Don’t wander into your husband’s office weeks before your birthday and discover printouts of longhaired dachshunds on his desk. It’s supposed to be a surprise.
Make sure you buy a tiny, soft gray bed; your dog will use it like a nest. He will chew harmlessly on the bed and make soft crying sounds, lapsing into a semi-conscious state that appears to be a reenactment of drinking milk from his mother. Maybe this reverie with the bed is the time he never got, because you are told he was the runt.
Give him a beloved name. What’s your favorite good-vibe name? You think of your father’s best friend, who is like a second father to you. He is wild and funny and has had adventures all of the world. You name him after this man.
Don’t take your tiny new puppy out to the boat dock in the dark November night. He is not like other dogs. He will fall in. You will have to rescue him and blow him dry with the hairdryer, and he will shiver even when his coat is dry.
Don’t expect him to look you in the eye; there’s something off about his vision. Does he have cataracts? He doesn’t make eye contact like a normal dog. Maybe it’s because he’s the runt?
He needs help going up the stairs. At first, this is because he is too tiny to mount the steps. But then he becomes too long and he goes up sideways in a diagonal. The stairs will always frighten him. When he gets older, he sits at the bottom and he has to psyche himself up for the journey. Your husband gives him a kickstart, nudging him with his foot. This will cause you to worry about your husband’s lack of compassion for the elderly and what he’s going to expect as an elderly person. When you want him to come up with you, you carry him up yourself, setting him gently down at the top. But on occasions when your hands are full, you resort to using the kickstart technique, which actually works pretty well.
You think you’re getting a miniature, but he’s not a mini like your childhood dog, Fritzi. He keeps growing and growing. Maybe he was the runt of a standard sized litter of dachshunds.
Is he half lizard? His tongue unfolds out of his mouth in a pink spiral that is unnaturally long. Like a monkey uses its tail, Woody uses his tongue; it is an extra appendage by which to sense and know the world. The tongue also serves a litmus test for when it’s time to take him to the vet to get his teeth cleaned.
Be careful not to lose any fingers when tossing him a treat. He lurches at his monthly heartworm pill with the ferocity of a wild zoo animal.
Be prepared for stubbornness, because that’s what dachshunds are. When you’ve finally got your toddlers’ shoes on and they’re all ready to go to school and you’re trying to load everyone in the car, he will sit at the top of the stairs and cock his head when you call his name. Call it again and again and he will cock his head again and again, like he’s listening to the screech of a rare jungle bird. He’ll stay put at the top of the stairs.
It doesn’t help to screech at him like a rare jungle bird. Maybe that’s the reason he’s not coming down. Or maybe he’s scared. It works much better if you coax him in your softest, kindest and most patient voice, but this is only possible after the children are older.
Be mindful of a dachshund’s back. Because they are so long, their spines can break easily. Don’t let the random friends that you kids have over on playdates carry him around like luggage. Insist that he gets placed in the red wagon with care.
Like you father’s friend, this dachshund has a history with the ladies. He’s capable of marriage many times over. Give him away to his best friend, the family black Labrador, Libby, many times in the dining room. She is beautiful, wearing her white veil and crown. You can see that he loves her by the way he curls up on top of her in the kitchen, like she is his own personal dog bed. When we lose Libby, give him away to your daughter’s friend who takes his paw in the backyard by the stone pedestal, which, when covered with the sparkly blue handkerchief from the genie outfit, makes for a very good altar.
He comes with high expectations, which he expects to be met on every occasion. He will need to sit in your lap whenever you’re on the floor. He will need to be petted extravagantly while you are trying to tie your shoes. He will need a booster car seat that lifts him up so he can see out the car window during road trips.
On walks, which he loves, he uses the curb like a balance beam. Or maybe it’s just easier to stay up there once he’s made the brave leap.
Your dog will surprise you with his strength. He can travel for miles on hikes in the mountains, his tiny legs padding on pine needle paths, bounding around the bends in the trails to chase down the mysterious sound of a marmot. While the house is being remodeled, he survives a wild stint in the ranch garden and comes home with a sun-bleached mohawk, which gives him the air of a surfer. At the end of his life, when he gets run over, he rebounds with Herculean effort, surprising everyone, especially the vet, with his stoic recovery.
He never was able to look anyone in the eye, but after knowing him for fourteen years, you understand he had another way of seeing.
2 thoughts on “The Care and Feeding of Longhaired Dachshunds: A User’s Manual”
Ugh this made me cry. Woody boy is such a special furry friend. As always, it doesn’t feel like he is gone, but this makes him feel like he is right there nuzzling up next to me again
wonderful Wendy……..Woody was special!