There was something about the way he walked. I could tell he was a stray. Sometimes you can just tell.

I squatted and called him. “Here boy.” Then I clicked my tongue like Roy Rogers calling Trigger. “C’mon boy.”

He had pitbull in him. That was evident. I could tell by the broad face and the knife-like eyes.

Most U.S. strays are pitbulls. My friend, John, works at animal shelters. He said people buy pitbulls thinking they’ll be cool dogs to have. But they aren’t prepared for stubbornness and tenacity. A pitbull makes a mule look reasonable.

So the dog usually gets canned. Some take the dog to animal shelters. Many don’t. Many exemplary citizens just drop their dogs off on busy highways. To some people, dogs aren’t God’s creatures. To some people, dogs are just lifeless pieces of walking, defecating meat.

I have a pitbull-mix named Otis. He was found walking the streets of Defuniak Springs, Florida. He hadn’t eaten in days.

“Come here, boy.”

The old boy came trotting toward me. He was beautiful. Muscular torso. Amber eyes. His coat was smoky gray. He was sweeter than a Chilton County peach.

There was blood all over him. Someone had tried to crop his ears, but had butchered him. It looked like they’d cut him with box cutters. His ears were almost completely removed, open wounds, his ear holes were exposed. Blood was caked on his face. He was frightened.

It took a whole hour to gain his trust. When I was sure he trusted me—really trusted me—I lifted him into my truck.

He rode in my passenger seat the whole way to the shelter. I lifted him out of my truck because he was limping badly. Plus, I didn’t want him to run.

I removed my own belt, and used it as a leash. I walked into the animal shelter holding my pants up with half of my backside showing.

The ladies behind the counter gave me a funny look.

“Help this little guy,” I said.

The women behind the counter swooped onto the dog. They cooed over the animal. This, I believe, is the first requirement for working in an animal shelter. You must know how to coo over a dog.

The pitbull was in heaven. He’d never had two females gush over him at once. Come to think of it, neither have I.

The girls cleaned his wounds. They bathed him. His coat went from smoke-gray to off-white.

He was suddenly giddy with new zest. There is a certain energy to pits that I can’t describe. They have a vitality you don’t find in other dogs.

One young woman declared, “I’m going to take him home and foster him. My boyfriend is going to freak out, we already have nine dogs, but I need this dog in my life.”

She kissed the pitbull on the mouth. Then she asked if I knew his name.

“He looks like a Barney to me,” I said.

She smiled. “Barney. I like that.”

Even Barney seemed to dig the name.

Barney settled into Laura’s house nicely. He had a few disagreements with other animals, but only on Day One. After that, he was fine.

Dogs are all about pecking order. They are obsessed with rank. A dog must know where he stands, right off the bat, or his world is off balance. You have to be a dog person to understand this.

From time to time, Laura would text me pictures of Barney. And he looked so happy. His misshapen ears broke my heart. But his open-mouth smile brought warmth to my chest.

Then I got the call that Barney had heart worms. It was bad. I met Laura at her house and hung out with Barney one last time. He was cheerful. He was oblivious to the fact that he was dying. Oblivious to the fact that we humans had wounded him, then failed him.

When he saw me, he beat his tail on the floor. He licked my face. I don’t know if he remembered me or not, but I pretended that he did.

It all ended yesterday, at 9:12 a.m., Barney went to a place where I believe all dogs go. He went peacefully.

I’m not sure why I’m telling you about this animal, except that I believe every soul in this world deserves to be remembered. All creatures. Great and small.


  1. Elizabeth LeDuc - February 22, 2023 6:37 am

    Beautiful story, beautiful dog, beautiful humans.

  2. 🇿🇦Norma Den - February 22, 2023 6:44 am

    Animals cross the rainbow 🌈 bridge when they die. There’s a poem about it which you’ll probably find on Google. Hoping Barney was welcomed with great excitement & noise.

  3. Linda Hubbard - February 22, 2023 7:31 am


  4. Wanda Wilson - February 22, 2023 8:38 am

    AMEN. I am a dog lover and am grateful for every kindness shown to them. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Jo Terry - February 22, 2023 9:19 am

    And bless his heart, your sweet Barney crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. My niece and her family had taken in a stray about 4-5 months ago that kept hanging out at their church. They adopted him into their menagerie. Monday, he and their other dog, who is unbelievably calm, got into a knock down, drag out. Both were wounded, but Rufus’s wounds were mortal. The vet said that in all kindness he needed to be helped out of his pain. He, too, crossed that Rainbow Bridge. Their other dog will survive, thankfully. To cross that bridge cost $280. To fix up their original dog cost $560. For a family that struggles financially, this was devastating on sooo many levels. Their children were inconsolable. But I know in my heart that they will keep on loving animals in a way that only other animal lovers can.

  6. Carla Boucher - February 22, 2023 9:28 am

    Leaky eyes this morning, Sean. You’re a good soul.

  7. Ginga Smithfield - February 22, 2023 10:57 am

    Sean, thank you for remembering Barney, for helping him, and for loving him! ❤️ You are a good man, Charlie Brown!

  8. Jean Sherrill - February 22, 2023 11:45 am

    I agree!! thank you.

  9. Bob Covel - February 22, 2023 11:57 am

    Thank you for this. It breaks my heart and gives me hope. It makes me think of Whitman’s poem about living with animals, part of Song of Myself. Have you read Bronwen Dickey’s book about pit bulls?

  10. Debbie Bell - February 22, 2023 11:59 am

    I foster dogs and cats too – we see this too often, and the animal shelters get blamed for the euthanasia rates. Thank you for helping this sweet old fellow. P.S. I’m glad I haven’t put on my mascara yet.

  11. Kara Cote - February 22, 2023 12:25 pm

    You are a wonderful person. I lost my girl 2 years ago. She was a pitbull mix. I will miss her for the rest of my life.

  12. Julie Hall - February 22, 2023 12:26 pm

    Thank you Sean for giving Barney a beautiful remembrance!

  13. Pat Deas - February 22, 2023 12:34 pm

    Here we go again…crying before breakfast !

  14. Cindy Gallop - February 22, 2023 12:38 pm

    God gifted us with animals. He expects us to care for them…..sadly, some don’t get it! And most of the time… is the pet who cares for us! Animal lovers get this! With this story…Barney has blessed many.

  15. Sarah Frances Palmer - February 22, 2023 12:59 pm

    Love this story you’ve shared about Barney. I can’t imagine anyone mistreating Gods perfect animal.. a dog! I see pit bulls at the park when walking my dog and they are always friendly and owners say they are so sweet!

  16. woodbonnie77 - February 22, 2023 1:02 pm

    I am an animal lover myself and I have a dog on my porch right now that was so horribly abused and Danny has been with me for almost a year now. This story reminded me of his plight but he never has to worry again!!! Thank you, Sean, you are a heart-felt human.

  17. Haygood sims - February 22, 2023 1:05 pm

    Nothing like starting the day with a tear

  18. BettyK - February 22, 2023 1:08 pm

    Good for you, Sean! You blessed Barney’s last days and made them happy ones!

  19. Cheryl Yarborough - February 22, 2023 1:19 pm

    Crying cuz some humans so cruel. Happy you found Barney and he finally found some humans that loved him! ❤️

  20. Linda Lewis - February 22, 2023 1:20 pm

    This story says a lot about your good heart. You are a dog lover for sure. You are a very good person. Thank you for taking care of Barney.

  21. johnallenberry - February 22, 2023 1:33 pm

    You’re a good man, Sean. Somebody failed Barney, but it wasn’t you, and it wasn’t the ladies at the shelter. You took him in when his people rejected him, showed him kindness, got him help, and he knew love and happiness when he’d only known pain before. To quote the late great Baxter Black: What is heaven to a dog? A place to sleep, something to chase, plenty to eat… some say dogs don’t go to heaven, but you’ll be in mine.”


  22. Connie - February 22, 2023 1:42 pm

    Bless him. Thank you for finding him and getting help for him. One of my little rescues still has a bullet in his side where some idiot shot him. He had heart worms when we brought him home. Best guess he’s about 10 years old now and I can’t imagine what life would be like without him. I have no clue what breed he is-chihuahua and something. But he weighs about 15 pounds. Why would someone shoot a baby that small? He’s the most living creature I’ve ever seen. Our other rescue is a dachshund mix and she was found on the side of the road when she was small enough to fit in my hand. She’s 7 now. Not sweet. Lol. But we love her anyway.

  23. Jmas - February 22, 2023 2:15 pm

    Thanks for an uplifting message on a snowy morningl.

  24. Patricia Gibson - February 22, 2023 2:18 pm

    You made me cry😢Barney will be missed💕

  25. Julia Swaney - February 22, 2023 2:35 pm

    My lab/pit mix Lola is the sweetest dog ever. Stubborn and tenacious are good descriptors.
    She came from a shelter in Oklahoma, and I know she was meant to be with me ♥️

  26. bubbastubbs - February 22, 2023 2:51 pm

    Yes, Sean—ALL animals great and small!

  27. EHBarrow - February 22, 2023 2:58 pm

    Dear Sean. oftentimes you teach me something or make me cry. Today was both. I love animals of all kinds, well, not so much gators, but I have a fear of pit bulls. I feel sympathy for them because I know they are just dogs with the characteristics you described so well, and have a bad reputation because of the humans they have known. You have changed my mind about the fear I have. I will make myself look at them differently now, and picture them as potential Barneys. Thank you for being such a dear human and sharing yourself with all of us.

  28. David - February 22, 2023 3:02 pm

    very beautiful, very bittersweet. my sister and brother-in-law rescued a pitbull that had been used as a breedmare and had been horribly abused and starved. It was in such bad shape they didn’t even know it was a pit. That dog washed away any negative notions, we had about Pitbulls. She was sweet, intelligent, gentle, and loyal. She lived a good long life of ridiculous, comfort and spoiling. I’m sorry that Barney didn’t get the long life part is poor body must’ve been riddled with heartworms if they couldn’t save him. it’s been treatable for decades, but there is a point where they are just too far along.

  29. Mary Lou Seymour - February 22, 2023 3:09 pm

    What ?? He was euthanized because he had heartworms??? That’s insane we treat heartworms all the time half the strays have heartworm The treatment lasts 2-4 months depending on condition of dog and severity We’ve treated 14 year olds in bad shape successfully!!! we have treated over 1000 dogs and only lost 6 during treatment This sounds like it was written 20 years ago when it was a death sentence because the shelters wouldn’t treat it

    • Susie - February 22, 2023 7:04 pm

      Mary Lou, perhaps you don’t have all the facts, so you shouldn’t judge.

  30. EP Gregg - February 22, 2023 3:20 pm

    After my life of collecting strays, all I can say is “Amen”. God Bless You, Sean♥️

  31. Melanie - February 22, 2023 3:32 pm

    Sean I am so happy you shared this. Pitties are the sweetest, funniest, most loyal and wonderful dogs. But I’m partial because I have had two and will never adopt another breed. They suffer so much but can love so hard. Rest in eternal peace Barney. I hope I meet you someday at the Rainbow Bridge. Good boy.

  32. Carole Cornell - February 22, 2023 3:34 pm

    Thank you for helping this sweet creature find some love and happiness. Once again, you made me cry.

  33. Karen - February 22, 2023 3:36 pm

    I am glad Barney had some love and happiness in this short time. I believe there is a special place in hell for abusers.

  34. Stacey Wallace - February 22, 2023 3:40 pm

    Sean, God bless you for your gigantic heart and kindness to animals.

  35. David Britnell - February 22, 2023 3:41 pm

    Thank you for helping Barney!

  36. mccutchen52 - February 22, 2023 3:47 pm

    All pets are good. They need good people to take good care of them so they can live a good life.

  37. Karen Snyder - February 22, 2023 3:58 pm

    Not simply remembered, but now also memorialized.❤️

  38. Braxton usher - February 22, 2023 4:17 pm


  39. Bill in Tennessee - February 22, 2023 4:51 pm

    You’re a good man, Sean Dietrich, I don’t care what anyone else says.

  40. Madonna Rex - February 22, 2023 5:15 pm

    great post, my Pit Mix went to Heaven last June at the age of 16.5 years. all but the first 4 weeks with me 🙂 Hodge was a great friend!

  41. Linda Moon - February 22, 2023 5:24 pm

    I know why you’re telling us about this animal, Sean. I had a Barney who went to that place and a deaf dog, Pyper, who also went there. Pyper learned ASL, and our family was able to communicate with him using that language. I’m happily remembering my two wonderful and special dogs because of you, Sean. So that’s why…for me and all of us who’ve loved our pets!

  42. Penny - February 22, 2023 5:36 pm

    We just lost our dear dog two weeks ago…he is remembered fondly and dearly missed. Their affection is like none other. Barney is missed too by his humans, and dearly missed.

  43. Karla Meier - February 22, 2023 5:57 pm

    All dogs go to Heaven because dog spelled backwards is God!!

  44. Carolyn Shomaker - February 22, 2023 6:11 pm

    Hey Sean! This hurt my heart. I tried to read it to my husband but I couldn’t stop crying long enough. Bless you for what you did. I, too, have a pit bull named Max. He spent the first two years of his life chained outside with his only shelter a crawlspace under a shed. A local rescue group got him and we fostered him, so you know we ended up adopting. He never learned to play but he has plenty of love to share. Max got along famously with our black Lab Jack, but we lost Jack last June and I know Max misses his buddy. Sometimes I want to get another dog so he’ll have a friend but I worry about the “what-ifs”. Pit bulls can be super protective, you know. Maybe he needs a girlfriend? Am I getting too old to take on another dog? I even thought of taking a job at the animal shelter to help them out, but part of the job is assisting with euthanasia and I just can’t. There are just so many Barneys and Otises and Marigolds in this world…I will love as many and as much as I can. Thank you again – one ginger to another.

  45. Pay - February 22, 2023 6:22 pm

    Thanks for stopping to help Barney!
    It is so good that he got some loving in his life. Bless all the workers at dog shelters. They are angels too😊

  46. Harriett - February 22, 2023 6:52 pm

    Sean, I love your soul!

  47. sjhl7 - February 22, 2023 7:21 pm

    Amen and amen! God made us one and all!

  48. Judy Kunkel - February 22, 2023 7:30 pm

    You have the very Best heart!

  49. Carol - February 22, 2023 8:11 pm

    You and Barney have made me love Pitbulls! Thank You

  50. Peggy M. Windham - February 22, 2023 10:11 pm

    God bless you for rescuing Barney so his last days were filled with love! 🙏💜🐾

  51. LIN ARNOLD - February 22, 2023 10:36 pm

    OK, so this one made me cry ….. again. Our sweet Roxie’s birthday is just 2 weeks away. It’s her 16th birthday. We got her from a young couple 15 years ago when she was 11 months old. They were loving people, but just not prepared for all the “stuff” a young Siberian Husky will find to get into. Roxie was diagnosed with bone cancer 2 weeks ago. Barney beat Roxie by about 90 minutes getting to the Pearly Gates. I know that the 2 Huskies (sisters, same litter) that we had when we got Roxie were waiting on her there. And I betcha they adopted Barney, too. They’re having a grand ol’ time, I’m sure.

  52. Kathy - February 22, 2023 10:48 pm

    Barney deserved better.

  53. G.Van Nostrand - February 23, 2023 1:14 am

    Amen and amen.

  54. Te - February 23, 2023 1:48 am

    You’ve said it before. We don’t deserve dogs. If we can only live up to what our dogs think of us, we would transform humanity. I’m glad Barney had that much time, that much love, that much cherishing. See you on the other side, boy.

  55. Chasity Davis Ritter - February 23, 2023 2:25 am

    Yes they do all deserve to be remembered. I cry over animals I see hit in the road and pray for their little souls. I believe in heaven there are comfy blankets and couches and pillow to sit on and fields of flowers to romp in or to lay and enjoy the sunshine. And only pays in the head and good boy and good girl said no harsh words only hugs and pets and scritches That’s what I think heaven will be like

  56. Sheldon C Reimer - February 23, 2023 7:11 am

    Our dog is named Barney.

  57. Caroline - February 23, 2023 9:08 pm

    I, too, cried tears when reading this story, but my tears are due to a different reason. I’m crying for my oldest sister who was viciously killed by two pitt bulls. She was in surgery for 6 hours and then airlifted to a larger hospital where she was pronounced brain dead. There really are two sides to most stories. This is the other side when one is talking about pitt bulls. I am missing my sister every single day. A part of me died with her.

  58. Carol Gentemann - February 24, 2023 4:05 am

    I can barely see to write this through my tears…a sad,beautiful story. I’m on my third pit bull and I know exactly how Barney felt…they are such joyous animals and he appreciated so much having your kindness and compassion, if only for a short time. And he was loved until the end. God bless you for giving him that chance…he so deserved it.

  59. Sandy - February 24, 2023 5:56 pm

    Sean, what a sad and beautiful story. Atleast Barney met some good people because of you. You’re a good person Charlie Brown.

  60. lesliehanson411hotmailcom - February 27, 2023 2:22 am

    This column really pulled at my heartstrings as we have 2 rescues = one is 100% Pit and the other is part Pit – love them to distraction! They are amazing and so very smart! But they sure do put mules to shame!

  61. Crystal Pariseau - March 1, 2023 7:09 pm

    Wahhh… tears are flowing down my cheeks. I don’t know how people can’t understand that dogs love unconditionally. You write so beautifully… you make me laugh, sigh, tear up and cry. How one person can bring out every human emotion I will never know.
    Thank you for sharing our human condition. Thank you for sharing your life, your wife and your homespun wisdom.


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