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Once in a lifetime dog

Heart dogs

I’m wondering if people believe in the idea of a “once in a lifetime” dog.

You know, the dog in your life that no other dog can compare to. The dog that is held above all others. The dog that somehow stole your heart even though you have had or will have many others.

I’m not sure what I think of this concept. Ace could certainly be that once in a lifetime dog for me. But then again, I am only 27. There will be many more exceptional dogs.

As I get older, I grow more and more attached to my dogs. I loved our family golden retriever, Kacy, more than I thought I could love a dog. When Kacy died, our next golden easily filled that void, and so on. Each loss is harder than the last for me, and each new dog raises my standard for a “great dog.”

Will all my future dogs be compared to Ace? I hope not. Every dog should be given a chance to be herself and be appreciated for her own uniqueness.

A friend of mine recently lost her dog and told me she had no intention of ever getting another. Her “once in a lifetime” dog really would be her one and only, she said. I thought that was unfortunate. Everyone is different. Everyone handles loss differently, I know. It just seems wrong for a true dog lover to go without a dog for long.

So what is it that puts one dog above all others in an individual’s life? I don’t know.

Maybe it’s someone’s first dog. Maybe it’s the best trained dog, or maybe it’s the naughtiest dog.

Maybe it’s the dog that carries someone through childhood, adolescence or into adulthood. Maybe it’s the dog that stays behind when a spouse leaves for good. Maybe it’s the dog that comforts someone who finds few connections with people, the dog that truly is a best friend.

Maybe a once in a lifetime dog is no different than any other dog. It just happens to be the dog that crosses into an individual’s life when for whatever reason she can devote more time and attention to that dog. She notices that dog a bit more than the others.

I can’t say whether Ace is my once in a lifetime dog or whether there is such a thing for me.

The bond between Ace and I is very, very strong. He is the first dog I can call my own, the first dog I went out as an “adult” and adopted. He helped me transition from working in an office to running my own business. He has brought me to a new kind of happiness, somewhere I could not have gotten without him. Together we have gone on countless outdoor adventures and found ourselves in the quietest, most peaceful scenes.

Ace is just about as ordinary as they come – another big, black dog – but he’s my mutt, a good friend and a good boy.

Have you had a “once in a lifetime” dog?

Ace the black lab mix playing in the snow in Gooseberry Park

Ace the black lab mix playing in the snow in Gooseberry Park

Ace the black lab mix playing in the snow in Gooseberry Park


Tuesday 9th of February 2021

Yes I have, my whole life since I was born I have lived with dogs, my partner has also lived with dogs their whole life, we have been together 29 years and during that time have had 4 dogs together, generally 2 at a time and we have loved each and every one of them. But I have to say i know I have had my dog of a lifetime! I will never forget the bond I had with a certain crossbreed who I still remember every day and will miss for the rest of my life but don’t let that stop you forging a bond with a new one, the love any dog can give you and you can give them cannot be diminished and should not be disregarded. Any bond with a dog is a beautiful thing!

Tina Del Toro

Thursday 15th of December 2011

Cesar was my once in a lifetime dog. It was 5 am and pouring rain. I was on my way to the 24 hr store to buy coffee. As I walked I saw something leaning against a fence. As I approached in the dark I saw it was a Lab/Shepherd mix. The moment I saw him, tears welled up in my eyes. He looked like he was dying. I ran to the store, bought him some food and he limped behind me following me home. I had to leave for work and was so worried about leaving this strange dog in my house alone. I filled a bowl of food and water and closed the door behind me and left for work. That whole day I was a nervous wreck thinking I would come home and my house would be destroyed. Nine hours later, I opened the door and found him in the exact curled up position I left him in. His food & water went untouched. I hand fed him some food, took him to the vet and was so shocked to learn he was about a year old. He had BB shots all over his body, fleas, malnourished. I was sick over it and was not allowed to have a dog in my apartment. I nursed him back to health, gave my landlord extra money begging to keep him, he was the most amazing dog I ever had. My best friend & faithful companion. He lived happily with me for 7 years. His short life ended with cancer. But I will never forget him.

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 16th of December 2011

Thank you so much for sharing your personal story about Cesar. What a sweet dog. I'm sad to hear you've lost him, but I know you are hanging onto all those sweet memories of him. What a good dog!


Wednesday 14th of December 2011

Cowboy was my "once in a lifetime dog". It's been one year and 4 months since he's been gone and I still think about him almost every day. Sometimes I guess I dream about him, because I think I can feel him when I'm in bed, laying on my feet. We had a special connection. I said I'd never get another dog, but we recently rescued Lucy and of course still have Maddie. I really love Maddie and am growing to love Lucy, but there will never be another Cowboy and it breaks my heart.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 14th of December 2011

Thank you so much for commenting and for sharing your memories of sweet Cowboy. I also miss Bubba. I'm glad you have opened your heart to Lucy, and I can't wait to meet her.


Saturday 8th of January 2011

Sometimes it overwhelms me how much people love their dogs and how much they will do (like little Jake above, bless him) and other times I get angry at those despicable low lifes who harm dogs - i.e. puppy mills, dog fighting etc., I love my dog unconditionally and really believe dog is god. If I had money, dog rescue would be my mission. Once in a life-time dog, yes I believe in that but I don't think most dog people are so selfish - they usually have several dogs in their life-time - doggie people are generally the sort of people you can't help liking. Nice blog and will come back and join in, thanks.

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 8th of January 2011

Yeah, we humans can be a bit extreme on either side when it comes to animals. I hope I have many "once in a lifetime" dogs.


Thursday 30th of December 2010

What a wonderful site! I have to tell about my Once in a Lifetime Dog, Jake. Jake, a shepard mix, was in an animal shelter in New Mexico in the spring of 2008. There had been an animal abuse/neglect commercial featuring Sarah McLachlan playing during that time and it was that commercial that prompted me to go volunteer at the shelter. I bathed & walked several dogs, but when I came across Jake, he refused to budge...I had to carry him outside. He was also refusing to eat. It seems he knew he was going to die (he was slated for euthanasia). I took him outside, he laid his head on my shoulder and I picked ticks off him. I kissed his cheek and told him I was going to take him home, take him away from this. I already had 3 dogs at home and really wasn't looking for another one. But, I adopted him. Long story short, we bonded like I've never bonded with a dog before...and I've had many, many dogs over the years (I'm 43). We moved to Wichita, KS in Nov. 2008 and all our dogs came with us, of course. In July 2009, Jake began throwing up quite often. We took him to several vets and finally figured out he had "megaesophagus" (an enlarged esophagus) and food was staying in his throat and he was not getting proper nutrition. For the last year and a half, my husband and I have fed him canned dog food watered down, because dry food was too hard on his system...we cleaned up many messes, too. But, we so loved Jake. Jake had lots of love to give and we gave him lots of love back. He began to get worse in the past couple weeks and the throw up was smelling putrid. We knew it was only a matter of time. On the night of the 27th, Jake got into our other dogs' dry food and pigged out. That night was horrible and he was so sick and he lost his sparkle in his eyes. He was down to a little over 20 pounds...he was skin and bones, literally. We'd also gotten him a shirt & jacket to help him stay warm, hoping he'd make it through the winter. On 12/28/10, we took him to the vet yet again and decided we'd let him go. My husband and I stayed with him, holding him and telling him we loved him and wished him peace. We cried and cried. (I've cried some more today, too!) Jake touched our hearts like none other. The vet told us we did a good job, that megaesophagus was a very difficult disease to deal with and most people wouldn't have put as much time or effort into keeping a dog alive. Thank you for allowing me to share.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 30th of December 2010

Oh that is just so sad. Makes me want to cry. Thanks for saving Jake and taking such good care of him. I've heard of others dealing with megaesophagus, and I can only imagine the amount of patience it takes. I'm glad the last couple years of his life were spent with you.