While I write this, Thel is running on the beach toward a magnificent sunset. Occasionally, she walks to the edge of the surf, but she’s too afraid to get in.

I’m watching my dog run on the beach. She’s running alongside the waves. She stops every few moments to stare.

She’s not too sure about waves.

Last week, it was Father’s Day, and I’m a father—well, almost. I have a bloodhound named Thelma Lou. That’s almost like being a father. The only difference, of course, is that human babies don’t chew your wallet then poop inside your boot.

You read that right. My dog didn’t poop ON my boot—as in the exterior. She did her business INSIDE my boot. The basic physics behind this acrobatic marvel are astounding. I only wish I could’ve captured it on video, it would’ve been worth millions.

So poop in a boot, that makes me a father. At least this is what I’m going with.

People without kids, like me, still have the same amount of love parents have. That love has to go somewhere. That’s where dogs come in.

My first dog was a border collie. My father bought it. We named it Pooch. Pooch was bred to herd sheep, but since there were no sheep around, he herded redheads.

When my mother yelled my name, Pooch would dart off the porch like a bullet. He’d circle me, yelping, nipping. When he died, I thought a piece of me died.

My next dog was Goldie. A retriever. Long, pretty hair, happy face. I raised her from a pup.

Goldie was Hell on Wheels. She lived beside me. She slept while I did homework, she chased baseballs. In the woods, when I was busy with little-boy things, like catching frogs, or swinging on limbs, she watched over me.

Cody was next. She was my father’s dog. She was a chocolate Lab who loved my father. I can close my eyes and see him strolling from the barn to the shed, Cody trailing two feet behind him.

When he died, she laid on a pile of his clothes for a month. Nobody could get her to move.

And Hannah. She was your all-American mutt. My mother bought her after my father’s funeral. Eventually, Hannah had puppies. I kept one. I named him Rolly. He was pure white.

Pooch. Goldie. Cody. Rolly. Hannah. They were my friends. When I lost them, I swore off dogs.

Then, I found a stray walking on the shoulder of the road. She was a Cocker Spaniel with no collar. Pure black. Ten-foot ears. I named her Lady.

Lady was one in a million. She slept with me. She rode in my truck. And when a rude girlfriend told me she didn’t want me anymore, Lady chased away my sadness.

When Lady passed I had to take a week off work.

Then Boone. Then Joe. Then Gurgle. Each one, a good boy who didn’t like leashes, hated doorbells, and emitted enough gas to be fire hazards.

Enter Ellie Mae.

She was a bloodhound. I’ve loved dogs before. Lots of them. But none like Ellie. A cedar box with her ashes rides on my truck dashboard. I have a gold plaque with her name mounted on my passenger seat—corny, I know. But it was her seat.

I think of her every day. I mention her after we say grace over supper.

And…

Hello Thelma Lou, goodbye heart.

When I bought Thel on a farm in Molino, Florida, the man told me, “This is the sweetest dadgum dog I ever saw.”

I held baby Thel, she bit my ear hard enough to make it bleed. Then, she licked my face—which was covered in blood. I knew she was the one. He was right, she was sweet. Is sweet.

While I write this, Thel is running on the beach toward a magnificent sunset. Occasionally, she walks to the edge of the surf, but she’s too afraid to get in.

No, I’m not a REAL father, I know that. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had “little ones.” I’ve had a few. And they’ve changed me. They made me who I am. They made me a better man, and their love ensures that my life will never be the same.

Neither will my boots.

27 comments

  1. terry - June 24, 2019 7:06 am

    Unconditional love manifested. We humans should take note.

    Reply
  2. Meredith Smith - June 24, 2019 8:14 am

    I too have had many dogs…perhzaps not as many as you but enough to fill my life with love. As I write this I am dogless and I have a huge hole in my life. But back to having dogs….
    My last dog was a miniature long haired dachshund. I named him Gunther. I raised him from a 6 lb puppy. He was my lifeline. See, I have epilepsy. It turned out that Gunther had the innate ability to sense my seizures coming on, though he had no training to do so. Essentially he was an alert ? dog for me, always at my side, barking and nipping when something was about to happen. He knew well before I did. I loved that dog. He stayed with me after my seizure, laying on top of me until I woke up. He was a great dog and so sadly in the end, he passed away during a late life seizure. His vet told me that dachshunds are prone to seizures. I was heartbroken that I couldn’t protect him in the way he protected me.

    Reply
  3. Jean - June 24, 2019 10:28 am

    Having animals makes you better in many ways. I have loved many dogs, cats and one lovebird. There is one particular dog…a dobie that still makes me cry every time I talk about her….. like now. I think there will always be a special someone and a special animal in this life. Yeah you should have had a video of that trick!

    Reply
  4. Connie Havard Ryland - June 24, 2019 11:02 am

    The unconditional love of a dog is the best. People can and do let you down and turn away from you, but our fur babies love us way more than we deserve.

    Reply
  5. Naomi - June 24, 2019 11:04 am

    We had a border collie when I was a teenager. His name was Prince. He just showed up at our house one day with no collar. He looked like a bear and, although we lived in the city, someone had shot him. He was so sweet and gentle. We had a house full of cats and we weren’t sure how he would interact with the cats but it turned out that he liked cats. When the mama cat had kittens, he would pick them up by the scruff of the neck and lick them clean. The last dog I had was a West Highland Terrier (at least that’s what she looked like). Someone had dumped her at my husband’s aunt’s farm. She didn’t have on a collar or any type of ID so she called the pound to come pick her up; then she called us to see if we might take her. I didn’t want another dog because my black Cocker Spaniel had just been killed by a pack of dogs, but we went to check on her. She was a ball of white fur and we fell in love with her and took her home and named her Fluffy. We took her to the vet to get her shots and get her spayed. She was already pregnant and the vet thought that she was a year old. She lived for 17 more years and we buried her on our farm. We decided that we didn’t want anymore dogs because we have gotten older and have some health problems and because I don’t think I could go through losing another dog. Many years I found a jigsaw puzzle of a dog that looked just like Fluffy. We put it together and framed it and hung her dog collar and dog tags on it. Every time I see a picture of a dog on FB or on TV, I want another dog but my husband and I realize that we can’t take care of a dog anymore.

    Reply
  6. Dianne - June 24, 2019 11:39 am

    What would the world do without our furry babies/children? After we had to put down our last “child”, we decided we couldn’t do that again. After a year, we began dog sitting for neighbors, friends, and others, and it has been a wonderful experience for us. These wonderful furry kids fill the vacuum, and like grandparents, we love on them, spoil them, and then send them home with their “parents”. Dogs are such special additions to a family and a blessing from above.

    Reply
  7. Jo Ann - June 24, 2019 12:43 pm

    Thank you from all the animal lovers among your readers. We do love our pets (I love cats, too!). Like the saying- Help me to be the person my pet thinks I am.

    Reply
  8. Barbara-Jean Gravlee - June 24, 2019 12:53 pm

    Some of us are just born to love dogs, Sean. Remembering Puddles, Brandy and Buffy. 🙂

    Reply
  9. Shelton A. - June 24, 2019 1:20 pm

    My dogs…I have 2 boxes of ashes (Ashes-a Sheltie and Gabriel-a German Shepherd). Both hold very special places in my heart. But does Lucky (who defended my daughter), Charlie, Tippy, and, now, Roxy. I have 2 children and a grandson and I hope, if I make it to heaven, to see my dogs on the other side. My kids to follow after me-I’ll be waiting on them (with dogs for company plus my brother, sister, Dad, and the rest of my family who’s gone on already).

    Reply
  10. Linda Moon - June 24, 2019 4:03 pm

    Human babies may not chew a wallet, but one I know very well swallowed an open safety pin and pooped it out three days later. It was found inside the diaper along with said Poop. Fatherhood of dogs, cats, babies….it’s all the same….unconditional and patient love for all! All those dogs of yours had this love. They were all Dietrich children who made their mark on you…..and your boots.

    Reply
  11. Jackie Langlow - June 24, 2019 4:57 pm

    Lucky is the man who has known the love of an old dog, any dog. Heart swelling, then melting as i read your post, Happy Fathers Day!

    Reply
  12. Rhonda Blanton - June 24, 2019 6:48 pm

    As a fellow furbaby owner and lover of animals, I loved this! I will be 65 in August and throughout my life I’ve had dogs and cats by my side. I remember the very first one, on down the line, up until now…where Neville is in the chair behind me as I type this, Buffy is in her dog bed at my feet (both dachshunds, 11 years old), Skippy Jon is asleep under the covers on my bed, and Georgia is guarding the back door, waiting for my daughter to get home from work (both chihuahuas, 1year old). Thank you, Sean of the South!

    Reply
  13. Janet Mary Lee - June 24, 2019 7:02 pm

    Your dog posts are my favorites, even the ones that break our hearts. My May May will probably be my last dog. She is 4 1/2 so my only wish is to outlive her so she is not left. I have had a string of dogs too. Always have. They truly are the loves of my life and like Jo Ann said, I hope to live up to my dogs expectations of me. She loves me even though I can not get down on the floor with her, or lift her. She knows I am getting old and accommodates. Animals are a true Blessing straight from God. I miss all my other babies too. I also love your drawing again today. You are rather a talented sketcher! This brings good but some bittersweet memories…the stuff of life. Just a little laugh at your expense about the boot..cuze you made me cry!! Again… (smile!).

    Reply
  14. Tim House - June 24, 2019 7:49 pm

    I hear you… I’m a doggy daddy, too. Each one is different, and each one is best. And they’re ALL your “kids”. And their names will always be in your heart, long after they’re gone. I sure hope that Rainbow Bridge is real… 😉

    Reply
  15. Mary Ellen Hall - June 24, 2019 10:55 pm

    BEAUTIFUL STORY SEAN!!! I; like you, have had MANY BABIES-PUPS!!! I TOO, think of myself as a Parent, a WONDERFUL MOM!!

    I have LOVED each of my Babies with ALL MY HEART!❤ NO ONE will EVER convince me, that these PUPS weren’t my kiddos!!???

    THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR STORY!!!

    MARY ELLEN

    Reply
  16. Jess in Athens, GA - June 24, 2019 11:10 pm

    Sean, you mentioned the names of some of the dogs in your life: Here are some of my four-legged pals covering many decades: Dickie, Bobbie, Cindy, Traveler, Queenie, Lady, Sister, Bailey and Belle. Dogs are great and I don’t want to be without one…but it sure is traumatic whenever they pass away. I think Belle will be my last one because I’m too old for the sadness that comes with their passing.

    Reply
  17. MermaidGrammy - June 25, 2019 12:40 pm

    No matter how many dogs you love, you still have daddy love waiting for child(ren) to be loved, taught about life and love. Adopt a real live baby boy and/or girl. Happy Fathers Day

    Reply
  18. Edna B. - June 25, 2019 3:17 pm

    My human babies have all grown up. Thank goodness for my fur baby. He makes every day a joy. Yup, I agree. You are a father. Have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  19. Barb - June 25, 2019 4:14 pm

    This is late but you definitely deserve a Happy Father’s Day!

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  20. LIM - June 26, 2019 2:53 am

    All love is the same, how we express our love makes it distinct. You loved your pups as you would love a child.

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  21. Alice Grimes - June 26, 2019 4:33 pm

    You are indeed a father! Never downplay that because your babies have had 4 legs.

    Reply
  22. Linda Chipman - June 27, 2019 5:23 pm

    Brought back memories of all my dogs and, you’re right, when they die a piece of you goes with them. Thanks for the memories.

    Reply
  23. Martha Black - July 24, 2019 7:05 am

    So glad you have Thel.

    I’ve got Maisey, she’s mix , of what I’m not quite sure but we found her just inside the entrance to our neighborhood where she’d been abandoned.
    Sorry people, they could have at least left her in a pretty basket. Instead, there she sat, all needy & too young to be by herself. She curled up around my neck and cuddled and snuggled and whined. She’s still pretty needy these two years later but has developed into the size of a bird dog. I’m sure there’s some in there somewhere. When we go on walks she ocassionally stops and poses into a beautiful perfect point and Im convinced all over again she’s not worthless. Ocassionally she wears me out…… like the early fall morning I took her out for a little outside time. I had her on her extree long reel leash so she could stroll around while i sat and meditated. All was lovely until a squirrel came scampering across the roof line and jumped down making a terrible racket across our metal roof. Maisey jumps into point mode, then quickly took off into full chase! My little chair was gone with the wind while I held on hollering Maisey! NO, NO, NO! Lord it was a wild ride! By the time that squirrel got up the tree and she stood at the base baying up at it, I was laying on the ground wrapped up in that extended length leash like a calf at rodeo. So! She’s a squirrel dog and I’m too old and stiff to go hunting.

    Recently my grandaughter got a little kitty; sweet sweet Hazel. Hazel? More like Witch Hazel! Her favorite exercise is running circles through the house by way of mid-wall level at midnight. She rest peacefully throughout the day and I’m adjusting.

    At least Maisey has calmed down a bit, unless somebody comes to visit.

    Reply
  24. Mary Ann Massey - July 24, 2019 2:10 pm

    Best guard dogs ever! Two miniature Dachshunds, one of which thinks he’s a German Shepherd! My oldest is SAM (Sweet Angel Man)….he is our protector… hubby swears he’s leaving the country when Sam passes because he is my baby! Both of them bark at EVERYBODY that comes close….. that dastardly UPS man had better be careful! ? he’s liable to be LICKED to death ? Rascal is the youngest and lives down to his name….little stinker… but we love him dearly. He is a major cuddle bug ?❤️….it’s almost impossible for me to imagine my life without either of them….I tear up just thinking about it…..

    Reply
    • Meredith Smith - July 24, 2019 3:38 pm

      I can’t agree enough!! I had two miniature doxies, both now over the rainbow ?, who were certain that they were dobermans! Together they were the Terrible Two, barking and snarling like their (or my) lives had been threatened. However once greeted they became the sweetest and warmest little dogs, fighting each other for attention and pets from the guest. I miss those little lowriders so much. I wish the world understood the true character of these sweet dogs, they are the best dogs ever, small and large all wrapped into one package.

      Reply
  25. Roger Brothers - July 25, 2019 3:07 am

    Read somewhere that the reason the Old Master made dogs lives so much shorter than man’s is so that the man may have the opportunity to learn from several dogs before he leaves this earth and thus may have a better chance to learn how to live.
    I think whoever said that is very wise.

    Reply
  26. Joe Patterson - July 28, 2019 11:28 pm

    Dogs equal unconditional love children love you unconditionally when they are young but things change as they get older unconditional love never dies with your dogs.Only parents and dog lovers understand unconditional love you qualify.

    Reply

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