 2018 11:31 pm

    Sean, Sean, it has taken me a couple of days to write this to you. I know you are a dog person but I’ve had cats all my life, the kind that I pick up and kiss in the mouth just to smell the kitty breath, not that much different from dog breath. I had to put my sweet Fluff, that’s what I called her for 16 years, down two weeks ago and I feel like I just got kicked in the heart! She was the kind of cat that would sit and wait for me to come home and just totally ignore me until I picked her fat a*# up and gave her a big ole sloppy kiss. She would settle down in the chair with me and I would feed her Fancy Feast treats and watch golf channel together. I feel your pain, nothing takes the place of something that is totally non judgmental and lives for your kisses and warmth. I too will to touch and love on a cat!

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  38. Diane - August 8, 2018 10:41 pm

    Okay I’m crying now.

    Reply
  39. Melissa Mikkelsen - October 1, 2018 10:33 am

    There is nothing like a hound dog, or really any pawbaby but don’t tell Lulu. One of my favorite rescues has a hound that got whacked by a bear when she was a baby. Angels Retreat has been searching for her a home for over a year. I am hoping her new people come soon. And American Black and Tan Coonhound rescue has a whole slew of puppies. Just in case Thelma needs a sister.

    Reply

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