MUTTerings With Nikki Moustaki: Your Heart Dog

Have you ever had a dog that touched your soul? One dog that stood out from all the others?

Posted: November 14, 2011, 3 a.m. EDT

 Nikki and Pepper
Nikki and Pepper
I’ve heard it said so many times that you only get one “heart dog” in your life, your one soul mate pooch that means more to you than any other canine could, the one who connects with you on a level that most people can’t even reach.

Even though you might love other dogs – current, past, or future – there’s one dog that fits like the perfect puzzle piece into your soul and stays there, long after he or she might be gone.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was walking Pepper, Pearl, and Zoey down a New York City street, their leashes tangling around my legs, Pepper barking incessantly at passers by, Pearl picking up dirty rubber gloves and used paper towels and carrying them along like prizes, and Zoey shrinking and dodging from every perceived threat as if each moment would be her last. My angels.

I looked down at my muttley crew and remembered something a dog training client of mine asked me once: If Pepper, Pearl and Zoey were all tied to the railroad tracks and a locomotive was steaming toward them, whom would I save?

First I’d yell “Superman!” and hope that he’d swoop down and stop the train with his bare hands. If he was too busy with Lois Lane (which is likely), then I wouldn’t hesitate: I’d untie Pepper. Fourteen-year-old Pepper – cranky, bossy, barky, half blind and deaf, but loyal to the core – my heart dog.

Pearl and Zoey
Zoey and Pearl

Not that I don’t love Pearl and Zoey. They are protectors, often my saviors, my companions, my darlings, and my adorable little family. But still . . . they’d better not find themselves tied to any train tracks if Pepper is tied there too.

I’ve had dogs before Pepper. Childhood dogs that I remember fondly, and other elderly mutts I’ve pulled off of the street and loved until their last breaths. But Pepper is my heart dog. He has seen me through the roughest of times and the happiest of times. We’ve grown up together, and he has grown old under my care. If there were only one more seat in the life raft and the ship was sinking, I’d probably give it to Pepper and I’d tread water.

I wouldn’t trade Pearl and Zoey for anything and I can’t imagine life without the joy they bring into my house. They are constant companions to each other – they eat together, sleep on top of each other, wrestle raucously all day long (when they’re not napping in a puppy pile), play tug-of-war with toys, and share life in general as a little pack of two. When they look at each other, even for a second, their tails start wagging. They are each other's heart dogs.

And maybe that’s part of the reason Pepper is still so entrenched in my soul. My “girls” have each other and Pepper only has me. He would definitely rather that Pearl and Zoey find other accommodations, ideally very far away, perhaps on the moon.

What do you think? Do you only get one true “heart” dog? Who is your doggie soul mate? If a silent movie villain tied your dogs to the railroad tracks, whom would you save first, assuming you might only get to save one? I know it’s a horrible thought, but it’s just theoretical. No actual dogs will be hurt in your answer.

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Beth   Philadelphia, PA

2/19/2012 6:22:03 PM

I have two dogs. Boo-Boo, a 4-year-old shih tzu, and Moopy, a 5-year-old malti-poo. While I would never want to have to choose between the two, I'd have to pick my Moopy. I used to work in a pet store and took care of her when she arrived, so we had an incredible bond from the start. She had luxating patellas (loose kneecaps) so the vet put her on hold, meaning she was kept from being sold. During the time it took for him to give her the OK, we totally bonded. She was never shown in the window, and she never went home with anyone else. There have been some very difficult times in my life and she's always been right there with me. I don't know what I would have done without her. She depends on me for so much, and gives back so much more. So I have to say Moopy is my Heart dog. There has never been any other dog like her, and there never will be.

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Gina   Sandpoint, ID

2/18/2012 10:49:30 PM

We have our heart dog right now - Oscar the Bichon. A four-time returnee to the local shelter until we adopted him. Maybe because he is a little bit "broken". He has wormed his way deep into the hearts of my husband and myself. He is six, and every now and then he acts like he doesn't know who we are and is going to eat us. But we just give him his space, and in minutes he is back to normal, loving and cuddly as ever. He has gotten better in the year we've had him, but he will probably never be totally "normal". He has two bichon brothers that we also adore, but Oscar has a special place in our hearts, probably because he has been so misunderstood by his past owners. We have committed to keeping him until he crosses over the rainbow bridge - hopefully many years from now.

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Scott   Lacey, WA

2/18/2012 7:07:10 PM

Absolutely. Mine was a rescue boxer that we had in our home for only about 6 months before cancer took her. But she was so unique...we'd brought other dogs (strays, mainly) into the house before, and our dog was always cautious with the others. We brought her home, and she acted like she'd lived there her whole life, and our other dog also acted like she'd lived there her whole life!

She was the most loving, cuddly dog, and loved our kids so much. Even though we had her only a short time, she had my heart in a way no other dog has.

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Diane   Riverside Ca, CA

2/18/2012 6:22:25 PM

No doubt. My Emmitt Kelly my love my heart my service dog my life

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