You Never Forget the Hard Dogs

Honey is an easy dog.

You may need to remind me of that when she’s barking to go outside because she’s tired of waiting for her walk. Or when she refuses to go down the steps to pee unless I go with her, barefoot and in my bathrobe in sub freezing temperatures.

I know how lucky I am. Really. Honey is one easy dog.

But two decades from now, will my memories of good girl Honey be as vivid as my current memories of my first dog, crazy-A$$ Agatha?

Honey the golden retriever is an easy dog.

I’m so easy I don’t even mind when we end up in Neptune when you told me we were going to play ball in the park.


The Hard Dog and the Ignorant Owner

I knew a little about dogs when we brought Agatha and Christie home from the Philadelphia SPCA.

I knew that the bouncy, friendly dog (Christie) would grow into a great dog, just by observing her behavior in the kennel. But I didn’t know what I was in for when Mike said, “Gee, I hate to break up the set. Let’s take them both.” Even though Agatha, at four months old, was already snapping at her sister and warning her away from greeting me.

Everything that I observed about the two in their kennel on their adoption day turned out to be true.

Christie was friendly, confident, and sweet. Agatha was neurotic. Conflicted. Bossy.

My dogs, Agatha and Christie, post in the garden.

Agatha and Christie in a rare moment of peace and calm.

Adopting two litter mates was a very bad idea for a first time dog owner (and yes, before I decided I’ll never own a dog again, owner is the word I used). They were never fully house trained. They howled when I left the house (no wonder my neighbors turned to crack). And they fought. Oh, did they fight.

I’ll never forget the worst battles when Christie had seizures at the end of her life. If I didn’t catch her first, Christie would stand stiffly over Agatha while she was still “out of it” from her seizure. Next thing you know, there was fur, saliva, and blood flying.

I remember Mike coming home one night to find Agatha out on the porch and me covered in blood while I tried to figure out where Christie was bleeding from.

Not good times.

The Hard Dog on Her Own

When Christie passed at 14 years old, I worried about Agatha. She was puzzled when we came home from the vet. Alone. But that was her only reaction.

I think she was relieved to finally be on her own with us.

Agatha had a great two years with us. Without her sister around, her craziness decreased. Of course, it probably helped that she had cataracts and had gone completely deaf.

But Agatha still had some spunk.

I came home one day to find an empty, torn up bread wrapper on the floor. Sure, lots of dogs counter surf. But we stored the bread on top of the refrigerator. My arthritic dog jumped up on a chair, climbed onto the table, and stretched until she could reach the top of the fridge.

Maybe the reason I have such strong memories of Agatha is not because she was such a hard dog to live with. But because, for her last two years, she became a pretty easy dog to live with.

Or maybe it’s because the dog was as hard to live with as the person.

The Hard Dog and the Hard Person

I found my 20s and 30s really tough. I don’t know how my husband ever lived with me.

When things were really terrible, Agatha was there to comfort me. Not because she was an intuitive, special dog who always knew what a person needed. But because she was such a neurotic, messed-up pup.

Agatha was obsessively attached to me.

One crazy dog stuck to one crazy person. It was a perfect match.

Honey the golden retriever is an easy dog.

I don’t mind using the laptop instead of the iMac. I’m easy.


Who is Your Heart Dog

Some people refer to their “heart dog”— that special, canine soul-mate they form a special connection to. Not everyone gets the idea of a heart dog. I’ve never used the term myself.

But I wonder about it sometimes.

I’ve heard people describe their heart dog as the one who knew what they wanted before they asked for it. Who didn’t need training because she just did what she was supposed to all the time.

But I’ve also heard people describe their heart dog as needy. Or neurotic.

Maybe it’s just a side effect of my gloomy view of life. But I have to work much harder to remember the easy times in my life than the hard. Maybe, for me, it’s the same way with dogs.

And that’s why I need to treasure every moment with my easy dog. Because my easy dog won’t be by my side forever. And maybe plentiful, happy memories with an easy dog can remain with me as long as difficult memories with a hard dog.

Thank you to Lara Elizabeth of Rubicon Days, whose Bad Dogs are the Best Dogs, inspired this post.

Mike walks with Honey, the easy dog.

My two favorites. Living with one is easy and one is hard. But which is which changes from day-to-day.


Did You Miss These Wags?

And on a sillier note, have you voted in the poll for what we should call Something Wagging This Way Comes readers (you see what I mean? it’s just too long and awkward.)?

Wag-alongs has just squeaked past S’waggers. Now really people. Do you think we’ll ever be as cool as cat bloggers if we call ourselves Wag-alongs? But I’m not biased.

Oh, and we have two new suggestions: Wagsters and Waginators. “I’ll be bark” anyone?

Pet Blogger's Gift Exchange BadgeAnd we’re taking names for the Pet Blogger’s Gift Exchange. Sign up to be matched with another blogger to share link love and encouragement. If you don’t believe me it will be one of the best things you ever do, check out the comments from people who did it last year and are coming back for more. Just enter your information in the Rafflecopter and wait to receive your match by email.

Hope you can join the fun.

Your Turn: Have you had “hard” dogs and “easy” dogs? Do you find one more memorable than the other?

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  1. Growing up Mom had a dog that was a handful. They had no clue about dogs, adopted a year old husky, changed his name and that turned him into a different dog. He was sweet as could be but trouble all the time, ran away all the time, the police brought him home many times, stole the turkey on Thanksgiving, basically controlled the family. He wasn’t mean, just had no rules and we had no clue. Mom’s first dog on her own was the complete opposite, so sweet, loyal and well behaved. The three of us now are a mix, not easy as we are all independent breeds, but we are all nice and fairly obedient.

    • Sounds like your mom has told you some stories about her earlier dogs, Emma. I’d certainly agree that stealing a Thanksgiving turkey is memorable.

      Of course, a French scent hound who can write is pretty memorable too. :)

  2. We had one easy dog -Suzy. We only had her nine months before she passed away so my memories are limited. It’s hard to say I remember her less because she was easy due to the short time we had with her. It’s been hard dog ever since but they’re each hard in their own unique lovable ways. And I’m a better person for helping them surmount their challenges, or a better person for accepting them as they are. I’d rather have my motley crew than a trio of perfection anyday.

    I too try not to use the phrase heart dog, not because I don’t believe you can have that special bond but because I have that special bond with each of my hard dogs. Each bond is unique but one is not deeper than another.

    • “I too try not to use the phrase heart dog, not because I don’t believe you can have that special bond but because I have that special bond with each of my hard dogs. Each bond is unique but one is not deeper than another.”


  3. We’ve been fortunate that our dogs’ have been fairly ‘easy’. Jack & Maggie have both had their challenges, but both have show great improvements (a benefit of being seniors). We rescued two littermates years ago (Tino & brother Bernie). It was clear right from the start that Tino was in charge. Bernie was the happy-go-lucky younger brother and Tino the more serious. But Bernie deferred completely to Tino and I never saw it escalate to a fight. Bernie didn’t make it with us too long – they both had distemper and Bernie passed about 4 weeks after we rescued them, so I don’t know if their relationship would have devolved into more of a rivalry. But Tino lived peacefully with our other dog Sally, so I assume it would have been fine. I think I’ve had 2-3 heart dogs…so I guess my definition is too broad :)

  4. Sherman is my easy dog and my heart dog. Leroy is my challenging dog and my once in a lifetime dog, I already know that there will never be another dog that even comes close to him and I cherish him every single day.

  5. I’ve heard many similar stories about littermates – it seems like such a nice idea but doesn’t always work out.

    Freya and Lasya had a handful of bad fights over their nine years together – enough to give me great pause about ever having two females again. I also ignored the warning signs on their first meeting, telling myself they would be fine…and they were, 99% of the time. I still don’t regret my choice for one minute.

    Thank you so much for the nod.

    • I suspect that if I had Agatha and Christie now, we would all be much happier. Unfortunately, my sweet pups suffered from my lack of knowledge.

      Nowadays, I don’t think of littmates or same sex dogs as a definite problem. It’s more about observing the dogs in front of you and understanding what they’re telling you.

  6. All dogs are of course memorable in their own way, but I’ve had both hard and easy dogs, and maybe it’s just that there are more unique memories with the hard dogs… “Remember the time she stole the pizza?” “Remember how crazy she was about any reflection?” “Remember how you could never turn a flashlight on around her cuz she’d go nuts?” My hardest dog was my heart dog. It’s hard to explain a heart dog.

  7. Agatha sounds like she was quite the character. The only hard dog I remember was a German Short-Haired Pointer my mom had. His name was Frog Lips. No lie. We didn’t name him. Frog Lips did not like being left alone. He’d tear up the house every time. But he was not my heart dog. My heart dog was a Sheltie Named Cassie. She was my shadow in my childhood years and helped me through a lot of really tough stuff.

  8. I have had hard and easy dogs, and I’ve grown to appreciate both, for different reasons. I felt like the obstacles we overcame were a lot bigger deals with my hard dogs, but I wouldn’t trade my easy dogs for anything. I don’t think that you are limited to one heart dog in life, either. I do think that if you know what you’re looking for that it’s a lot easier to find a heart dog, though.

    • Every dog brings something interesting into our lives. And the lessons from both hard and easy dogs benefit the dogs who come after them.

      But sometimes, I wish I could learn some lessons just from reading a book. :)

  9. What a good post. I need to print it off and keep it in Silas’s training binder.

    • The things you’re learning from loving Silas are like a master’s degree in dogdom. :)

      And every word you write about coping with noises outside the house or looking for treats that don’t cause reactions, makes someone else’s experience with a hard dog that much easier.

  10. Harley was our first dog, and a very very troubled, abused dog with dog aggression, sever sep anxiety, and health issues. We were only blessed to have one year with him before he passed – and I will remember every moment of it.

    Toby, and now Meadow, have taken and are still taking me on quite a journey with their very different behavioral problems, and not that they are going anywhere any time soon, but I know I will remember every moment of our journeys.

    But with all that said, i would describe Leah as my heart dog. She chose me from the moment I walked into the shelter (to look at a different dog I had seen on line) and she holds a very very special place in my heart which I know I’ll never be able to fill when she’s gone.

  11. Both of my dogs I’ve owned as an adult are still alive. I think, for the most part, they are both equally as easy and hard. The big difference with them though is Chester is more friendly and happy-go-lucky. Gretel is our angsty dog. Interestingly, they are both hadnfulls in public – they just come at it from different places. After each dog is eventually gone, the hard stuff will fade from memory. However, Chester will always be the “easy dog” in my mind.

  12. I think we’ve been lucky so far and have not had a really hard dog yet. I think our lab mix Maggie was very easy, and I sometimes think of her as a “heart dog” though I’ve never really used that term. She was special, but we lost her at a young age and I think that could influence how I think about her. I think it could also make a difference when you only have one dog….that could make them seem easier when you can focus more attention on them. When Maggie was a puppy she was our only dog for her first year.