Picking Up Strays

I was going to write about dogs today because I love to write about dogs. I was doing it for an elderly woman named Mona who passed away a few years ago from pneumonia.

She was a cool lady. And a dog fanatic. She always used to say, “One day, when we all get to Heaven, we’re gonna be surprised at how many dogs are running around.”

When Mona’s kids inherited her house, they started leaving the back porch light on. It glowed all hours of the day. I asked why.

They said, “Mom always kept the light on in case any stray dogs needed a place to sleep at night.”

So when I sat down this morning to start writing this, I was going to tell you about a man in Northern California who rescued a stray dog during the coronavirus pandemic. All he did was put food on the porch and a dog showed up.

And you know how dogs are. Word spread on the canine Western Union telegraph. The next day he had three more strays. A few days later he had six more. Today, 12 strays all live on his farm. Somehow he feeds them all and has not filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Mona would have liked that story. But I never really got around writing about that guy because I got sidetracked doing research. Which happens a lot to us mediocre writers. We don’t have the skill nor the experience to avoid being sidetracked.

Don’t get me wrong, being mediocre isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s a lot of fun once you get into the spirit of it. One of the great things about not being a “great” is that you’re allowed to stink sometimes. And it’s totally okay because, hey, you’ve already set the bar pretty low.

It’s sort of like when a 4-year-old paints your portrait. You don’t expect perfection from him. The best you can hope for is that he doesn’t have an accident in his pants before he finishes drawing your Furry Eyebrows of Death.

On the other hand, if you commission an oil portrait from an art college graduate, and your painting ends up looks like a mug shot for Uncle Fester, you’ll be disappointed.

See what I mean about getting sidetracked?

I can’t even remember what I was talking about now.

Anyway, my research for the story about stray dogs led me to a story about a middle-aged woman who was adopted as a baby. For most of her adult life, she had no interest in finding her biological mother, but when she hit 50 years old, she decided to locate the woman.

She tracked down her birth mother and found her living in a rundown Texas RV park.

The mother told her daughter that when she’d given birth, she’d been homeless. She wanted her baby to grow up without hunger, so she gave her up for adoption.

The daughter eventually brought her elderly mother home to live with her. She cared for her until she passed and said it was the greatest privilege of her life.

So there I was, crying all over the place because there is so much about life makes me cry sometimes. Which led me to start researching items on my bucket list.

Do you know what’s on the top of my bucket list? Well, if you’re still reading this and you haven’t started having boredom-induced seizures on the floor, I will tell you. My top bucket-list item is baseball parks.

There are 30 Major League parks in the U.S., and I want to visit them all before I take up the harp. I can’t think of a better way to see the splendor of America. Fenway Park, for instance, is the oldest Major League field in the U.S. The old Boston field first opened its gates in 1912. I want to see that.

I once met a guy who visited all the parks in one year. He had been diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, doctors said it would kill him. So he and his wife decided to buy a motorhome and see American baseball at its finest before he died.

After spending an entire summer on the road, his illness had disappeared. The doctors cannot explain it.

I just love stories like that. Maybe I like them because sometimes I find myself wondering what it’s all about. I don’t want to get philosophical here, but I think “it” is a lot bigger than we think it is. What do I mean by “it?” I don’t know. Life, maybe.

Whatever you want to call it, I think some folks try to measure life the wrong way. Some measure life in years, others use dollars. But what if we are looking at it wrong?

After all, you have to have the right tool to measure something before you know how great it is. You wouldn’t want to measure Pikes Peak using teaspoons. And you can’t clock a cheetah with a bathroom scale.

What if the best tool anyone could ever use to measure their own life with is a heart? And what if that warm squishy feeling you get in your heart after you’ve done something truly good is what “it” is all about?

I don’t know. But whatever you do, don’t listen to me. I’m so sidetracked right now that I can’t even remember my own name. Either way, the one thing I’m certain about is this:

We’re going to be surprised when we get to Heaven and see all those dogs running around.

Leave a light on for me, Mona.


  1. Karen Greatrix - April 28, 2020 6:42 am

    I’m not a pet person but I like your pet stories.

  2. Lita - April 28, 2020 8:22 am

    Sharing stories like these with the world is a daily gift. Thanks, Sean.

  3. peggyhayesauthor - April 28, 2020 9:45 am

    I think you just found the meaning of life.

  4. Cathi Russell - April 28, 2020 10:23 am

    Sean, you just need more cowbell.

  5. marthabarnett2015 - April 28, 2020 11:11 am

    Thank you for the encouragement about getting sidetracked. My middle name should be sidetracked. I don’t think it means I am a great writer, maybe I am just great. I love your stream-of-consciousness thinking/writing. Sometimes when my husband and I are out for a long walk, I will suddenly realize that I have talked non stop for 45 minutes from one topic to another…now my husband, he is really great. By the way, I can hardly put your book down to get to work doing other stuff! Thank you.

  6. Betty Nix - April 28, 2020 11:13 am

    This is a good one Sean. Rambling keeps things interesting and leads us in other wonderful directions. I thank you for that. The highlight of the day these days is watching how busy the birds are feeding their young and the occasional deer family walking through our yard to go home. What a privilege and how lucky are we have have all we need and be safe. We just all need a hug. Thanks for hanging in there with us and finding the good and humorous ❤️

  7. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - April 28, 2020 11:45 am

    If I get to heaven, I won’t be surprised about how many dogs are running around there. I’ll be surprised if they don’t outnumber the human beings there. Mona, you GO girl!

  8. Heidi Gilbert - April 28, 2020 11:46 am

    Perfectly imperfect! Your stories, sidetracking and all, bring joy to those hearts that they are meant to reach. My big squishy heart thanks you for speaking the simplicity of what life is truly all about. Much love and gratitude for your presence Sean ♡

  9. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - April 28, 2020 11:48 am

    If I get to Heaven (doubtful at best), I won’t be surprised at the number of dogs running around there. I’ll be surprised if they don’t vastly outnumber the human beings. Mona, you GO girl!

  10. topdock - April 28, 2020 11:50 am

    Home run Sean! Maybe life is measured by how much time you spend thinking about others rather than yourself. Maybe life is measured in how much time you spend sacrificing your own time to helping others.

  11. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - April 28, 2020 11:50 am

    If I get to heaven (questionable), I won’t be surprised at the number of dogs running around. I would be surprised if they don’t vastly outnumber the human beings. Mona, you Go girl!

  12. leeboyz86 - April 28, 2020 12:00 pm

    If I get to Heaven (doubtful), I won’t be surprised to see how many dogs are running around. I would be surprised if they don’t vastly out number the human beings. Mona, you Go girl!

  13. Jean - April 28, 2020 12:00 pm

    Sean I hope you are right about the dogs in heaven. Sure would love to see some of mine. So you are bit distracted today? I can’t even keep up with what day it is!

  14. Jan - April 28, 2020 12:32 pm

    Love this column, Sean. It is just like my mind – distracted, running here, there and yon … It makes me feel right at home which is one of the great things about your writing. It just feels like home to me! Thank you!

  15. Terri - April 28, 2020 12:59 pm

    I’m not going to be surprised at the dogs, I’m counting on it Sean. Love you much.

  16. Betty Viertel - April 28, 2020 1:09 pm

    I work for a small community newspaper and part of my job is typesetting opinion columns. We had several local people who wrote about local happenings, local history, whatever. I have great respect for someone who can write a column every day and entertain and inform us. It is no easy thing.

  17. Amanda - April 28, 2020 1:16 pm

    Cathi Russell needs to be your opening act.

  18. MermaidGrammy - April 28, 2020 1:22 pm

    Research this: Adoption! Think what you could have given a scared little kid during this COVID19 unknown. You cannot imagine what a blessing it is for you and Jamie. And what you give him/her/them is unmeasurable

  19. Sharon Brock - April 28, 2020 1:27 pm

    There is always a light on at my residence. I am a Granny and when very young, my grandteens were “nervous” of the dark. So I left a light turned on for them. My grandson asked me once why I left the light on, his sister replied from a back bedroom “because she loves us and wants us to know.” Could not have said it better myself.

  20. Cindy Bryan - April 28, 2020 1:47 pm


  21. Margaret Angell - April 28, 2020 2:01 pm

    You will love Fenway Park, Sean! My husband is from greater Boston and he took me to my first professional baseball game there. He is an avid Braves fan, just like you. Start working on that bucket list, sooner rather than later! Stay safe… Tell Jamie and the babies we said hello!! ❤️

  22. Tom Bowen - April 28, 2020 2:44 pm

    Hi Sean, I enjoy your email every morning.. I am always up early and you hit my mailbox long before anyone else gets up. Usually right after I finish my devotional time. I often read “you” to my Wife Martha.. Every time she says “I don’t know how he does it every day.” Me nether.
    Anyhow, thanks and stay in Touch.. Tom Bowen, Atlanta

  23. Jerilyn Blom - April 28, 2020 2:51 pm

    Sean, my hubby could identify with today’s post. He and our daughter spent several years going on Baseball Tours, visiting several ballparks per trip, traveling on a tour bus. They loved it, they loved Fenway, been there 3 times. Hubby has 3-4 parks to go, and daughter has 1-2. Thank you for your inspiring blogs!

  24. Cheryl - April 28, 2020 2:59 pm

    If you and John Prine could have gotten together I wonder what the amazing outcome would be. To steal a bit from Dylan’s quote on Prine, I think your writing is also “pure Proustian existentialism. ‘Southern’ mind trips to the nth degree.” And if your writing reflects your heart, a beautiful person indeed.

  25. Ala Red Clay Girl - April 28, 2020 4:25 pm

    I sure hope Heaven is filled with all the dogs (cats, chickens, etc.) that I’ve own in my lifetime. When I was at Fenway many years ago, the Red Sox were playing the Rangers (at the time owned in part by the younger Bush). President Bush & wife Barbara were at the game as well. They were only specks from where I was sitting, and I can’t remember who won the game, but still it was an overall memorable experience.

  26. Brenda - April 28, 2020 5:02 pm

    Nice to let one’s mine just kind of ramble about life! Enjoyed the sidetrips 😁

  27. Linda Moon - April 28, 2020 5:40 pm

    My Heaven will be full of cats and a few elect dogs. I’m glad that baseball parks are at the top of your Heaven-Bound bucket list. My list would include one more trip with my grandsons to Pike’s Peak. One’s a gingerhead like you, and the other one identifies with your self-proclaimed mediocrity. His favorite movie he watches with his Pops is “Amadeus”. But neither him, nor you, or even Antonio Salieri should be so self-deprecating! So, I’m your “Alfie”: IT is about LIFE; it IS life. I measure it the right way when I read your words, Sean. And I’ll be the one holding lots of cats on my lap when we all get to Heaven!

  28. Patricia Gibson - April 28, 2020 5:50 pm

    Love it as always❤️

  29. Denise DeVries - April 28, 2020 8:22 pm

    Love it, butplease don’t forget ourcats.

  30. Becky Souders - April 28, 2020 9:07 pm

    Measuring life by heart? I love reading your words, Sean, and the paths they send me down. And I hope you make it to a few of those MLB parks this year!

  31. Ann - April 28, 2020 9:22 pm

    Oh m’gosh…..my mind jumps all over , these days, just like your column today….BUT I can’t write!
    It’s nice to know I’m not alone!😉…I feel so reassured!

  32. Berryman Mary M - April 28, 2020 9:53 pm

    Love this, Sean! My goal is to visit as many National Parks as I can! And I don’t want to just drive through them in a car, either! I want to get all down in them and see the beauty of nature and all of the animals and hike in places that take your breath away! Between 2018 and 2019 i checked 5 off my list and it was truly an incredible experience! Thanks for setting a goal. A good thing to ponder these days is what we will do when we are finally “free:!

  33. Robert M Brenner - April 29, 2020 2:37 pm

    Don’t cut yourself short! I think you are a very good writer, each day I start by reading what you’ve written for that day. My first dog 73 years ago was Tippy, can’t wait to see him again. Bob

    P.S. When you get to Heaven watch out for a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named BRENNER, not a saint but an awesome dog 🐕!

  34. Anne Swinson Godwin - April 30, 2020 4:31 pm

    “See what I mean about getting sidetracked?” That’s the story of my life – daily! Thank you for sharing your view of life. Thanks for sharing all the wonderful people that you meet. P.S. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack, I hope you make it. It’s going to be glorious – full of cats and dogs!

  35. Kathy Daum - May 1, 2020 1:08 am

    I think this was a good one. And not just because I could follow your thinking.

  36. Melissa Elaine Mikkelsen - June 6, 2020 6:46 pm

    I have a fully fleshed out idea of where animals go to when they die. We have all heard of rainbow bridge but I have it imagined all the way to the ground. The massive oaks, the pebbles in the babbling brook, the puppies playing in the water and the cats climbing the trees. The tall reeds by the curve and grasses behind it where the might be a pony or a turtle hiding. The only ticket there is the love of one person. If I see a poor baby in the road I say a little prayer that if they didnt have the love to get there maybe God could use mine for them a ticket. One day when I die I dont want to go to heaven. I think I want to go to a little hut covered in moss and ivy there behind the oaks on the edge of the field of grass. I will wait with them and scratch any itchies and play in the brook with the puppies. God bless those that turn on the porch light. Every thing deserves to be loved.

  37. Sam Ser - June 6, 2020 8:09 pm

    The light is on for at Motel Six. Harp and pooches are waiting for you to check in.

  38. Becky voyles - June 7, 2020 1:15 am

    Sean, I love your writing. Today I shared it with my English/American friend Irene. She was having trouble reading with her new glasses so she asked me to read it to her. Because I hear what I think is your voice and I like to read aloud funny stories like this, I knew I could do it. You would have been proud. It had her laughing, hard. I tagged her in the post and told her to follow you so she could get your posts like I do. Of course I can always tag her again and again. I just had to share this with you.


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