Inside and Out: A Doggedly Demanding Dachshund

by Steve Harrison

Max, our four-year-old, long-haired, miniature dachshund rules the roost. It was love at first sight when I found him four years ago on a website up in Prunedale a suburb of Salinas not far from Carmel. We had planned to look for a dog on that trip, having found a breeder for a Corgi nearby. The breeder was a delightful, retired Methodist minister, who had a pack of pups running about. Though they were cute, the visit solidified that we were dachshund people.

Carmel is such a pet friendly place: Doris Day’s hotel, the Cypress Inn, indulges owners traveling with their pets, water dishes grace nearly every shopkeeper’s doorway, pups strain at leashes on town streets to sniff and make acquaintance with others of their kind. I felt certain we would find a dachshund pup there and I was right.

After the passing of our second dachshund, George, we gave ourselves six weeks without a dog, the longest we had gone without one in our 40 years together. Perusing the Pine Cone, the local Carmel paper, no dog breeders advertised, but after a quick search online, I found the breeder that had Max. We quickly made an appointment to see him.

The breeder lived on a small ranchette just off the 101 Freeway. We arrived promptly at our appointed time and she led us to a tented area set off a bit from her house. She disappeared only to reappear with three squirming black and tan balls of fur not yet six weeks old. Max and my eyes locked as if by Kismet. John, the husband, was holding one, I had a hold of Max, and the third sat sniffing around our ankles. John was cooing to the one he held, telling me how cute he was. I agreed, but told him he needed to hold the little brute that had cuddled quickly in my arms. Max instantly won him over, nuzzling John’s beard. After a few moments I grabbed him back and we started negotiating terms with the breeder. Because of Max’s age, we couldn’t take him home for a couple of weeks. Before we left, the cute little ball of fluff let loose of his bladder, marking me, I chose to believe, as his.

Like most pups, dachshund puppies don’t let you see what they might become. They have no nose and they aren’t particularly long. I’ve been told to look at their feet, and, of course, their parents to get an idea. All pups are alluring, science recently revealing that puppy-dog-eyes are a thing to make humans fall in love, bond, and protect them. Humans need to package this look.
The writer Christopher Isherwood forbid his boyfriend, the artist Don Bachardy, from ever having a dog. His argument was there was only so much love to go around, and he didn’t want to have to compete with a dog. Maybe it’s my age, or COVID’s interruption, or Max’s stubborn German nature, but I understand Isherwood’s concern. This pooch gets what he wants. Thinking about travel plans, I can’t imagine leaving Max with just anyone or maybe even leaving period. Kennels are out, good as they may be, but who would Max sleep with?

Before COVID we lucked out and found the perfect dog sitter, a former football player, La Verne graduate, who humored us by following our three-page note, outlining Max’s daily schedule and listing his wants. We aren’t crazy (well, so I want to think), so I assured the sitter that he didn’t need to follow any of these routines, but if he wondered what Max wanted at five in the morning, I wanted him prepared. We were able to get away three or four times with Alex being the perfect replacement for us. It was too good to last; after all a 27-year-old, college graduate has better things to do with his life than be Max’s slave. We’ve managed to get away since, going to a couple of Airbnb’s, but now it is time to go again, preferably sans our little short legged, Pavlovian dictator.

A former visitor to my now-closed art gallery sent me a novel entitled “Lily and the Octopus” by Steven Rowley, who had also fallen under the spell of a long dog. Without giving much away a good deal of the plot revolves around the narrator making excuses for all the things he couldn’t do because of the inconvenience it would cause Lily, his dachshund. I can too easily relate, hoping to free myself for at least a week, maybe two, if Max will allow it, to go on a proper vacation with my person, not my dog.

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