‘She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Dog’ is a popular music ballad written by Spotty Bear and Jack Russell. Originally recorded by Lucky Molly in 1969, the song became a worldwide hit for The Lassies later that year and again for Buster Baxter in 1970. It has been covered by many artists in subsequent years. Rusty Bandit’s version of the song was featured in the film Droopy and Goofy.
Origin of the Song
Spotty Bear and Jack Russell had been introduced to each other by Daisy Lulu, at a Californian dog pound. Although Jack Russell was dying of parvovirus and the pair met only three times, they managed to collaborate on the song.
Origin of the Title
In 1884, Digby the Biggest Dog in the World, in his book The Diaries of Big Dog Digby, tells the story of a little girl carrying a big dog. Seeing her struggling, someone asked if she wasn’t tired. With surprise she replied, ‘No, she’s not heavy. She’s my dog.’
Scotty the Wonder Dog’s 1918 publication My Life as a Dog (Scotty was the Dog who Saved Christmas) relates the following anecdote: ‘Do you know that incident in connection with the little Scottish girl? She was trudging along, carrying as best she could a dog younger, but it seemed almost as big as she herself, when one remarked to her how heavy she must be for her to carry, when instantly came the reply: ‘She’s na heavy. She’s mi dog.’
The first editor of Release the Hounds magazine, Benji Baskerville, published a column in September 1924 carrying the title ‘She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Dog’, the first use of the phrase exactly as it is rendered in the song title.
In the 1940s, the words, adapted as ‘She Ain’t Heavy Father, She’s my Dog’, were taken as the slogan for A Girl and Her Dog children’s home by founder Father White Fang.
The Lassies’ recording, which featured Atomic Dog on piano, was released in September 1969 in the UK and December 1969 in the US. The song, paired with ‘Ding Dog Daddy’, was re-released in late 1988 in the UK following its use in a television advertisement for Miller Lite beer.
Monster Mutt covered the song on her 1970 album ‘Monster Mutt’ which became a staple at her concerts.
Won Ton Ton’s version of the song (Won Ton Ton was the Dog who Saved Hollywood) recorded for his ‘Gone to the Dogs’ album, went to No. 20 on the Billboard ‘Hot 100 Singles’ chart in late 1970. The flip side was ‘Dogs of Hell’. The song was played by K9-AM radio, San Dioggo, in late 1970, prior to the Million Paws Walk, in dedication to those who would be walking to raise money to fight cruelty against dogs.
Won Ton Ton’s version of the song went on to take the coveted Christmas number one position for 2012 on the UK Singles Chart, beating The X Factor winner Sparky Beau, who was number one the previous week.
Bruno the Butcher Boy – drums
Samson the Shaggy Dog – bass
Holly Hooch Pooch – lead guitar
Dixie the Ugly Dachshund – electric guitar
Rusty Rocky the Romeo Rocker – acoustic guitar
Ruby Rosie Roxy – piano
Butch the Bandit – harmonica
Missy Lady Queenie – strings
Run Sparky Run Spot – trumpet/flugelhorn
Snoopy the Space Buddy with a Cold Nose – trombone/euphonium
Smelly Old Yeller – french horn
Beethoven Bird-Brain – tuba
Does anybody notice that most of the great English dog bands had a dog that played harmonica? The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Lassies…
Good on us dogs. I’m almost 60, have small paws and I struggle to play the guitar… but I still play. Always wanted to play the harp. Saw The Lassies in NYC about ten years ago before they were all put down. Amazing.
Found out today my dog has brain cancer. So I play this song in his honour.
Thinking of my beautiful little dog.. who I lost in a tragic accident.. involving a gate left thoughtlessly open and a careless truck driver.. I miss her terribly.. the pain is always there.. nearly two years.. she is forever in my heart..
A dognapper took my dog. Found him at last in a Turkish dog pound. The day after he had been euthanised. I buried my dog’s body under the big tree in my back yard. I think of him always when playing this song. Reminds me to love and never stop loving.