Remembering Ellie

So, I called the dentist to cancel. “Cancel?” the lady on the phone asked. "Is everything okay?"

I wrote this for Ellie Mae last year. I hope she can read it. I miss you, Ellie. 


I’m parked near the bay, eating salted peanuts, watching a hound dog swim.

I shouldn’t be here. I’m an adult. I have a busy schedule to maintain. I have errands, a grocery list, a dentist appointment this afternoon. I also have a coonhound who likes water.

So, I called the dentist to cancel. “Cancel?” the lady on the phone asked. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes ma’am, it’s just that my dog wanted to go swimming.”

No answer.

Yeah, I know I’m batty. But Ellie Mae lives for this bay, and it’s been a while since I took her swimming. Which isn’t fair. God gave her webbed paws the size of basketballs. Swimming is her birthright.

Today, when she saw the bay water through my truck windows, she howled until I stopped the truck.

I’m a softy.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy this. The fact is, folks from my side of the tracks have entertained themselves by watching bird-dogs since the earth cooled. All my best friends have had fleas.

When she crawls out of the water, she shakes. I toss the duck again.

She lights out after it.

I like wet dogs. I keep beach towels in my truck for such occasions. And treats. And leashes.

We’re joined at the hip. It’s no exaggeration to say she likes to keep me within sniffing distance.

Once, while I was repairing our roof, Ellie Mae attempted to crawl the ladder behind me. She got stuck. It took an hour to get her down.

Another story: once, I found Ellie chewing something in our driveway. In her paws was an open packet of Beech-Nut tobacco.

I hollered at her.

She paid me no mind.

I let her alone. Because the first rule of dog ownership: never touch a hound while she’s chewing tobacco.

She’s part of my life. In evenings, when I pull in our driveway to see a floppy-eared silhouette at the window, I feel good. And when she lets out a low-pitched howl that originates in her belly, she feels good.

Anyway, I don’t know why I’m telling you about this animal.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have any wallet-sized photos of a kid who looks me, holding a fishing rod. There are no Little League uniforms in my dryer, no grade-cards on my refrigerator, no reason to wake early on Christmas.

The guest bedroom my wife and I once promised we’d paint pink or blue is used for storage.

So it’s Ellie Mae.

She gives affection when I’m not in the mood—which is when I need it most. She sleeps beside me, she eats what I eat, lays by my feet. When I’m away, her world is Purgatory. When I’m home, there is reason to howl.

Dentists can wait.

I’m playing fetch with my daughter.


  1. Pamela McEachern - April 25, 2018 6:02 am

    This is how you always wrote about her, words driven by love, your’s and her’s. Only she used loving belly howls. The Best. This is the way I will remember your girl, happy to be her Daddy’s Girl. All your loyal fans have put a significant amout of love around you and Jamie, that’s one big hug to just rest in this time of honoring such a true love. We love you Sean and I for one will be happy to read any story you feel like telling us about your girl Ellie Mae.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    • Janet Mary Lee - April 25, 2018 6:45 am

      I could not say anything better than what Pamela said above. And that is what is in my heart, too. We love you and Jamie. We will never forget Ellie either. Look for her message in the time ahead. ((big hug))…

      My favorite posts you have written I have pinned in my email. Funny, the majority is about Sweet Ellie Mae.

  2. Lynda from Alaska - April 25, 2018 6:15 am

    Well written, Sean. I am so sorry for the loss of your best buddy. I know it hurts. I wish you only the very best in transitioning.

  3. Vickie Roberts - April 25, 2018 6:24 am

    Sean, Sending love, hugs and prayers. So sad for you over the loss of Ellie Mae. Love all of your stories about her. We all love our dogs. They are family. God Bless Jamie and you. Vickie Roberts, Abbeville, AL

  4. Chris Longcrier - April 25, 2018 6:50 am

    I won’t forget her even though I didn’t get to meet her. I’ll remember her along with all my pets who have gone before.
    Chris L.

  5. Beth Reed - April 25, 2018 7:03 am

    Ellie Mae is going to always be your little girl, your daughter. A friend advised me not so long ago that writing about our pets is therapeutic. I agree. Ready your stories of Ellie Mae is also therapeutic. I will always enjoy reading the adventures that is meaningful to you and Jamie.
    Our lives are lonely without the Ellie Mae’s of the world. Right now your pain is fresh. Mine is as well for Ellie Mae and for my Cisco.
    Today I was looking through my photos on Google and so many of my Cisco. I was so afraid that I would start to cry, instead I started laughing because it was a photo that brought a fun and loving memory.
    It hasn’t even been a month yet since he crossed the rainbow bridge so I am still raw around the edges.
    Keep writing of Ellie Mae. And I agree with Pamela and Janet Mary Lee… Lots of hugs and love coming your way. Xx Beth

  6. Beverly h - April 25, 2018 7:06 am

    I’m so sorry. There’s no pain like losing your best girl.

  7. Marilyn Vance - April 25, 2018 8:45 am

    I hope you will get another little girl to fill your days. After i lost my Dollie, then my husband, my days were too long, the house too quiet….a friend gave me Pooh and she fills my life with joy. I know no pet will replace your beloved Ellie May but there is too much love needed that you and Jamie have to give to let her be the last!

  8. Joan Lang - April 25, 2018 9:41 am

    Thank you for opening your heart to us so much that now we know you, and knew Ellie Mae, and grieve with you for her. Loving a dog is a gift that you’ve shared with us. Wishing you comfort.

  9. Sherry - April 25, 2018 10:47 am

    When anyone asks about my children i always said my children are four legged. I think yours was too. I.know she is swimming with lots of brothers and sisters. Hold on to those good memories.

  10. LeAnne Martin - April 25, 2018 10:53 am

    Sean, this was one of your first posts that I read after I found you. I could tell right away that we’d be friends. Thinking of you today.

  11. Penn Wells - April 25, 2018 10:56 am

    I know it’s too early to talk about this, but I see a puppy in your & Jamie’s future. And the animal rescue shelter, i.e., the pound, will be lighter, and the world, better, for it. And Ellie Mae will be smiling with approval.

  12. Jill - April 25, 2018 11:12 am

    Much of the time, I feel (between us here) that my dogs are better than a actual human child. So, yes. Ellie May is your daughter. I would bet she is swimming right now up there chasing a toy duck. Sweet tobacco chewing Ellie May.

  13. Deborah - April 25, 2018 11:12 am

    Dear Sean, I know the heartbreak of losing a dog. I am so sorry. Dogs give us the best times of our lives and the absolute worst times of our lives. Their only fault is they don’t live longer. God bless you and Ellie Mae ❤️Dog Mom of 5

  14. Lisa Yates - April 25, 2018 11:13 am

    Dear Sean, I read your posts every day and they always make me see that the grass is greener where you water it. I have especially been touched this week by the posts about Ellie Mae. I love my dog too and I’ll be one pitiful person when she crosses rainbow bridge. Anyway, thank you for sharing your heart. It’s nice to know that there are still genuine people in this world.
    Lisa Yates of Atlanta, GA (But originally from Mobile, AL)

  15. Lin - April 25, 2018 11:26 am

    I lost my houndish Kinky Friedman earlier this year, and though I have other dogs, dogs that I love, I still feel his loss in a keen way. Keep telling Ellie Mae stories – it helps me smile about the Kinkster.

  16. Kathy G. - April 25, 2018 11:34 am


  17. Beth Callahan - April 25, 2018 11:54 am

    I grieve with you. There will only be one Ellie Mae. You know grief. It sneaks up on you when you aren’t looking and puts a choke hold on your heart. Tears come busting out your eyes and there’s no stopping the pain. The wound doesn’t heal, but after a loooong time we don’t pick it open as much as we did because we know those floodgates are just waiting to come apart. Your daughter loves you from afar now. That place we all hate, but somehow someone we love always ends up there, afar. Yep, I grieve with you. Sending more hugs from MS.

  18. Perri Williamson - April 25, 2018 11:55 am

    Oh…she knows. She could read that on your heart before you ever put it on paper.

  19. Donna - April 25, 2018 12:10 pm

    Such wonderful memories of Ellie Mae. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  20. Ellen Shelley - April 25, 2018 12:29 pm

    Another great, wonderful memory shared to honor a great one. I feel your pain. Praying for you. My heart breaks for you.

  21. Frannie - April 25, 2018 12:30 pm

    Thank you, and I am sorry for your loss!

  22. Sherry Holland - April 25, 2018 12:43 pm

    My heart broke when I read about Ellie Mae leaving way too soon. My coonhound Percy left me two years ago when he got lymphoma at only four years of age. I still cry and miss him so much. We ache with you.

  23. Judy - April 25, 2018 1:12 pm


  24. Marty from Alabama - April 25, 2018 1:13 pm

    Spoken like a real skin daddy about his fur daughter. Peace and comfort in this trying time.

    • Bobby Hamil - April 25, 2018 1:27 pm

      Rest in peace Ellie Mae Dietrich–
      For those who are fans of the writings of Sean of the South but don’t read his columns every day, he posted a touching eulogy today on his website as a tribute to his long time canine companion Ellie Mae, who passed yesterday. Read it at your own risk, but be sure to have a box of tissues nearby.

      We pet owners love our pets as we do our family members. Correction, they are members of our family. Every morning when I wake to go to the gym, I slide out of my sliver of the bed allowed me by our two little sweethearts Missy and Lily.
      I do so as quietly as possible so as not to wake them, as there is credence to the saying “let sleeping dogs lie”, especially at 5 AM. I just look over at them resting so peacefully between their mom and dad, and say a little prayer to God for giving us such sweet little companions.
      We feel your pain Sean.

  25. sunbaby24 - April 25, 2018 1:19 pm

    You were a good daddy to her. So glad you found each other. Praying for you guys.

  26. Jakki - April 25, 2018 1:38 pm

    I cried for Ellie Mae and you yesterday- please keep sharing these priceless memories! When the time is right for you, please consider sharing all that love you still have in you to give, with a rescue dog. Ellie Mae would approve of you paying it forward.

  27. Lisa Snuggs - April 25, 2018 1:38 pm

    My only children have fur. The youngest is a five-month-old Black-mouth cur/Plott hound mix named Sadie Mae. She thinks we hung the moon and we let her. Ellie would approve. Praying you get to a peaceful place with your loss. Remember, it’s not goodbye. You will meet again.

  28. Edna B. - April 25, 2018 1:46 pm

    Sean, I love your stories about Ellie May. Six years ago, my beautiful little Tootsie made the journey to Rainbow Bridge. I was heartbroken. She had given me so much love and joy. About a month later, a rescue shelter called to ask if I wanted to take in a special little guy who desperately needed a new home. He was six years old, weighed three pounds and scared of everything and everyone. I just know my Tootsie sent him to me. In three days, he will be twelve years old. I’ve fattened him up a bit. Now he weighs five pounds. I can’t imagine waking up one morning and him not being here. Dwell on all those wonderful memories that you and Ellie May made together. Maybe someday soon the shelter will be calling you too. God bless you, hugs, Edna B.

  29. Frank Armstrong - April 25, 2018 1:56 pm

    I know your pain all too well hoss. My prayers are with you, and with your dear friend. I do believe you’ll see her again. God bless!

  30. Catherine - April 25, 2018 1:59 pm

    Sean, your faithful readers share in the grief of the loss of your most beloved Ellie Mae. We were blessed to know and love her through you. What a gift you were to each other. RIP beautiful girl.

  31. Pat - April 25, 2018 1:59 pm

    My heart still hurts for you, but please know that Ellie Mae will be sitting beside St. Peter at the Pearly Gates to greet you! Meantime I totally agree with those who encourage you to let another fur baby adopt you! You have too much love for animals to let it go to waste! I wrote yesterday about my experience and now my daughter’s experience. She and my granddaughter (grown at the time) had to make the decision to let their baby cross the bridge and of course they were devastated. I encouraged them to get another but of course they didn’t want to hear that so soon. But before long they finally decided to do that very thing, and didn’t get just one but also a sibling. When they asked when the babies were born…who woulda thunk it…the same day their former baby crossed the bridge! It’s a God thang!

  32. Connie - April 25, 2018 2:08 pm

    I know your heart is broken. I’m so, so, sorry. Beautiful tribute to your best friend (excluding Jamie.)

  33. Jamie - April 25, 2018 2:21 pm

    One quote which has made such an impact upon my life is from the book “Let Us Build Us a City. Eleven Lost Towns” by Donald Harington. In this book Susie is described as: “very lonely, still grieving daily for her dead spouse, and somewhat bewildered that her body and mind are beginning to fail her.” Susie ends her interview with the following sentence, “I want to believe that years later on you’ll still think of me.”
    In the grand scheme of things that is pretty much the best we can hope for, to be remembered.
    Ellie Mae’s life with you was followed by many… she will always be remembered as will you and Jamie.

  34. Toots Rogers - April 25, 2018 2:47 pm

    Aren’t you glad you cancelled that dentist appointment?! It was another memory made with your sweet Ellie Mae. Thinking of you and Jamie as you mourn the loss of Ellie Mae.

  35. Brenda - April 25, 2018 3:10 pm

    Again, like yesterday, I don’t have any words that will heal this pain. It is unbearable and those of us who read and treasure your writings hope that you continue to write about sweet Ellie Mae. Your fans will always love hearing about your fur daughter. And again remember that someday you will see those floppy ears flapping in the wind as she runs pain free to greet you at the Rainbow Bridge. And Sean, keep watching for that sign, whether it is the smell of peanut butter or chewing tobacco. Please know that you and Jamie are in our thoughts and prayers and we send our love in hopes that it will be of some comfort to you. Brenda

  36. Jessi C. - April 25, 2018 3:11 pm

    Thinking of you and Jamie often as you walk through your grief. Best wishes, comfort and love

  37. Pat Irvin - April 25, 2018 3:15 pm

    It’s been 20 years since I lost our wonderful girl cat, Jen… she was 22 years old. Isn’t that remarkable? When I think about that awful day, I still cry, but I also have all those loving memories. Don’t hurry on finding another love… it takes a little healing time to be able to see a new friend for themselves and not as, “Well, she’s certainly not like Jen.”

  38. Josephine Humbert - April 25, 2018 3:38 pm

    Much love to you these sad days. Nothing can compare to the love of a hound.

  39. sam smith - April 25, 2018 3:52 pm

    I understand and empathize, Sean. They stay in our hearts forever, and despite our grief, that’s ever so much better than not having enjoyed them at all.

  40. Connie - April 25, 2018 4:10 pm

    My heart hurts for you. Sending hugs.

  41. Crystal - April 25, 2018 4:29 pm

    I have thought about Ellie Mae ever since reading about her passing yesterday. I even told my husband last night that “Sean’s Dietrich’s dog, Ellie Mae, passed away.” He was like, “Who? What?” LOL. That’s how much your writing and stories have come to mean to me; I talk about you like you’re my friend. Sending hugs and prayers to LA.

  42. muthahun - April 25, 2018 4:48 pm

    Sean, when Tara The First died of old age, it took months before I could even bear to think of opening myself up to another dog. But then an old friend came back to town with a “Bagel” (Beagle/Bassett cross… think “brown and white watermelon on legs”). Heidi was way too vocal to live in-town with with Nancy Jean, so we were sucked into the old, “it’ll just be for a couple weeks!” scenario. Years later, we lost Heidi to cancer after $3K of chemo… I wouldn’t do that as long again, but at the time, we just couldn’t face losing her. Erin, a beagle/lab cross, came next; adopted from a local shelter after 2 months in lock-up ’cause they thought she was pregnant. She wasn’t… just gaining weight she’d lost when she was on her own and starving. Years later, she died in my arms at the vet’s office after ingesting God knows what from the supposedly dog-proofed garbage. Tara Two followed, adopted as a puppy from the same shelter. We lost her in less than 2 years; coughing blood, lots of tests, surgery to remove a lobe of her lung… but there were massive adhesions, and freeing those up precipitated a “clotting event”. We got the word that she’d gone when we were on our way to bring her home. Devastating. All this to say that our next two hounds – Maggie and Woodrow – came to us courtesy of the American Black and Tan Coonhound Rescue. They also rescue Redbones, Walkers, Bloodhounds, Plotts. When you’re ready, they have a lot of paws and ears just waiting to be loved. I noticed this morning there’s even an Ella Mae currently. Maybe it’s a sign.

  43. Bruce Stover - April 25, 2018 4:50 pm

    So sorry about Ellie Mae. She was a good and faithful hound. It’s an awful thing to lose a love that’s so pure…

  44. Joe Bolton - April 25, 2018 5:23 pm

    Hang in there, Sean. I remember the day I got each one of the five dogs that live with us today. Every time was bittersweet because I realized how attached I’d get and how heartbroken I’d be the day each one would leave me. I miss all my fur kids that crossed the rainbow bridge and I’ll give each of my fur kids an extra hug for you.

  45. Paul Joseph Leblanc - April 25, 2018 5:41 pm

    So sorry for your loss, Sean. Our fur children are such a part of our hearts. I hope you and she will meet again at the Rainbow Bridge. Best wishes to you and your wife.

  46. Barbara Assell - April 25, 2018 7:58 pm

    Sean, I am grieving with you. I still can’t talk about my Shelby who died about 14yrs ago without choking up. My son-in-law’s dog died last week. He had Blondie before he married my daughter. They were devastated. I have a rescue that’s 12. She’s dealing with some issues now. Same son-in-law found her in a box of puppies outside a Walmart and brought her to me. He said last week, “I don’t know why I’m so emotional. I keep saying ‘she’s just a dog’”. But she wasn’t just a dog. They are a part of our family. Keep talking and writing about Ellie Mae. It helps. I cried when you wrote about her going to the vet. I cried more yesterday when I read that she was gone. Rejoice that she is happy and well and you will see her again one day. She loved you unconditionally when you needed it the most. My condolences to you and Jamie.

  47. Sue Cronkite - April 25, 2018 11:48 pm

    Great ode to Ellie Mae!

  48. Lisbeth Garecht - April 26, 2018 1:43 am


  49. Mary Ellen Hall - April 26, 2018 2:41 am

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this story, Sean! Nestle’ is to my husband & myself, what Ellie Mae is to you & your wife.
    We have NEVER had children; except for our 100lb. daughter-Chocolate Lab, Nestle’
    She is the LOVE of our lives!! Our world revolves around her!!
    THANK YOU for REASSURING me, that we’re not the ONLY ONES that feel this way!!!?❤

  50. Karen Fluharty - April 26, 2018 12:29 pm

    Our furbabies make us stop and enjoy life. I can’t imagine my life without one. She gave you all she had and thank goodness you took it and gave her you.

  51. cat718 - April 26, 2018 4:06 pm

    We’ve been parents of furbabies for almost 42 years now. We can’t pass on our DNA due to brain tumor surgery and other issues as young marrieds. But, our four-legged kiddos have certainly brought us much joy over the years. Thanks for sharing Ellie Mae with us. ❤️

  52. Mark Miles - April 26, 2018 8:31 pm

    “Never touch a hound while she’s chewing tobacco” – Sean Dietrich

  53. Mark Miles - April 26, 2018 8:33 pm

    You are reminding me of one of my favorites…Mark Twain

  54. Dora - April 29, 2018 4:52 am

    Sean and Jaimee, I am so sorry for your loss. She was a good and faithful family member for years. I almost had a nervous breakdown when I lost one of my fur babies. My thoughts and prayers will be with you both.

  55. Patricia Gibson - April 29, 2018 8:04 pm

    Love my furry kids!

  56. Sarah Alley - May 6, 2018 2:07 pm

    So beautiful. I have the honor of being loved by a coonhound. She was abused and dumped. An old friend, 71 at the time, called and said, “Sarah, you love big dogs and someone dropped this dog. Will you take her?” I drove over with Lily my basset hound. They sniffed each other then both jumped in my SUV. End of story because Daisy May the Stray became part of our herd. Lily and Lucy passed this year. Daisy was a wreck. Another stay happened on us, Dolly. So now she’s a bit better but misses her sisters. There is definitely a hole, but I gave our girls a great dog’s life.
    Fur babies are members of our family.

  57. Chrissy Voss - May 9, 2018 12:15 pm

    My heart breaks for you and your wife. There is nothing like the love of a dog. During my dads last deployment in 2006, my mom got us a cute little puppy for Christmas. This was a risky move on her part because my dad was always against us having pets. When he came home 18 months later, he bonded with that dog more than any of us did. His name was Sebastian but my dad called him “The Emperor”. We joked that my parents loved him more than us and they always referred to him as our little brother. He passed away recently in my daddy’s arms. Im crying as I sit here writing this because the love of a dog can do amazing things. Keep 2 little girls who missed their dad something fierce company until he came home. Comforted a soldier while he transitioned from the battle mindset to the home mindset again. Turned a hard man into a bowl of jelly by simply rolling over for belly rubs. Most of all, he was family…my little brother.

  58. Barbara Bray - December 28, 2018 3:07 pm

    Beautiful……never stop writing , Sean.


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