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"Something is wrong in Burden Hill. Some unknown entity is at work here, attracting other malevolent forces to this territory. This evil needs to be tracked down and destroyed. The Society is not what it once was, in numbers or in strength. We need your help to save Burden Hill. Can we depend on you?"
Emrys, "The Gathering Storm"

A supernatural horror/adventure comic series from Dark Horse Comics. It follows the residents of Burden Hill, a picturesque small town that seems to attract plenty of paranormal activity. Luckily there is a society whose sole duty is to defend against these various evil forces, with the only catch being that this society is made up of dogs (and one cat).

Originally starting as a series of short comics that were released in anthologies and later online, it expanded into a series of limited runs and one-shots, and is collected in omnibuses. It was created by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson and is written by Dorkin (with his wife, Sarah Dyer, occasionally co-writing) with art by Thompson (and later Benjamin Dewey). The pacing, art, and script are all top-notch, and it soon became a popular (if low-profile) new property.

In 2013, it was announced that Shane Acker would be doing a CGI-animated film based on the property, but in 2021 Dorkin clarified that the project never moved beyond pre-production due to conflicts over the script. Whether anything else will come of it has yet to be seen.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Abusive Owners, in this case. Rex's owner is a drunk who beats him. Potentially accounts for him being such a Cowardly Lion.
    • Implied for the boy from "A Dog and His Boy" — he ran away from home, says he'd rather die than go back, and the story of his childhood and family is mostly "unpleasant and cruel."
    • Ace's previous home is implied to have been abusive; he sympathizes with the boy, saying he wouldn't want to be sent back to his old home.
  • All Therapists Are Muggles: In the first issue, Jack's owners visit a pet psychic to find out what's wrong with him. She says he wants more affection, but he really just wants to be able to get a good night's sleep.
  • All Witches Have Cats: At least, the ones seen all had a cat as a familiar.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Kind of a prerequisite given what the plot is about. The animals are portrayed as being more or less fully capable of grasping concepts like a human would, with the only gaps in their understanding being the result of not being able to communicate with humans directly. Some of them can even read, though this may be done with the aid of magic.
  • Amputation Stops Spread:
    • Dymphna is bitten on the tail by a dog zombie, but she survives because a rat shaman discovers her plight and gnaws off her tail. However, it's not out of kindness but Pragmatic Villainy (since she's a witch), and they force her to help them achieve world conquest.
    • Emrys claims that he had to tear out his own eye to stop the spread of a basilisk's petrifying gaze. But that was apparently just a scary story to keep the puppies listening to him from getting into danger; he points out to Pugsley afterward that there's nothing wrong with his eyes — not that anyone could tell, since they're covered by fur.
    • Averted in Occupied Territory where the bitten limb is not taken off, instead the dogs attempt to make the curse bringer take it back to save the victim. It works and he is saved.
  • And I Must Scream: The demon Harrow kept Dymphna's clan mates trapped in her home for months; furious that he was stuck in her incantation circle, he was unable to physically harm them, but instead corrupted the house, spoiling the food and water and infecting those living in it. He repeatedly reanimated their den mother and made her attack them, forcing them to kill her over and over again. Even when the cats tried to kill themselves, he prevented them from dying, and when they clawed their eyes out, he still made sure they'd see him even when he allowed them to sleep.
  • And This Is for...: When the Orphan takes out the aggregate demon's eye.
    Orphan: This is for Fluffy, you big stinkin' pile of crap.
  • Animalistic Abomination:
    • The aggregate demon is a giant frog who speaks in special speech bubbles and says it will eat everything.
    • The human-faced animals encountered in "Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men".
  • Animal Jingoism: Largely downplayed. While dogs & cats (and, when they figure into the plot, other animals) interact with each other they often trade snark and jabs, but it rarely gets any more vitriolic than that. The dogs in the main cast make it clear they value the Orphan as a friend just as they would if he were a dog, and he likewise cares a lot for his canine companions even if he doesn't outright say it. The only real instance of jingoism shown thus far is in "Occupied Territory", when a cat refuses to help Emrys during his investigation because she refuses to talk to dogs.
  • Animal Religion: Dogs have their own mythology. The Great Dog appears to be a god figure, or at least has dominion over the afterlife, and the Black Dog is The Grim Reaper, a figure to be feared before your time is up, but welcomed when it comes.
  • Animals Lack Attributes: Averted without a whole lot of attention drawn. Apparently none of the dogs are neutered. Also, while impersonating a female cat the Orphan is told to keep his tail down to avoid blowing his cover.
  • Animal Stereotypes: A bit, but it's mostly for comedy and the characters have other attributes.
  • Animal Talk: Animals of different species can understand each other, but not humans.
  • Analogy Backfire: In "Grave Happenings", Pugsley talking about how he doesn't trust Dymphna.
    Pugsley: Now she's supposed to be all okay an' crap. Well, I ain't buying it. Animals don't change their markings.
    Whitey: Some lizards can ch—
    Pugsley: Oh, shut up, Whitey! You know what I mean.
Shortly after that, they run into Digger, whose face fur has turned from black to white with shock.
Whitey: So weird. And Pugs was just saying animals can't change—
Pugsley: Would you shut up? I was talkin' 'bout that no-good witch cat!
  • Anyone Can Die: Or at least a fair few Mauve Shirts can.
  • Artifact Title: The Wise Dogs Society became this the moment they let a cat in. Admittedly it is the first time they appear to have done so, and it's mentioned that their numbers are lower than usual. Mentioned in a few issues, especially after they also adopt a fire elemental lizard.
  • Asian Fox Spirit: A kitsune is one of the creatures encountered in Occupied Territory.
  • Asshole Victim: The teen that steals and kills puppies and other small animals. You feel more sorry for his parents than him when Hazel's puppies possess the other dogs and rip his throat out.
  • Author Appeal: This isn't the first supernatural comic Evan Dorkin has written, he used to be a writer/penciler on the comic book adaption of The Real Ghostbusters.
  • Avengers Assemble: While the main characters had a few prior supernatural adventures, "The Gathering Storm" is when they are formally admitted into the Wise Dogs Society as junior apprentices, forming an official team.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The end of "A Dog And His Boy" ends with this. After the climax Ace is approached by a black female dog, and then it cuts to the nameplate from Ace's doghouse lying on the ground, making you think that the other dog was the Black Dog and that Ace had died. Then the viewpoint goes inside the house and we see Ace, badly injured, but alive.
  • Beast with a Human Face: In Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men, the elder wise dogs encounter a pack of raccoons with human faces, devouring a dead creature.
  • Beat Panel: At the end of "The Gathering Storm", after the gang has just been sworn into the Wise Dog Society as junior apprentices, most of them suddenly realize that they need to get home and practically trip over each other rushing off. There's a panel of the remaining characters (Red, Emrys, Miranda and the Orphan) silently watching them go before the Orphan dryly remarks, "I feel safer already."
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: In "Lost", a newspaper article describes the serial animal killer as "quiet, loner" and "overlooked".
  • Big Bad: A still unknown entity that has set up residence in Burden Hill, drawing other evils to the town.
  • Big Ball of Violence: In "The Unfamiliar", when the gang pounces on Dymphna to capture her.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • In "The Unfamiliar", Rex comes to the Orphan's rescue in the nick of time to keep him from getting sucked into a magical vortex.
    • The humans who show up and easily dispatch the werewolf.
    • In Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men, Miranda shows up with the salamander as planned, casting a fireball to attack the warlocks' camp.
  • Blinded by the Light: In "Something Whiskered This Way Comes", Dymphna casts a spell to blind the rats with light so she and the Orphan can make a break for it.
  • Blood from the Mouth: In "Grave Happenings", Karl casts a spell on Miranda that makes her vomit blood.
  • Body of Bodies: The aggregate demon is a giant frog made of smaller frogs. The earth golems can also count as they are made of earth and corpses.
  • Book Ends: "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" begins and ends with focus on a dead dog and a quote. (Warning for gore behind the links.)
  • Buried Alive: Trixie's spirit is unquiet because the drunk driver who hit her with his car buried her in his backyard while she was Not Quite Dead.
  • A Cat in a Gang of Dogs: The main characters initially consist of five dogs and a cat. All six of them join the Wise Dog Society. They get a second cat in the group once Dymphna undergoes her Heel–Face Turn. Lampshaded in "Sacrifice", when they introduce themselves to Hellboy as junior apprentices of the Wise Dog Society:
    Hellboy: The cats, too?
    Jack: Um. Yeah.
    [Hellboy takes a drag on his cigar]
    Hellboy: Okay. Got it.
  • Cats Are Mean: Seems to be setting up in the first issue, when the Orphan is dismissive about the rumors about the Wise Dogs, and again with the witches' cats and some of the Orphan's friends. The trope is subverted over time however, as most of the cats are more snarky rather than actually mean. The Orphan is actually insightful and typically quite willing to help, even if he might groan about it. Dymphna is much the same after her Heel–Face Turn, still giving out snark but becoming more & more altruistic as she works with the heroes.
  • Cats Have Nine Lives: Metaphorically used, thus far the cats tend to have a higher chance of getting away from the Monster of the Week than the dogs. Personified by "The Getaway Kid", a tomcat who is infamous for this. According to themselves, Orphan is on his fifth life. Cats also seem to be dismissive of cats on their first life.
  • Cat Stereotype: The witches' cats are all black.
  • Chain of People: In "The Unfamiliar", the dogs form a chain to stop the Orphan from getting sucked into a magical vortex.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: In "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie", after the Orphan gives his somber insight into life as a stray, the dogs all look at each other uncomfortably, and Whitey makes a feeble attempt to change the subject.
    Whitey: ....Say...uh...anybody wanna bat a ball around or something?
  • Cobweb Jungle: In Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men, the characters have to pass through a section of forest that is filled with the sticky silk of webworms.
  • Combat Tentacles: The monster from Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men has many tentacles which it uses as instruments of impalement.
  • Combination Attack: In "Grave Happenings". Fire creation + fire boosting = one toasted enemy.
  • Creepy Crows: The crows are antagonistic, being allied with the rat cult and "master". Averted in "Occupied Territory" where they are actually neutral Tengu.
  • Crossover: With Hellboy in "Sacrifice".
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The puppies and kittens in "Lost" all suffered this by the sadistic teen that killed them, being mutilated, shoved into cages and boxes, chained to rocks, and everything else before being tossed into a pond to drown. They are... not happy about this.
  • Crying Critters:
    • In "Stray", all the pets present, even Orphan, are in tears as Trixie's ghost thanks them for giving her peace.
    • In "A Dog and His Boy", Ace cries as he lies helplessly in the snow, watching the boy's life fade.
    • In "What the Cat Dragged In", Dymphna has tears in her eyes after Rachel and Tansy pass on.
  • Dead All Along: In "The View from the Hill", the gang encounters a herd of sheep and their sheepdog, who are soon revealed to be ghosts.
  • Death of a Child: It doesn't matter what species or age you are, you have equal chance of meeting a grisly end in this series.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: The gang sets a trap for the invisible monster in "Hunters and Gatherers" by letting it chase them until they can lead it onto a bridge which collapses under its weight.
  • Dehumanization: The animal-torturing teenager in "Lost." The ghosts of Hazel's puppies call him "it" when they describe how they died, and when Rex, Ace and Hazel kill him while possessed by other, angrier ghosts, his screams aren't rendered in text. We just see him with his mouth open, then being tackled and mauled by the dogs.
  • Demonic Head Shake: Happens to Jack when he's possessed in "Lost".
  • Demonic Possession: The ghost puppies in "Lost" possess Rex and Ace and their mother to take brutal vengeance on their murderer.
  • Dies Wide Shut: When the boy dies, his eyes are open.
  • Disease Bleach: In "Grave Happenings", the black dog Digger has a horrific supernatural encounter that leaves him in shock and turns the fur on his face white.
  • Disney Death: In "A Dog and His Boy", Ace comes close to death, lying and bleeding in the snow. A black dog appears, seemingly the Grim Reaper figure mentioned earlier in the issue, but it turns out to be a Wise Dog apprentice who manages to help him.
  • Domino Revelation: Ghosts, zombies, vampires, you get the point.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": In "The Gathering Storm", when Rex and Whitey meet Miranda, they act deferential, with Rex bowing and Whitey addressing her formally, but Miranda insists they dispense with the formalities.
    Whitey: Oh! Sorry— We didn't see you, Miss, um, Wise Dog. Lady.
    Miranda: Call me Miranda. And please don't bow. I'm only an apprentice. Besides, bowing fell out of favor years ago, I'm happy to say.
  • Driven to Suicide: Hazel after the puppy ghosts possess her and she kills their murderer.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • In "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie", a dog is found dead on the side of a road, buried, and given a funeral.
    • The gang drop flowers into the Devil's Well, where Hazel and the missing pets died.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In "Stray", Jack is able to understand human speech, namely the pet psychic talking to his owners. Later installments establish that normally, animals can not understand humans. In the letters column of "What the Cat Dragged In", Evan Dorkin points this out as something that was changed.
  • Empowered Badass Normal:
    • All of the main characters start off as just normal pets (and one stray) who happen to get caught up in the supernatural oddities going on in Burden. Once they're inducted into the Wise Dogs Society, they begin learning how to cast spells, though as of yet none of them have much aptitude for it.
    • Ace also winds up getting some of the werewolf's abilities after it bites him, namely a Healing Factor and the propensity to enter Unstoppable Rage when he's angry enough.
  • Epigraph: "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" has a quote at the beginning and end.
    • The beginning one is a rhyme about death, supposedly a piece of traditional canine verse.
    • The ending one is a Title Drop of sorts, the origin of the saying "let sleeping dogs lie":
      "It is nought good a sleeping hound to wake."
      Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde
  • Even the Loving Hero Has Hated Ones: Downplayed. In "Grave Happenings", Pugsley voices his disdain and suspicion for former enemy Dymphna. The others think he's being too hard on her, but Pugsley retorts:
    Pugsley: Oh, please! I don't see the rest of you cozyin' up to her. Even Miranda don't like her, an' she likes everyone.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: The dog zombies.
  • Exact Words: When the demon Harrow agreed not to harm even a single hair to those who remain, he was sincere... but that still meant that the other demons in Hell below would be able to.
  • Excrement Statement:
    • In "Sacrifice", Pugsley pees on Karl's talking skull in defiance, which inadvertently ends up being the key to victory as it taints the blood ritual.
    • In Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men, Lundy scornfully pees on one of the warlocks' symbols that's been carved into a tree.
  • Eyeball-Plucking Birds: In "Hunters and Gatherers", the Wise Dogs manage to kill a huge reptilian monster known as a Windslither. As they examine the body, a flock of crows descends, picks out its remaining eye, and fly away with it. In this case, it's not because they want to eat it, but because the eye of a Windslither is a rare magical artifact. At the end of the story, the crows present the eye as an offering to the rat clan beneath the town, and they later use the eye to transform one of their own into a monstrous rat ogre.
  • Eye Scream: The Orphan claws out the eye of the aggregate demon. Also Dymphna's children, in the futile hope to escape the demon Harrow at least a little.
  • Fainting Seer: Jack's close encounters with the supernatural tend to leave him incapacitated for a while.
  • Fear Is the Appropriate Response: In Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men, when the monster starts attacking, a warlock yells to the others not to panic and to stand their ground. Then the creature comes into full view.
    Lundy: Ah, no. Just… no. Panic is exactly what's called for here.
  • Fiery Salamander: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men opens with a forest fire that was caused by a fire elemental salamander.
  • Fireball Eyeballs: Sometimes happens during the casting of fire spells.
  • Foreshadowing:
    Whitey: W-witches?
    Pugs: Yeah. An' demon cats. An' later we'll have werewolves.
    • In "A Dog and His Boy," a newspaper lands on Pugsley's face. The main article is about a pair of teens killed in the woods by a wild animal.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: The ghost sheep the society encounters; to everyone except Jack, they look like normal sheep, but to Jack they appear as they did at their moment of death, and since they all burned to death...
    "He can see." "I'm afraid so." "The poor thing..."
  • For Want of a Nail: In "Sacrifice", the giant stone golem raised by the villains is flawed, allowing Hellboy to take it down with ease. All because Pugsley peed on Karl's skull in defiance, tainting the blood magic.
  • Full-Boar Action: Giant boars with two pairs of protruding tusks are used as mounts by the antagonists in Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men.
  • Ghost Butler: In "What the Cat Dragged In", once the cats and Hoke get into the house, the door closes behind them, trapping them inside.
  • Ghostly Animals: Some of these turn up from time to time:
    • "Stray" has a doghouse which turns out to be haunted by the ghost of a dog who was buried in the yard.
    • "Lost" features the ghosts of dozens of animals, wild and domesticated alike, who were killed by a serial torturer of animals.
    • "The View from the Hill" features a herd of ghost sheep and their sheepdog, who turn out to have died in a barn fire.
  • Ghostly Chill: In "Stray", when Ace picks up Trixie's collar, he comments, "Did it just get colder?" The next panel, there's a ghostly wail.
  • Giant Spider: The Tsuchigumo from Occupied Territory, spiders bigger than dogs, and their leader, the Lady Tsuchigomo, who is the size of a house.
  • Gilligan Cut: In "What the Cat Dragged In", when the cats try to get Hoke the raccoon to help them with opening a door.
    Hoke: This is stupid! Cats are stupid! And magic cats are the stupidest thing ever! I'm stayin' right here in my beautiful garbage, and that's that!
    [next panel]
    Hoke: [holding doorknob] You owe me for this.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Used in concert with Nothing Is Scarier.
    • When the Orphan is about to take out the aggregate demon's eye, the next panel shows the others fighting the demon with the eye-stuff raining down on them.
    • When Ace kills Karl in the graveyard, instead of showing it, it switches to a Reaction Shot of the others.
  • The Grim Reaper: The Black Dog from dog mythology, shepherdess of the dead who fetches the souls of the departed.
  • Guilt-Induced Nightmare: In Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men. Miranda, whose duties have taken her away from Burden Hill, has a nightmare about Ace being dead with crows pecking at him while the others blame her for her absence.
    Jack: You said you'd come back to Burden Hill. You said you'd help us.
    Pugsley: But you didn't.
    Rex: And now Ace is dead.
    Miranda: [waking up] No—!
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: In "The Presence of Others", Muggsy gets bitten in half by the ogre rat.
  • Hand Gagging: In "The Presence of Others", Rex cuts off a rude retort from Pugsley by putting a paw over his muzzle.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Possibly Dymphna, in an Anti-Hero kind of way.
  • Heroes "R" Us: The Wise Dogs Society, though it's a volunteer thing and seems to have been around for a while.
  • Heroic Dog: Most of the cast, but in particular Ace.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Dymphna the familiar lures the zombie dogs in front of an oncoming truck to put them down.
    Pugs: She's nuts! Don't she see that truck?
    Orphan: Don't worry, Pugs. She sees it.
  • Hero of Another Story: In "A Dog and His Boy", the human mercenaries that pulled a Deus ex Machina and killed the werewolf, implying something like the Wise Dogs Society exists for humans too.
  • Hope Spot: In "Lost", Whitey manages to successfully cast a spell to get the ghosts surrounding them to leave, and Pugsley rejoices… before it turns out the ghosts went and possessed a bunch of nearby forest animals and are returning.
    Orphan: Holy crap. He did it.
    Pugs: Whitey! I'll never make fun of you again! You're a goddamned wizard!
    Orphan: Hey, wait a second. Shouldn't they have gone back into the water?
    Whitey: Uhhh, guys? I don't think my spell worked…
    [Menacing forest animal noises]
    Pugs: OH, CRAP! Whitey, I take it back! You're a suck wizard!
  • Horse of a Different Color: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men has giant boars being used as mounts.
  • Howling to the Night: The best way for the cast to communicate over a distance.
  • Human Sacrifice: The warlocks in Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men attempt one of these to awaken the serpent they worship.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: In Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men, when the monster starts attacking the warlock camp, many of them are impaled on its tentacles.
  • In Medias Res: Several of the stories, including the first one, begin with the characters in the middle of dealing with a particular supernatural happening.
  • Interspecies Adoption: Of a sort. The Boy Ace adopts is at least a teenager, but they take him in like any other stray.
  • Invisible Monsters: In "Hunters & Gatherers", the society faces off against a huge reptilian monster capable of turning itself invisible that's terrorizing the Hill. It's apparently not just able to become invisible, but can also hide its scent.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: The ghost sheep encountered in one issue died in a barn fire, so their true forms look like charred corpses.
  • Kappa: A kappa is one of the creatures encountered in Occupied Territory.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: In Occupied Territory, Emrys gives Mullins his name after seeing a nearby newspaper with a Moon Mullins comic strip.
  • Locked into Strangeness: A really weird example; Digger's entire face turns from black to white after he sees his owner get torn apart by dirt Golems.
  • Magical Native American: The "boy who talks" gives no explanation for why he Speaks Fluent Animal beyond that his people do it.
    • Oddly, as the boy lies dying at the end, he can no longer understand Ace, which seems to imply that the lycanthropy may be playing a part, which conflicts what he said earlier.
  • Magnetic Plot Device: The town itself, for reasons yet to be fully explained. Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men reveals there's a "blood lure" drawing in supernatural forces, but the nature of the lure has yet to be made clear.
  • The Masquerade: With the animals for the humans.
  • Mature Animal Story: The characters are all talking animals and the series is generally light-hearted, but it's certainly not for kids, as there is copious gore, swearing, human and animal death, adult story-lines, and the occasional doggy genitalia.
  • Mauve Shirt: Whenever an additional animal joins the main characters, there's a decent chance they won't make it out of that particular story alive.
  • Mind-Control Eyes: In "Lost", Jack's eyes go white when he acts as a Willing Channeler, and Ace, Rex, and Hazel get red eyes when they're involuntarily possessed.
  • Missing Child: Everyone's blood freezes at the stating of a single sentence: "My children are missing."
    • Also an example of Mood Whiplash, given the silly complaints the Wise Dog Society fields immediately before this.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The monster from Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men is covered in toothy mouths, with the main one being packed with rows of teeth.
  • Mundanger: Most of the dangers the characters face are supernatural in nature. However, in "Lost", the ultimate source of the problem turns out to be a teenage boy who is secretly a serial animal killer.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The look on Hazel's face after she kills a serial animal killer under Demonic Possession.
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: In "The Unfamiliar", the narration describes Rex and the Orphan's lives as flashing before their eyes when they're close to getting sucked in by the vortex — in the Orphan's case, his first three.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Rex does a Big Damn Heroes to save the Orphan from a cat goddess, but at the time he was supposed to be keeping an eye on a captured witch-familiar cat. The cat escapes while he's off saving the day and causes them a lot of trouble later on... although she does try to fix what she did, and seems to have pulled a Heel–Face Turn.
    • In Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men, the Big Damn Heroes moment ends up breaking the seal imprisoning the creature.
      Lundy: Lovely. After all that, we bloody go and do the job for them.
  • Nightmare Sequence:
    • In Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men, Miranda has a nightmare about Ace being dead with crows pecking at him while the others address her, blaming her for her absence.
    • At the end of "The Presence of Others", Sabina has a nightmare about Burden Hill in an apocalyptic state.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: In Occupied Territory, when Jonathan and Emrys meet with the colonel in his office, Emrys wanders over to look at the report on his desk. Because he appears to be an ordinary dog, this does not raise suspicions. Later, alone with Jonathan, he relays the info from it.
  • Oh, My Gods!: Dogs will occasionally exclaim, "Great dog in heaven".
  • On a Scale from One to Ten: In Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men:
    Lundy: Huh. I think I have an idea. It's…a bit chancey, though.
    Emrys: How chancey? Scale of ten.
    Lundy: Ummm, twenty?
  • Oni: A huge red Oni is encountered and fought in Occupied Territory.
  • The Order:
    • The Wise Dogs Society, an old order of dogs dedicated to dealing with supernatural matters.
    • "Occupied Territory" introduces The Council, which is a group of Japanese Youkai.
  • Orwellian Retcon: The Black Dog is referred to as male in the original version of "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" (published in The Dark Horse Book of the Dead) and female in the republished version (in the collection Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites).
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Goblins are small green troublesome creatures that will steal chickens for food. There are also lurkers, larger green creatures; and thornlings, small green spiky creatures that live among thorny vines.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Very. It's implied that werewolves don't necessarily come into being through genetics or getting bitten, but can be created by performing a ritual on a human, as was the case for the boy in "A Dog and His Boy". The werewolf is also some sort of Split Personality, evidenced by the creature referring to the boy as a separate being and the boy himself not being aware of its existence. Silver bullets still work on them, though.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Occupied Territory introduces a curse that kills people and then makes their heads detach, sprout tentacles from their necks, and crawl around trying to bite people to spread the condition.
  • Painting the Medium: Speech bubbles for spells have special shapes and sometimes colors. Ghosts speak with borderless wispy bubbles. Demons and other supernatural entities have unique speech bubbles as well.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The ghost puppies on their killer.
  • The Place: The main setting, as referenced in the title, is Burden Hill.
  • Playing with Fire: Miranda and Emrys can conjure fire. Dymphna can make fire more intense.
  • Prematurely Grey-Haired: In "Grave Happenings", a local dog named Digger has all the fur on his face go pale after having an encounter with the earth golems and watching his owner get dismembered.
  • Pun-Based Title: The title is a play on the term "beast of burden" (in reference to a working animal). The comic is about the animal residents of Burden Hill.
  • Rain of Something Unusual: In "The Gathering Storm", it rains frogs. Said frogs turn out to be the components of a large demon.
  • Raising the Steaks: The zombie dogs in "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie".
  • Rascally Raccoon: One is encountered in "Lost" that seems basically psychotic, but the next page shows it's very young, and its mother is streetwise and much more levelheaded. He later reappears — it's established his name is Hoke — and reluctantly assists the cats in opening a charmed door and later, tries to go up against a powerful demon.
  • Rat King: The rat king, a bunch of rats joined by the tails.
  • Reaction Shot:
    • In "Stray", after the ghost dog tells her story, the next panel shows everyone teary-eyed.
    • In "A Dog and His Boy", after the gang sees the boy tearing apart rabbits with his mouth and bare hands, the next panel is them looking on in shock and horror.
    • In "Lost", after Hazel comes to the gang to report her missing children, the next panel shows them all concerned and on alert.
    • In "Grave Happenings", as Ace tears into the man, it cuts away to show the others' disturbed reactions.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The angry ghosts in "Lost" have red pinpoint pupils, and anything possessed by them gains red scleras.
  • Religion of Evil: The Brotherhood of the Red Serpent, a group of warlocks who worship "the great serpent" and slaughter humans and animals for their own ends.
    • "The Unfamiliar" features a coven of witches who worship Sekhmet, an ancient Egyptian goddess of chaos and war.
  • Rewrite: The Black Dog is referred to as male in the original version of "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" (published in The Dark Horse Book of the Dead) and female in all subsequent stories. The republished version of "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" (in the collection Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites) refers to her as female as well.
  • Right Behind Me:
    • In "Grave Happenings" when Pugsley badmouths Dymphna.
      Miranda: You do realize she's in the trees above us, listening to everything we say?
    • In the beginning of "What the Cat Dragged In" as the Orphan and Getaway Kid are spying on Dymphna and examining a rat she killed.
      Getaway Kid: Real ball of yarn, that girl. You sure know how to pick 'em.
      Dymphna: [appearing behind them] You wouldn't be talking about me, now, would you?
  • Rodents of Unusual Size:
    • Some of the rat soldiers, Bloodletter included, are the size of small dogs.
      Orphan: Holy god. Please tell me you're a skinny muskrat.
    • The ogre rat in "The Presence of Others" is bigger than a cow.
  • Scenery Porn: Jill Thompson's watercolors are pure eye candy.
  • Scooby Stack: In "The Unfamiliar", the dogs pile on top of each other to peek out at a passing black cat. Pugsley is on the bottom; Whitey stands on him, and Jack leans on Whitey. Rex and Ace, being the tallest, can poke out their heads without any apparent need to stand on anyone.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Rex does this a few times, fitting in with his Cowardly Lion status. Pugs suggests this very often but doesn't actually follow through.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: In Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men, Tommy turns into a dog to escape the battle at the camp, but loses the collar that lets him transform, leaving him trapped in that form.
  • Shout-Out: In "The Presence of Others", Sabina's notes on the apprentices include: "Wait'll O.D.M hears! cats and dogs living together! mass hysteria!!" and the Ghostbusters logo.
    • In the same story, when the gang are trying to get into a locked mausoleum, Russell refers to his dad as the "master of unlocking".
  • Sixth Ranger: All of the cats who get mixed up with the Wise Dogs are regarded as this. And then there's Dymphna.
  • Snow Means Death: In "A Dog and His Boy", Ace comes close to death in the snow. Luckily, help manages to arrive in time. The boy is not so fortunate, and passes away next to him.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Normally, humans and animals cannot understand each other. It's a rare exception to find a human who can speak to animals, such as the witches, the Native American boy, Sabina, and Paul. Russell can understand them too if he's in contact with Sabina or Paul. The animals keep tabs on any human entering their town who they can understand.
  • Species-Specific Afterlife: The ghost sheep in "The View from the Hill" explain that this is why they don't move on; they don't want to be separated from their sheepdog companion, and from what they've heard from him, the dog afterlife is dogs-only.
    Sheep: He's never mentioned any cats there, or sheep, or humans. Only dogs. When the end comes, and you leave this place… Won't you miss your friend, if his path takes him somewhere else?
  • Stab the Scorpion: In Occupied Territory. Emrys and Mullins come across some hostile Shibas who charge toward them... only to run right by them, their real target being the oni behind them.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: The goblins have their own way of speaking, including differences in pronunciation (e.g. "aminals" for "animals", "cass" for "catch") and grammar.
    Goblin: You dead, cat! Dead an' et up in me belly!
  • Supernatural Team: The main characters are a team that investigates and deals with local supernatural occurrences.
  • Swarm of Rats: The sewer rats are usually encountered in swarms.
  • Taken for Granite: The basilisk in "Story Time" petrified all the enemies that approached its tower, until the surrounding grounds were crammed with the stony bodies of its victims. This is also the fate of Bítan, the heroic dog in the story.
  • Tanuki: Some Tanuki are encountered by Emrys and Mullins in Occupied Territory, taking on their appearances.
  • Team Hand-Stack: A variant — when the main characters are inducted into the Wise Dogs Society, they put their paws forward in a circle.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Hazel's puppies were the latest in a long string of victims by a serial animal killer. It's one of the rare instances where the threat wasn't supernatural.
  • Tengu: Tengu are one of the creatures encountered in Occupied Territory.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: The beginning of "Lost" sees the gang listening to "supernatural" reports from various neighborhood dogs. One reports a loud neighbor cat, one saw the Great Dog in a bowl of food, two report an urban legend about a killer tree, and another speaks about having been microchipped as if it were an Alien Abduction.
  • Together in Death: Hazel drowns herself in a pond to be reunited with her pups in death.
  • Tongue Trauma: In "The Gathering Storm", the dogs bite and hold onto the frog demon's tongue when it attacks them with it.
  • Too Many Mouths: The monster in Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men has one main mouth at the front and multiple mouths along its sides.
  • To Serve Man: The Jorōgumo in Occupied Territory prey on humans. The first one encountered says that she doesn't eat animals if she can help it.
  • Translator Microbes: The Feast of Tongues is a potion that allows one to understand other people and languages.
  • Tsuchigumo and Jorogumo: Jorōgumo, spider demons that take the form of human women to prey on men, show up in Occupied Territory, as do Tsuchigumo, which resemble Giant Spiders.
  • Urban Fantasy: Concerns a group of domestic animals encountering supernatural entities in a small American suburb.
  • The War Has Just Begun: At the end of "Grave Happenings".
    Miranda: Things are on the move. Terrible things.
    Pugsley: What the hell does that mean?
    Ace: It means we may have won the fight—but the war's just begun.
  • Vengeful Ghost: In "Lost," Devil's Well is full of the angry ghosts of countless animals tortured, killed, and dumped into the pond by a sadistic teenager. They're only pacified after three of them possess Rex, Ace, and Hazel to break into the boy's house and kill him.
  • Willing Channeler: In "Lost", Jack lets the ghosts of Hazel's puppies possess him so they can speak through him.
  • Xenofiction: With admitted doses of anthropomorphism, it's still a good example of the genre.
  • You Dirty Rat!: A cult of rats living in the sewers are reoccurring antagonists. Subverted by some rats encountered aboveground who emphasize that they don't follow the rat king or the "master".
  • You Have Failed Me: The cat goddess does this to her followers when Orphan sabotages their ritual.
  • Youkai: Various Youkai are encountered in Occupied Territory, including Kitsune, Yamawaro, Tanuki, a Kappa, a yamabiko, Tengu, an Oni, and Tsuchigumo and Jorogumo.
  • Your Head A-Splode: One of Lundy's spells has this effect.