The Goodbye

Jack was laid to rest today at 12 p.m. sharp. It was a small service in the Peterson’s backyard. There were folding chairs. Jack’s pinewood box was decorated with white flowers and his favorite chew toys.

It was an exemplary summer day. The East Texas sky was powder blue. A suffocating 103 degrees. It didn’t look like a day for a funeral. It looked like a day to sit beside an inground pool and guzzle something cold and potent.

Most attendees were neighbors. They were all ages. Some brought refreshments. Others brought pound cakes or cold salads. The whole affair was pretty simple. No frills. Lots of food.

The way Jack would have wanted it.

People took turns sharing memories before the group. An 8-year-old girl cried when she delivered hers.

“Jack used to always steal my food. If I turned away, even for a little bit, my food was gone. My chips, my sandwich or whatever. He ate it. He was so cute.”

“Oh, I remember when Jack escaped once,” said a neighbor woman with grayish hair and Jackie-O sunglasses.

“I was working in my yard and I saw him fly by. I knew he wasn’t supposed to be out, so my husband and I chased him for a whole mile. When I found him, Jack was digging in a trashcan. That’s my main memory of Jack. Running free.”

A 15-year-old girl was lightly weeping when she shared hers, nervously reading from a page.

“When I was child, Jack saved my life. I fell into my grandma’s swimming pool when I was 4, and he started barking and making noise, and my mom came out and rescued me. I could have died if it wasn’t for Jack.”

That one got everyone sniffing.

Especially Mom.

Mom was closest to Jack. The irony here is, Mom never wanted a dog. She didn’t even like dogs.

That all changed one afternoon when driving her kids home from school, 13 years ago. Her children started freaking out in the backseat because they spotted a handmade sign on the side of the road.

It was the kind of commonly seen roadside sign in rural America. A sign which causes all children to instinctively react like middle-aged females at a Tom Jones concert.

The sign read: “Free Puppies.”

What followed was the classical tug-of-war between mother and children.

Her kids begged. Mom refused. Then the kids pleaded. So Mom made threats. After which the kids resorted to bribery. Promises were made. Mom’s resolve began to cave.

She told her kids firmly that she would NOT, under any circumstances, be responsible for a dog. It would be the KIDS’ responsibility.

Yeah, right.

The joke was on Mom. She and Jack became thick as mud. Best friends. Inseparable allies. He slept beside her. He died in her arms.

Before the ceremony ended, people sang songs. “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” was the hymn of the day. The song was chosen by Mom because Jack loved going on walks. The idea that God was taking Jack for walks was a nice image.

“Just a closer walk with Thee,
“Grant it, Jesus, it’s my plea,
“Daily walking close to Thee,
“Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.”

Service came to a conclusion. Men and boys lowered the wooden box into the hole, then covered it with fresh earth.

Everyone wandered inside where they drank sweet tea, Cokes and fizzy waters. Men cradled beers and talked about the salaries of professional athletes. Kids meandered into the den and played video games. Not many people were talking about Jack.

But you could feel his spirit just the same.

Namely, because Jack’s paraphernalia still peppers the house. His doggy bed. His basket of toys. His box of organic treats atop the fridge.

His smiling photos are still upon the sofa tables, tacked to the refrigerator, hanging in the hallway.

And life moves onward. Because that’s how it works, you see. Life does not stop for death. It apathetically trudges forward, without even glancing behind itself. It seems heartless. And it is. But that’s nature.

Even so, it’s impossible to forget a guileless creature. He was friend of man and woman. He never turned down an opportunity involving pleasure or immediate gratification.

He possessed beauty without vanity. Joy without remorse. Strength without cruelty. Excitement without reservation. Love without condition. All the virtues of man, without any of his vices.

He was more than a dog. He was somebody. Somebody named Jack. And today he walks with Thee.


  1. Marianne Bryan - July 11, 2022 11:57 am

    You and Rick Bragg should visit and talk “ dog stories”. I would love to be the one to hear all the stories y’all would share!!!

  2. Catherine - July 11, 2022 11:58 am

    Such beautiful truths imbedded in those words…I’m in tears…RIP sweet Jack…

  3. Marlo Kirkpatrick - July 11, 2022 11:59 am

    Crying big, sloppy tears. I’ve lost three beloved dogs in two years. The only thing that brings comfort is imagining the day I’m reunited with them. I’ve lost people I loved, too, but when I picture my arrival in Heaven, the first loved ones I want to see are Blizzard, Snowflake, Batman, Frosty, Icy, Flurry, Buster, Homer, and Buttercup. Until the, I’m so grateful I have Joker and Jester. And, oh, yeah, my husband. But he knows where he stands. 🙂

  4. Anne Arthur - July 11, 2022 12:06 pm

    Oh the fuzzy friends… they know true love and faithfulness. Sweet story.

  5. Susan W Fitch - July 11, 2022 12:09 pm

    All dogs go to Heaven! God made dogs to encourage us, comfort us, be our best friend loving us. I’m praying that there really is a Rainbow Bridge- I want to hang out there one day!

  6. James e inman - July 11, 2022 12:16 pm

    Good dog Jack, good boy ❤

  7. Connie - July 11, 2022 12:30 pm

    I never in my life wanted an inside dog. Until my granddaughter’s dog got out of his fence and got hit by a car. I would have promised her the moon to stop her tears. So we went to the local shelter and got a dog. Not a puppy. He was about three when we got him. A year later we were back at the shelter getting her a puppy. Because the first one instantly became mine. He’s about 10 now, and is never far from my side if I’m home. He sleeps in my chair with me if I sit down. I can’t imagine life without him. And I can’t imagine what I was thinking when I said I would never have a dog in the house. Until my great grandson came along, these two owned my house. They just let us live with them. Now, the baby wants around wanting his “pup pups”. My life will never be the same. All that to say-I know exactly what Jack’s mom felt and I don’t want to think about how her heart is broken now.

  8. Barbara - July 11, 2022 12:35 pm

    Heart warming, no home is a home without a dog or two and a few cats

  9. Paul McCutchen - July 11, 2022 12:53 pm

    Way to go Sean. You started my morning with a walk down memory lane which is a street that always tugs at my heart. Turning 70 this year I have had a lot of pets most have lived long lives but you remember each and every one of them with the love they brought to you and your family,

  10. Trilby - July 11, 2022 12:58 pm

    I love this one❤️

  11. Harriet White - July 11, 2022 12:59 pm

    I love that the neighbors got together for the funeral. My dogs spirit lingered with me for a year after he died. He seemed to be waiting on me to come on. Sitting in the clouds panting.
    I said “Max, you go on sweetie,I’ll see you later on”
    Then he turned and ran into the joys of heaven.

    God I miss that sweet German Shepherd every day.

  12. Patricia Stanfield - July 11, 2022 1:00 pm

  13. Bob - July 11, 2022 1:04 pm

    Thank you Sean. All so true and a loss I have felt many times.

  14. Melanie - July 11, 2022 1:06 pm

    If only we could ever be as good as dogs… “beauty without vanity. Joy without remorse. Strength without cruelty. Excitement without reservation. Love without condition. “ Beautiful, Sean.

  15. Joretta Parker - July 11, 2022 1:17 pm

    Sean, this brought tears to my eyes. I’m not a dog person but losing my cat was so sad.

  16. JonDragonfly - July 11, 2022 1:36 pm

    Anybody who has ever been loved by a dog is fully with you on this story.
    For me, there have been a number. Daisy, Daphne, Poco, and especially Hobo. I’ll meet them all at the Rainbow Bridge and delight in their slobbrery kisses. And together, we’ll all go in to meet St. Peter and the rest of my beloved family.

  17. Carol from GA - July 11, 2022 1:38 pm

    When we lost our 2 fur babies within a few months of each other, my nephew said something that really summed up the loss we felt… “the only bad thing about having a dog, is they don’t outlive us.” :(:(

  18. Jim Baker - July 11, 2022 1:41 pm

    Oh, my ! One of your best. It “hit home”. We lost our Sir Winston, King Charles Spaniel on July 2.
    He was 11 years, 1 month. So sad at this house. He is walking with Thee.

  19. Steve Winfield (lifer) - July 11, 2022 2:09 pm

    Too sad. My friend Jack lived 20 years. I’ll never get over him & no other will ever live up to him. He’s been gone over 5 years now.
    Our friendship is beyond description.

  20. Trent - July 11, 2022 2:16 pm


  21. David - July 11, 2022 2:27 pm

    Ain’t that the way of it? “No dog. No way.” (The joke was on Mom….He died in her arms.)


  22. Julie - July 11, 2022 2:54 pm

    You sir, are too, too good. I am writing a Civil War novel. It would be better if you wrote it.

  23. Patricia Gibson - July 11, 2022 3:09 pm

    Wonderful article!! Dogs provide u conditional ❤️

  24. vickilclem - July 11, 2022 3:24 pm

    This hit me hard, as we recently found out our almost 12 year old coonhound mix has cancer, either leukemia or lymphoma. He recently became lethargic and wasn’t eating well and blood work showed extremely high white blood cell count. Our vet told us we could see a specialist and end up spending $1000’s on very invasive tests and treatments that would be hard on him and that may not even work at his age, and we could tell he didn’t think that was the best option. Years ago we lost our sweet 6 year old Corgi to heart failure after spending over $3000 trying to save her. He is on steroids and liquid vitamins that have perked him up and he is eating well and moving moving around some, but he tires out quickly. He tried to go to the pond for a swim, one of his favorite things to do, but got so tired he could barely make it back, so we have to keep him in his kennel and water down the dirt so he has a cool place to lay. We found him abandoned near our house as a two month old puppy and he has been the best most loyal dog. We think he is a mix of Black and Tan coonhound and possibly Lab, a beautiful dog. We are heartbroken and trying to do our best to keep him comfortable and enjoy the time we have with him; it’s so very hard.💔

  25. DiAn - July 11, 2022 3:33 pm

    Sean – Thank you for these comments about Jack! He was clearly more than ‘just a dog” – He was a friend to all. I hope such good things will be said about me when my time arrives. Again, many Thanks to you for eloquently sharing these thoughts and memories about Jack. – DiAn

  26. David Britnell - July 11, 2022 3:34 pm

    Beautiful story!

  27. Debra Chambers - July 11, 2022 3:40 pm

    I lost my “Jack” (Scout) a year ago this week. She was our baby for almost 13 years!🐕‍🦺❤️

  28. LIN ARNOLD - July 11, 2022 3:47 pm

    My husband and I have rescued Huskies for the past 30 years. At one point, we had 11 due to rescuing a female that we didn’t know was pregnant. (Don’t panic, we lived on 10 acres of woods.) Through all those lovable furballs that I loved dearly, there are a few that still bring back such wonderful memories and that sense of loss at their passing. Reyco was our 2nd rescue. He appointed himself my protector from the other dogs, neighbors, the occasional delivery driver and any human that he didn’t know. He wasn’t aggressive. He would just stand in front of me and give the offender that icy blue stare that only Husky owners know. Then there was Nanta. He was the fluffiest, fuzziest furball anyone could imagine. Even as he got older, he was my fuzzy love bunny. He always made me smile and he got more than his share of my hugs. Then there was Tiega. She was the mom to that litter of puppies. After giving birth she was super protective of those puppies! No dog or human was getting anywhere near the doghouse she had them in. But she was so busy protecting them, she wasn’t able to be with them like she should. But she let me come and take her and her pups to the safety of the basement. I was the only one she let near them. We kept 2 of those pups, almost identical females, that lived to the very old age for Huskies of 13. They died within 2 months of each other. But the 2 fur babies we have now are going to leave some pretty permanent scars on my heart when they leave us. We got Roxie when she was 11 months old. She has always been this prissy little girl that has never met a stranger. She even has the UPS driver bringing her treats! And the Dominos delivery kid! She’s 15 now which is absolutely ancient for a Husky. (Average lifespan for a Husky is about 10 years.) She has definitely slowed down. Her hearing is almost totally gone, and her eyes aren’t too great either. But she’s still going strong. Our other Husky is definitely slowing down as well. We rescued Alex when he was 11 months old as well. He’s almost 11 now and HUGE for a Husky. Roxie is weighing in at 33 pounds which is very average for a female husky (it’s all the hair that makes them look bigger). But Alex is weighing a whopping 110 pounds!!! But he’s not fat! He’s just HUGE! He stands twice the height of Roxie! The vet says there must be some Malamute mixed in there somewhere. But the papers we got when we rescued him say he’s full Husky. We’ve all seen the videos of the “talking” Huskies, right? Well, Alex is my talker. He’s slowing down big time. When we lose these 2 fur babies, I’m going to be a basket case. We’re not going to get any more after these 2. My husband & I are fully retired and between the dog food and the vet visits, we just can’t afford them anymore. But I’ll ALWAYS have my memories. They all will always be my FURBABIES forever!

    • Beverly - July 12, 2022 2:40 am

      “…..we’re not going to get any more..” she said. I say talk to me after they’re gone❤️❤️❤️❤️😘☮️

  29. Ann Thompson - July 11, 2022 4:00 pm

    Ah, a good life. A dogs life. One that is loved, supported and given freedoms, that is. A special friend.

  30. Suellen - July 11, 2022 4:18 pm

    This was very timely as my dog Jack had to be put to sleep last week. He had just turned 15. I know what you are going through.

  31. Linda+J+Hendrix - July 11, 2022 4:26 pm

    Praying for comfort & hurting heart healing for all who knew & loved Jack. ❤️‍🩹

  32. Linda outten - July 11, 2022 4:50 pm

    Beautifully stated and most of us could relate. Sorry

  33. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 11, 2022 4:52 pm

  34. Chasity Davis Ritter - July 11, 2022 5:49 pm

    And here I sit crying over a dog I never met but understanding just the same how that momma feels. It’s nice they had a service for him. I’m sure when Jack got to the pearly gates (or the rainbow bridge as I believe) God had two words for him “Good Boy”. Fly free Jack….Fly free. 🙏

  35. Jennie A Beard - July 11, 2022 6:05 pm

    Very moving. Anyone that has/had a good dog knows the grief that is left when they are gone. I hope that Jack is frolicking in heaven eating everything in site and running free. May God bless and comfort his family.

  36. Steve McCaleb - July 11, 2022 6:34 pm

    Blessings on Jack (and all those like him). The more I deal with people…..the better I like dogs. And nobody asked but I cannot image a heaven without dogs.

  37. Steve McCaleb - July 11, 2022 6:48 pm

    I highly recommend Garden & Gun Magazine….it features a column called “Good Dog. And they do complete books that are compilations of these heart tugging stories. 5 stars. They’ll touch both your heart and your soul.

  38. Cathy M - July 11, 2022 6:49 pm

    I just got home from a funeral. My face is swollen My brave friend battled brain cancer for several years but never lost her sparkle. I dropped by to speak to her husband last week after reading her beautiful obituary which he had written. While we were talking their two poodles ran inside and spread some dog love. I am so glad that they are in his house as he gets used to life on his own. I rescued a dog ten yrs ago. Looked like Bengi and I believe if he had been able to write a thank you note he would have. My husband is his first love but I can play second fiddle. We found out he has a brain tumor in November. My frugal husband has shelled out enough money for a Viking cruise and has not said a word. He is resting at my feet as I type. Thanks to these specialty vets, he is on meds twice a day and is still eating and wagging his tail. They say that he will let us know when it’s time to go. I try not to think abt it. We have three wonderful children and they have families of their own. He has been like a fourth child. Maybe we replace our children with pets. I love the idea of a celebration of life for the family in your column today. Don’t think I could pull that off. Here’s to all dog lovers wherever you are. They steal your heart for sure💙

  39. Margaret - July 11, 2022 7:23 pm

    You’re making me cry in my doctor’s office…

  40. Bill Henderson - July 11, 2022 8:11 pm

    Just another great bit of writing. Thank you.

  41. Karen - July 11, 2022 8:24 pm

    What a beautiful way to honor Jack.

  42. Alice - July 11, 2022 8:29 pm

    What a sweet sad story but so wonderful to read❤️Sean you made me cry again but it’s ok I know how it feels when your companion leaves you😭😭

  43. Kenne Walker - July 11, 2022 8:53 pm

    Nothing tougher than burying a pet.

  44. MAM - July 11, 2022 10:12 pm

    Dogs are the best ever at loving us without conditions. We’re dogless right now, by choice, but I’m sure happy I get to pet our neighbors’ dogs, even when they are not being “good boys.” But I’m like grandma, I just enjoy them and give them back to their owners. But I sure do miss-most of the time-not having one in the house.

  45. Marcie White - July 11, 2022 10:53 pm

    I adore all your dog stories. This one really hit me in all the “feels”. My husband and I have been dog rescuers all our lives together, 40 years. We now have only 3, but they fill our lives with love and devotion. Thank you for loving dogs as well!

  46. Suellen - July 12, 2022 12:18 am

    Our dachshund Johan died on May 21st. That dog was the biggest pest ever. He was wound up 24/7. Always under my feet or wrapped around my chair. “Feed me. Feed me.” “Play with me. Play with me.” He went at life full throttle. He didn’t get a big send off like Jack. He died at 4:40 am. I put him in a wagon out on the back porch and sat with him and talked with him until it was light enough to bury him. He always wanted to be with me so I stayed with him. I miss him every minute of every day.

    • Ruth - July 12, 2022 2:34 am

      That was lovely and thanks for the hymn I hadn’t thought of in decades. And now will always associate with the idea of all the beloved creatures who have gone on before me walking with their creator.

  47. Phyllis Stallings - July 12, 2022 3:52 am

    Another story that’s left me with tears! I have a “Jack” but her name is “Katie “. She’s a blessing each and every day! I love ❤️ the funeral idea…..everyone loves my Katie also. I surely do not look forward to the day her life ends but I would want to honor her!
    Thank you!!

  48. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - July 12, 2022 6:13 am

    My Liza Jane is 10 years old now and doesn’t feel well. She has already cost me a small fortune in vet bills and I will be facing making a decision about her soon. I love how personal your stories feel to me. Thank you for including dog stories. I believe they represent God on earth.

  49. Matt Beebe - July 12, 2022 1:17 pm

    Thanks, Sean-
    We sent our pal and travel buddy over the rainbow on Friday. Miss him a lot! He was a Schnauzer named Bark and was 14 years old.
    Love your stories!

  50. Irina - July 12, 2022 2:48 pm

    Thank you for making me cry. It has been hard to open up to emotions lately

  51. throughmyeyesusa - July 12, 2022 10:21 pm

    Tears without apology

  52. Kathy Moran - July 21, 2022 12:36 am

    Nothing but tears. So beautiful!

  53. Susan Johnston - July 26, 2022 1:31 pm

    Beautifully written. Thank you.

  54. Harryette Miller Burnette - July 31, 2022 7:24 pm

    What a beautifully written, yet sad story; knowing he is walking by Jesus’ side makes me believe our precious Blanca, beautiful completely white (with no other colors present at all) cat with blue eyes and smarter than most people these days, is walking on the other side of Jesus with a few little children tagging along behind them. We miss him daily but hope to see him again someday. I believe he’ll be right by Jesus’ side to welcome us through the pearly gates.

  55. Joe Norman - August 2, 2023 11:10 pm

    Dogs are my favorite people.
    Search up Jimmy Stewart on the Tonight Sow and his poem about Beau.
    You will be glad you did.


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