Dog Day Afternoon

Currently, as I write this, a dog is sleeping on my feet. His name is Otis Campbell. He is black and white, 90 pounds, a Capricorn, and likes long walks on the beach.

Ever since my wife’s mother passed away last week, Otis has refused to leave my side.

Yes, I know he’s just an animal, and I know his brain is only about the size of a tangerine, but I’m telling you, this dog knows stuff.

I wish you could see him right now. He is half awake, half asleep, sort of standing watch over me. I’ve always wondered how dogs can remain deathly still without falling asleep.

It reminds me of a guy my father once knew. The man could sit on the front porch without moving a muscle for days. The only way you knew he was alive was by his toothpick—it moved occasionally.

I can tell that Otis senses a deep sadness in our house ever since the funeral. He might not know what’s going on exactly, but like I said, dogs just know.

Otis has witnessed every random emotional breakdown in our kitchen. He’s seen my wife weep until she has a headache. Otis can sense whenever my wife is about to completely lose it.

Before the sobbing even happens, he runs toward her and careens into her body like a 90-pound cannonball of hair and spit, willing her not to cry.

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly three years since Otis came to us from an adoption center. We found him when a local pet shelter had a meet-and-greet wherein they crammed dozens of crazed dogs into a giant cellblock, then threw a party.

The place was a circus. You couldn’t hear what any of the volunteers were saying because the collective noise was loud enough to make a grown man cry. The smell was even more impressive.

The different kennels had fanciful posters with the dogs’ names emblazoned in curly letters. Some of the puppies were even dressed in little costumes to look like lion tamers and tiny Little Bo-Peeps. The volunteers referred to these costumes as “curb appeal.”

My wife and I walked through the doors with our dog, Thelma Lou, on a leash. The deal was that we were going to let Thelma pick out her baby brother.

All three of us were immediately bombarded with 2000 square feet of non-stop, tail-wagging, butt-wiggling, soul-swiping cuteness. In a few seconds, Jamie and I had already split up and zeroed in on dogs we couldn’t live without.

My wife, the bleeding heart, selected the sickest and most health-compromised puppy in the room.

Meanwhile, I had selected a dog with a stiff case of ADHD. I temporarily named him Gomer. Although, technically, I’m not sure Gomer was a boy, since Gomer never slowed down enough for volunteers to locate what they referred to as his “pom poms.”

Still, none of these dogs turned out to be The One.

Oh, you’ll know The One the moment you first meet. There is a soul-mate-dog for every dog lover. In fact, owning a dog is a lot like being married, the only difference being that husbands don’t get treats for peeing in the backyard.

After a full day of meeting puppies, we still hadn’t found the special one. We were about to leave when, on our way out, we noticed a kennel against the rear wall.

Inside the cage was a black-and-white puppy lying with his paws beneath his chin. It was the classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” pose.

The volunteer glanced at her clipboard and said, “This puppy doesn’t have a name.”

It was as though this poor dog knew he would never be adopted. He didn’t wag his tail when we came near, he never nuzzled our hands. “Why bother?” he was probably thinking.

But when a volunteer opened the kennel door, the rest was history. Thelma Lou and her new friend ran in circles, howling playfully, crouching low, mouths slung open with wide smiles, 12-foot tongues hanging out.

The two animals played so happily they jeopardized the structural integrity of the animal shelter. And when playtime was over, my wife simply looked at the volunteer and said, “Where do we sign?”

Otis has been in our family ever since.

And a few days ago when we arrived home from burying my wife’s mother, one of the first creatures to greet us at the door was Otis.

Our two dogs sprinted straight for my wife. Instinct led them directly to her—somehow they knew she was grieving. I watched as Otis showered my wife with kisses. I saw him gleefully tackle her and wedge his body so tightly against hers that she had no choice but to love him.

And when she began to cry, I saw him clean the salty tears from her face until she started laughing. It was genuine laughter, too. In fact, it was the first smile I’d seen on my wife’s face in weeks. And it was put there by a canine. I still don’t know how he pulled off such a feat.

I’m telling you, dogs know stuff.


  1. Nell Thomas - August 26, 2021 6:36 am

    You are so right. They sure know how to comfort a weary soul. They ask no questions, give no advice- they are just there. So what if they consume the largest portion of the grocery budget.

  2. Norma Den🇿🇦 - August 26, 2021 6:41 am

    Well said Nell. Dogs know.

  3. Leigh Amiot - August 26, 2021 7:43 am

    Who doesn’t love a good dog story, but hearing of Jamie’s laughter, even if through tears, is the best news.

  4. Lucretia - August 26, 2021 8:03 am

    Sean, such a wonderful insight to life and living. I love your experiences and feelings penned. Thank you for making the flow of living richer and fuller because of your “gift”.

  5. Marilyn Ward Vance - August 26, 2021 8:58 am

    Yep, dogs know stuff. The evening I had my heart attack, my dog was sitting in my lap as we waited for 9-1-1, when I looked up, there were 3 firemen and 2 EMTs waiting for her to move so they could put me on a stretcher. She seemed to become heavier, wouldn’t move until my daughter picked her up. They know……

    • Joan Moore - August 26, 2021 9:16 am

      Thank you so much for the love story. Love and prayers for Jamie, Otis, Thelma Lou, Otis and yourself. Extra bones today.

  6. Mary Ann Ludwig - August 26, 2021 10:10 am

    Indeed, dogs do know stuff, but I had a cat that knew stuff too. He had a fancy name, but we called him T -Bone. Not a typical cat name. When my mother died and I would cry at night in my bed, T-Bone would station himself by my head and place his paws over my eyes to comfort me. He was a special animal. They seem to just know stuff.

  7. Jill Wagner - August 26, 2021 10:12 am

    I’ve always thought of dogs as angels on earth. After all, dog spelled backward is God. 😉

  8. Becky Kaufman - August 26, 2021 10:37 am


  9. Charles Vianey - August 26, 2021 10:52 am

    Our dogs are special members of our families.

  10. Paul McCutchen - August 26, 2021 11:23 am

    It is true, but if you don’t have a dog you wouldn’t understand.

  11. Ray Huckabone - August 26, 2021 11:38 am

    Our Walker Coon hound Sweet Pea will sit still on the sofa indefinitely, especially if a storm is on the way. She knows.

  12. Camilla - August 26, 2021 11:40 am

    What a story! I love Otis too!

  13. Karen - August 26, 2021 11:56 am

    They are angels in fur.

  14. scubadad - August 26, 2021 12:46 pm

    i returned from a business trip once feeling rather ill. it was the beginning of a cold. all i wanted to do was drop my suitcase and lie down. my wife kissed me hello and then kissed me good bye as she and my mother went out the door to shop. as i started to lie down on the bed, our 75lb shepherd rescue jumped on the bed and wedged in beside me for a couple of hours. something, she had never down before. they certainly do know.

  15. Bob - August 26, 2021 1:00 pm

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  16. jblackburn34 - August 26, 2021 1:03 pm

    I lost my husband to cancer and if I hadn’t had my pup I would have lost me too.

  17. Bob - August 26, 2021 1:07 pm

    I took a chance I tried to post a .jpeg of George and Gracie, our Dalmatians. It didn’t work. Thelma Lou and Otis huh? MeTV at 7 here on the Gulf Coast. I hope your Otis doesn’t stay hammered like his name sake! Talk about grief, I have buried some 13-Dalmatians over my lifetime. It’s like losing a child. I have done that as well. “Better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all.” Good boy Otis.

  18. Ellen W Shelley - August 26, 2021 1:17 pm

    Sean and Jamie,

    Yes, I know how my sweet Sam stayed alive long enough to comfort me when my Mama, Hilda, passed away a few years back. See, we have no children of our own and since we’d rescued Sam from Sam’s Club parking lot a few years before, he became our fur baby that we weren’t aware we needed. My low moments were tenderized with this little white Jack Russell full of love and energy.

    Sam just knew to curl up next to me and let me wrap my arms around him and have a good cry as he licked my tears away. What a blessing.

    Blessings to you both as the memories and fur babies help you through each day and moment that you live with your great loss. No regrets!

    Ellen from beautiful Ohio

  19. Shelton A. - August 26, 2021 1:17 pm

    Roxy does know stuff. She stops my panic attacks before they happen. Dogs know stuff.

  20. Christina - August 26, 2021 1:43 pm

    What a comfort Otis is! Sending love to Jamie!

  21. Deb Becker - August 26, 2021 1:48 pm

    Dogs know so much. I have two mixed terriers – brother and sister, named Bo and Cam. I love them both, but Cam took my heart the minute I saw her face. Bo is more reserved and was more my husband’s dog. When my husband passed away last November Cam was glued to my side and if I cried she stood in my lap with her paws on my chest and nose to nose. Poor Bo just laid in his bed grieving himself. So I tried to comfort him and she tried to comfort me…nearly 9 mo later they are both “mine” and I’ve had to adjust to having two dogs in my lap all the time. I don’t know what I would’ve done without them.

  22. Suellen - August 26, 2021 1:50 pm

    We’ve had several dachshunds over the years (and now a beagle) and each one was special in his own way but Levi was MY dog. We rescued him and his brother Eli and added them to the mix. They arrived with the rescue people around 8 pm one night and Levi right away picked me out as his human. The next morning I got up to get ready for work and the rest of the house was woken by my scream. I was laid back washing my hair with my eyes closed and Levi had jumped in the bath tub with me. From then on he was always by my side. He followed me everywhere. I slept every night with my arms wrapped around him and his head on my pillow for about 15 years until his arthritis got so bad he decided he was more comfortable at the foot of the bed. I, perhaps unkindly, always said Levi was a bulb short of a string but he was always happy no matter what. He lived his last years blind and deaf and crippled with arthritis and was still happy. When he couldn’t stand up any longer to do his business we decided it was time and the morning of his Vet’s appointment I got up early and sat in my recliner and rocked with him on my chest for about 45 minutes. He was kind of in and out of awareness but he knew I was still there. Out of all the dogs we’ve had this was the one that I will mourn forever.

  23. Kathy - August 26, 2021 2:15 pm

    Again, I am crying. But I’m on the road, and my dog is at home.

  24. Bill Harris - August 26, 2021 2:44 pm

    Thank you Sean, thank you so much! Dogs are angels in fur coats.

  25. Leia Luebke Cathey - August 26, 2021 2:58 pm

    Yes they know.

  26. Tammy S. - August 26, 2021 3:06 pm

    Precious!! Nothing like our four-leggeded family members!!! They just always know. 🐶💙💗

  27. Debbie g - August 26, 2021 3:16 pm

    Sweet sweet story. Thank you Sean Love y’all

  28. Jim Thomssen - August 26, 2021 3:16 pm

    Yes , They know stuff we don’t. Society could really learn a loT from dogs…..cats, not so much.

  29. MAM - August 26, 2021 4:01 pm

    Dogs definitely were created for us by God. Love dogs, always have. Although we are dogless now, I take every chance I get to pet a friendly dog.

  30. Sue Adams - August 26, 2021 4:02 pm

    Yes…..dogs know stuff!

  31. Lisa Marie - August 26, 2021 4:02 pm

    Dogs know and the lord knows we need dogs 🙂 I adopted my sweet Roscoe in 2018 but I was supposed to adopt him in 2017, he had been at the shelter for 60 days or so when I saw him on the shelter website. Went right down to meet him & he was pretty timid so I made arrangements to bring him home on that Friday. I went every day that week and spent time with him so he could get to know me and feel comfortable. Friday came and they called me an hour before I was supposed to come get him & told me they had adopted him out there was a mix up in communication, I was heartbroken but prayed would have a good family. Fast forward 4 months and the shelter called me to let me know Roscoe was back, someone in his new family was allergic and they couldn’t keep him, did I still want him? Of course! I brought him home that day, that dog saved my life during a very dark period soon after. And yes his name is Roscoe P. Coltrane 🙂

  32. Chasity Davis Ritter - August 26, 2021 4:10 pm

    Perfect story for National Dog day. Yes they just know don’t they?

  33. Karen - August 26, 2021 4:44 pm

    Five 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

  34. Linda Moon - August 26, 2021 4:44 pm

    My large cat sleeps on my lap and the smaller one sometimes sleeps on my head. Their names come from the Great Smoky Mountains, and they know stuff too. Those pets we call “ours” just know… but I think we’re really “theirs”…especially the felines. I’m loving on Jamie right now. And, I’d love to be laughing with her again and sharing some smiles!

  35. Marilyn - August 26, 2021 5:41 pm

    My dad passed away in March and our dog is still missing him along with the rest of us! She lays and looks at his picture, I think she wondering where the heck he is.

  36. Janie Louise Gentry - August 26, 2021 5:46 pm

    I may have told you this before, but I love most dogs better than most people. The dogs just know stuff that people never get.
    Just today I met a pit/boxer mix and when she smiled at her person, I just knew that she was a wonderful dog. If you’ve ever seen a pit/boxer smile, you know what I mean.
    The earthly being who loved me more than anyone ever has was a cocker spaniel/terrier mix names Oreo. I had him in my life for 12 years and he’s been gone now for eleven years. I still miss him and I know he was the best, smartest dog who had ever lived.
    I could tell you more stories about the dogs I’ve met and loved along the way, but you already know the kind of stories I would tell.
    God bless you and Jamie and Otis as you heal together.

  37. Bill Wish we had a dog, but we have a cat.... - August 26, 2021 6:03 pm

    Yeah, dogs do know stuff. I don’t get it , we have a cat. When my wife and I were kids, we had dogs So what happened.Not sure. All I know is cats are no way like a dog. A dog will give up most anything for you. Not a cat.

  38. Gayle Wilson - August 26, 2021 6:46 pm

    Well Sean you’ve done it again. We had to make the hard choice yesterday to put our nine year old rescue, Mocha to sleep. She fought a valiant fight with the cancer that ravaged her liver, but in the end her body wore out. I believe the reason she lived longer than three vets told us she would live was she knew we needed her. As you said, dogs know things. She even knew one time when our youngest grandson was about to have a seizure. He walked over to him, sat down and leaned ever so gently into his legs. It was like he knew that once the seizure started, he would need physical support. She loved John Wayne movies. She could be in another room and she somehow knew a John Wayne movie was on. and one last thing, I could very quietly try to take the fry pan out of the cabinet in the morning and she knew that scrambled eggs were going to be prepared! There are too many stories to tell about all the things she knew, but let me tell you, I hope that she knows how much we loved her.
    Thank you Sean for bringing us stories that make us laugh, cry, smile, and remember that there are so many good things in this world.

  39. Peggy ALEXANDER - August 26, 2021 7:44 pm

    I love my little Sally Jo Maltese miniature dog. Always wished kittens and puppies would stay “looking “ like kittens and puppies and now I have one and guess who brought it to me at the beginning of the Pandemic??? MY SON IN LAW😊😊💙BUT CATS 🐈 are smart also😊😊😊

  40. Dave Parre - August 26, 2021 9:01 pm

    Critters don’t just “sense”.it. They KNOW!

  41. Christopher Spencer - August 26, 2021 9:40 pm

    It is coming up on 1 year since my old buddy Ben went home to Heaven. And I still miss him everyday. But yiu are right. Dogs do know stuff. Most of them are a lot smarter than a lot of humans I know.

    Sean I thought you would like this. It is the Top Ten Country Songs About Dogs. It was in an email I get from a local radio station.
    Here is the link to the list and there are videos included.

    All my love and prayers for you and Jamie.

  42. Patricia Gibson - August 26, 2021 10:57 pm

    They certainly do know things and they give more unconditional love than humans are capable of❤️ I have two furry kids and I wish I could adopt but I don’t have the intestinal fortitude. I could never leave one behind. I would be a basket case. I am eternally grateful for those that can. God bless you❤️❤️

  43. Robyn - August 27, 2021 2:35 am

    Thank you Sean. I ❤️🐶

  44. Ann - August 27, 2021 6:41 pm

    Yes they do.

  45. Brenda - August 27, 2021 7:42 pm

    Yes they do !!!!!!

  46. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - August 28, 2021 12:18 am

    Don’t they though?
    Oscar & Bruce send sincerest condolences.
    Oscar will gladly bite anyone or anything that needs bitten. Zeus just wants a bite. Food, book, cell phone. He ain’t picky. Just please gimme a bite.
    In addition to coons & possums, which I feed nightly, we now have a ground hog. Maybe a woodchuck. Aubrey says it’s an otter but I doubt it. Obviously the other varmints have spread the news.
    Oscar wants to bite it. Zeus wants a bite of it.
    We love y’all Sean & Jamie. The dogs too. I bet these 4 canines could destroy a house in 13.6 minutes flat. Not that I wanna find out.
    Hugs & licks to all of you.

  47. Karen Snyder - August 28, 2021 12:30 am

    Good boy, Otis! 💙

  48. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - August 28, 2021 2:11 pm


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