– my love for dogs, that is.
My family moved from Northville to Stockbridge the same month I turned three years old. Needless to say, I don’t have too many ‘real’ memories of living in Northville. Actually, I can only think of three, and one of them is of petting a red dachshund named Rudy.
Rudy belonged to the family of the pastor of our church. In my mind’s eye I can see myself sitting on the floor beside him stroking his side. We didn’t have a dog. My mom did not grow up around them and she was, per her own admission, always a little wary of them. I was not. In any case, we moved away and although I visited Rudy on at least one occasion, and his human mom sent me a post card from Germany to tell me about the many dachshunds she saw when she visited there, it was the end of that relationship and my romance with dachshunds for many years to come.
When I was five years old, my mother relented to the clamoring of her family and a canine member was added to our pack of five kids. Someone my dad worked with had a dog that whelped a litter of little black pups and we took one. One of her young human siblings named her Popsicle, and for some crazy reason (even though she was just a pup and didn’t know her name) we kept it and called her Popsi. She was smart and obedient and ruined me for the dogs that would come along in my adult life, but more about that later.
Popsi was a wonderful family dog. She loved everyone in the family and she didn’t seem to play favorites – well, in truth, my mom was probably her favorite. Popsi was low-key, barked politely at the back door whenever she needed to go out, and NEVER left the yard without a human escort. She was loving, but she couldn’t possibly fulfill the need I had to LOVE DOGS, so I played the field, loving every dog I met.
My mom warned me to stay away from stray dogs, but I never saw any. Sure, I ran into the occasional four legged friend who was in transit from his home to somewhere else. Actually, in the 70s there was a fair amount of that. Nowadays, people say, “Lost dog!” scoop them up in their cars, and paste their pictures all over Facebook. I’m not knocking this practice, it seems to work pretty well, I’m just saying that back in the 70s, adults didn’t care about unaccompanied dogs and kids just viewed them as additional playmates. Rex was a regular playmate. He was a large reddish dog that lived a couple doors down from the high school. He was always on the move and I often saw him hanging out uptown. Rex also served as an unofficial escort to numerous groups of young kids as they passed his house on their way to the elementary school.
Candy was a beautiful springer spaniel that belonged to another one of my dad’s coworkers. She lived on a chain attached to a dog house on the back edge of their property. She was a hunting dog and she lived there, alone in her dog house, unless she was hunting. Whenever we had the occasion to stop by their house, I would race to the back yard where I would spend the entire visit sitting with Candy and “visiting.” In retrospect, Candy’s lonely life breaks my heart. As a child, I did find it sad, but I didn’t have the capacity to understand the depth of the years of her isolation, and I’m glad I didn’t. I would have been helpless to change her situation, and so instead, we shared our joyful moments in ignorant bliss, as I hugged her happy, wiggling body and stroked her pink tummy.
As an adult, my first family dog joined our pack when my son was six years old and we had moved into a house on a two-acre lot. Cody was a Golden Retriever puppy purchased from a backyard breeder. Lots of lessons were learned along the way, regarding both care of puppies and breed specific behavior. Having never been the primary caregiver in any of my previous canine relationships, I was woefully unprepared for the chewing, and the humping, and the chewing, and the overabundance of energy and the chewing. Having grown up with Popsi, I was stupefied when I couldn’t train this puppy in one or two short lesson how to stay in our yard.
One morning, during Cody’s teen years, I shot out of bed at the unmistakable chug-a-glug sound of a dog puking. I was mystified by a white gooey circle of goop that resembled Elmer’s glue in look and consistency. However, he seemed none the worse for wear, happily bounding around me in circles. By the time I climbed into my morning shower, I had almost forgotten the incident until I reached for the bar of soap to find that it was missing.
He’s bored, people said. Get him a friend, people said. So we rescued a black lab mix named Hogan, and although Cody did eventually (five years later) quit chewing and digging, Hogan brought his own baggage with stories that continued to entertain our friends. Still, we grew the pack.
When my sister added a little black and tan dachshund to her pack, I was reminded of my friend, Rudy, my first love. My other half (MOH) started looking at dachshunds on Petfinder and zeroed in on a little red dachshund that was in need of a home. He was older, which was fine. I was done with puppies. But, there were still many dog lessons I hadn’t learned and a little dachshund, whom we named Rudy, taught me.
We adopted Rudy through All American Dachshund Rescue (AADR) a fabulous organization that I continue to work with 10 years later. Rudy was rescued from a high kill shelter, 12 pounds of tenacity mixed with fear. He always seemed just a bit disgruntled, and as with many dachshunds, he had quite a streak of stubbornness. He quickly melted our hearts.
He was selective about his friends and unapologetic about it. He decided which spot was his when watching TV, and he stood by his decision no matter how many times I moved him. He let his two new 90 pound “brothers” know who was boss, and when he refused to comply with the previously unchallenged no-dogs-on-the-couch rule, they followed him in an act of anarchy that overthrew the previous regime.
Rudy graciously allowed a second doxie (Midnight) to join our pack, yet barked at our teenage son every time he came in the house – even if he had just stepped outside to get something from his car. He was enthusiastic about mealtime, and on one occasion after he plunged his face in his dish, he walked out of the kitchen with a piece of kibble lodged in one nostril. He loved to snuggle under a cozy blanket and was excited, not shamed, to wear a little sweatshirt or sweater when he was cold.
As with the first Rudy, our Rudy has crossed the rainbow bridge, and although I still love every dog I meet, two dachshunds named Rudy will always hold a very special place in my heart.