In 1989, “Timber, I’m Falling in Love” became the first No. 1 hit for Patty Loveless. It was also the first taste of success for Kostas Lazarides, now a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. But Lazarides - known professionally as Kostas - has to give credit where it’s due: to his dog, Sonny.

We’ll let him explain, in a conversation with Bart Herbison of Nashville Songwriters Association International.

Bart Herbison: I’ve got a confession here. So, before I heard the song “Timber, I’m Falling in Love,” which was Patty Loveless’ No. 1 song of all time, I heard about it. I heard the title. And I’m like “Timber, I’m Falling”? And it’s a love song?

I’m (thinking), “I ain’t buying it.” Then I heard it. Oh, my God! You’re walking a fine line with that title and where you took it. You could have gone over here and (the song would have) been a little hokey. It could have gone over here and been like too wordy. Dude, you nailed that song. Take us back.

Kostas: Well, at the time that I wrote the song — it was probably in ‘88 or ’87, there about somewhere — I just signed with Welk Music with Bob Kirsch, Dean Kay, those folks. That was due to Tony Brown. He introduced me to them, and I liked all the crew that was there, they’re great people. In any case, this song …

BH: Which you wrote by yourself.

K: I wrote it with my dog, Sonny.

BH: OK, OK. Come on, now.

K: Sonny wrote the lyrics.

BH: All right, spill the beans.

K: I wrote it up in Montana one morning when I went to get my hair cut. I tied the dog up outside, had two bucks left in my pocket, went to this barber college because I couldn’t afford a regular haircut. I’ve kept that look ever since.

BH: How did Sonny write the lyric?

K: Well, because when I got done with my haircut, I go outside and I had him tied to a horse post out there, which they still got out right in front of the college there. I grabbed him, and we are going back home and I had this idea in my head. That’s when I started writing it. And, of course, (I’m) talking to the dog as I go along, you know. “OK, Sonny, what do you think?” You know, “Da, da, da, da, I’m falling in love. OK, that’s it.”

BH: You had a muse.

K: You know, a dog’s tail never lies. We had a hit on our hands. So I wrote the song, sent it down here to demo it. Tony (Brown, producer) loved it for Patty. He played it for Patty and she loved it. They went in and they cut it. They did such a wonderful rendering of that (song).

BH: Having said that, though, Patty could sing over screeching owls and we’d still love it. Let’s give her some homage right here. Because, I mean, we’re all still in awe of Patty Loveless.

K: The wonderful thing about Patty Loveless is there’s something in the water, where she’s from, because there’s just a whole lot of great singers and performers that came out of that. I think she’s from (Pikeville), Kentucky, you know. And so is Dwight Yoakam. And he’s got the same quality. ... And in my opinion, in those days with Tony Brown especially, his production with her was just superb. I loved what he was creating around here with the band and the players and such. But anyway, I was absolutely thrilled when I first heard the song. Marty had a yellow Jeep, I think, back in those days when the song first came out.

BH: Marty Stuart?

K: Yeah, Marty Stuart. He and I were going over to Fan Fair one day in his Jeep. As we’re driving along, he had the radio on and, of course, the wind’s blowing through our hair. We’re cruising along and all of a sudden, “Timber” comes on the radio. And that was the first time I’d heard the record.

BH: Your first big hit.

K: My first big hit. Absolutely. And I just melted. Because whatever holds us together disappeared for a minute. I just crystallized into this emotion, and I think I might have laughed and teared up at the same time. But we both looked at each other and just shook our heads. It was such a thrilling moment.