Louie, Sean’s Beast of Burden


The absolute worst nights of this journey have been the ones in which I laid awake in some Motel 6 somewhere, or in the quiet of a friend’s home and worried, “what have I done?”    

I know this is old news, I’ve talked about it, you’ve encouraged me, I’ve appreciated it. I’m on Day 51 of this journey, thanks in large part to my backers and band of cheerleaders. Let me just say this for the record: This trip has changed my life. I have one hell of a book. Let me repeat that:


But, when the bill collectors are calling and I’m feeling guilty about having the cable cut off, and I’m trying to help my two college kids still at home, from afar, with medical issues and college financial aid forms, knowing I’ll have a ginormous stack of mail to plow through when I get home, 98% of it, stuff I DON’T want to deal with, and I’ll have to get a j-o-b until the book deal comes through, I have to talk myself off the ledge.

Apparently, Sean’s had to talk himself into walking back into his room! Facing our fears, self-reliance, bonding with our dogs, Sean and I have shared a common journey this summer.

Sean and Louie the Dog

Sean and Louie, saying goodbye, July 5th

Sean’s the one who had to hold down the fort this summer, my youngest child, waiting tables at the sushi restaurant, coming home to Louie, and it would appear, occasional giant beetles. Today, for your reading pleasure, I bring you a guest post, by Sean Sandefur.

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

There I stood, sleep still in my eyes and my puppy at toe, watching my mother drive off, her tail lights disappearing into the hot, sizzling July horizon. It was a mixed bag of emotions, ranging from “holy shit, how am I going to take care of this house” to “I can do anything I want.” It was the first time in my life that I had a whole place to myself. I didn’t want to screw it up.

I reference one of my favorite childhood movies, only because it fits perfectly into my situation ; alone, with a summer job, kids to feed (meaning my puppy Louie and I) and a house to coddle, except I didn’t have any petty cash, or fashion sense.

I will admit, it was scary at times. One of the first nights being on my own, I was reading late at night, when I heard a loud flapping noise at the window. Thinking it was a just a big moth banging itself into the light outside, I didn’t give it much thought. I should have. About five minutes later, a giant, jurassic looking beetle came flying into my room, zooming from corner to corner with all the prowess of a B-52 bomber. This thing had it all, pinchers, wings, huge scaling antennae, and worst of all, it screeched. I, being the man of the house, sprang from my bed with a small shriek and ran from my room, smacking every inch of my body to make sure this colossal invertebrate wasn’t glued to my back.

It took some time to pick my nerves, and dignity, off the basement floor and headed to the kitchen to come up with a plan. Moments later, armed with wasp killer and a broom, I neared the corner of my room, only to see Louie lying on the ground, with a very puzzled, yet inquisitive look on his face. He had the beast cornered. He reared up like a bucking bronco and with one pounce, he landed with both paws, right on the back of the thing, squashing it flat. My knight in shining armor came in the form of a mangy mutt. I patted him on the head and said “Good boy”. He’d had his protein for the day. (I’m kidding).

A general theme to my mother’s journey rings true at home as well; a dog is not just a dog. They are a companion and a friend. We allow them to be so,  because we are one in the same. We are pack animals, we need someone else around. We push so many feelings and emotions onto our dogs that they take on a persona that is larger than anything you can imagine. I don’t have a dog, I have Louie. He likes sleeping on his back, licking beer bottles, lounging on cold bathroom tiles, jumping up onto random objects, and pretending he only weighs 10 pounds. He hates bathing, squawks back at sparrows and he loathes having to sleep on the ground when my girlfriend is over.

Louie, get off the bed

“Louie, get off the bed. Louie, get off the bed…”

What it all comes down to is a defense against being lonely. Domesticated dogs are older than the wheel, and that’s for a reason. Louie may not be a beast of burden in the traditional sense, far from it actually, but he may be in a very different way, a beast of my burdens.

Sean and Louie

Sean holding a 60-pound ball of fur, a.k.a. Louie

With my mother nearing the end of her journey I must say I have learned a lot about myself. I’m not a gardener, I’m not the dog whisperer, but I’m actually a pretty damn good cook. Most importantly I’ve found that with a little solitude comes a lot of peace and quiet. I’ll enjoy it while I can, sooner or later I’ll have real kids to feed.

So come on home momma, we’re waiting for ya!

About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

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  1. very nice!

  2. What a great story from your son. It appears there is another writer in the family.

  3. Jean, catching up with all the posts I’ve missed has given me an hour of pure pleasure. My heart reacted when I saw the photo of you and Don, I got teary eyed when you reconnected with your Graford cousins (I have some of them in Snyder, Texas), and just now, laughed out loud at Sean’s post. Your authenticity and transparency warms my heart. Thank you for your courage – trust me, you’ll never regret the journey you’ve been on. See you soon.

  4. Hey, your son writes really well! Enjoyed his post.

  5. Lisanne Schraer says:

    Great piece by Sean!

  6. Sometimes, it takes our kids to remind us we aren’t complete failures and we have done something right! Jean…I always knew your children were so special and you did a wonderful job giving them the tools to grow into great adults…each of them has been there for you in return during your journey. I’m so happy I’ve been able to watch it all! Great job to the whole family! What a trip for all of you!

  7. Sean, you have a very nice writing style, really enjoyed it.

  8. Sean, you take after “yo mama” – Good writing, son!. Aunt Bev

  9. I agree with Karen, I enjoyed Sean’s writing style too!

  10. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

  11. That Sean, he’s something else!

  12. Emotional honsesty runs in the family. Your son sounds wise.

  13. It sounds like Sean has done a helluva job, will be an amazing parent and husband someday and an awesome writer to boot. I’m sure you knew all that when you left, but maybe Sean learned more about himself than he’d expected. Nice stuff.

  14. Just read this one, was a little late, but I could hear Sean’s voice during that whole piece. Atta Boy, great writing. Jean get home safe and quickly I know how much your boy misses you. Peace!!

  15. Lana Sue Dietrich says:

    Hi Jean – Hi Sean!
    Beverly, you took the words right out of my mouth. His writing skills do take after “yo-mama”. You are amazing Jean and I’m so proud of you and loved spending time with you. Love all the stories! Bring Sean out to cook with me. :-)

  16. For Jean –
    You are no stranger to the fact that life is tough and you mention a lot of realities in your intro — but you are also a survivor. So, you will do what you need to do and everything will work out because it does. Having a job can be a blessing. Has been in my life and not just because of the income. You said that this experience has changed your life; a change that extreme comes with some kind of price so the discomfort you feel may be just that — change is hard. It can be a good change but awkward, as well, as you make the transitions that you are experiencing.

    For Sean –
    Loved your posting. What a great experience for you in ways that may not yet be evident. You have done an admirable job, holding down the fort. I hope you realize that. I am certain that you have changed and grown, like your mom, through this experience.

  17. Your son has inherited so many great things from you, including a love of dogs -and a real talent for the written word! This was a fun guest post, and I totally understand his reaction to that scary beetle!

  18. Marilyn Roberts says:

    Jean and Sean, I just read your post, Sean. Writing is right up your alley, I think. Keep it up! I love you, Auntie Myrt