RIGHT OFF, no sooner than five minutes after we stepped onto Pioneer Park’s green lawn, we met up with an elderly black-and-tan fellow gone white at the muzzle and sporting a red-and-white stripped Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat top hat. The fellow bit my friend Cynthia on the lip. She’d knelt down in the grass and gotten nose to nose. She wanted to chat him up. The black-and-tan, an 11-year-old dachshund introduced by his owner as “Baxter,” wasn’t having any of Cynthia’s intimate cooling. “Hi, there, Baxter old buddy. ”Didn’t even get said before Baxter lunged at his leash and nipped. Blood dribbled lazily onto Cynthia’s chin. Blood dropped onto her décolletage. Cynthia’s husband screamed. I screamed. Baxter’s blond owner screamed.
Cynthia didn’t scream. She said, “I’m sorry,” to Baxter’s blonde. She said, correctly, that it was all her fault Baxter bit her. She wiped blood off her chin. She said she had no business trying to kiss and carry on without proper introduction. She, however, didn’t say anything about Sally, hoydenish white papillon, whom she carried, cradled, under one arm. I still think Sally’s impudent wriggle provoked Baxter’s bite. This, after all, was the dachshund picnic, and with the exception of a pale, slightly overweight spaniel and a tarry poodle who sported at tail’s end a lewd hobble, all you could see that last Sunday afternoon in July were dachshunds.
You saw dachshunds of every kind — from a subminiature five-pound kaninchenteckel, or, rabbit dachshund, bred to slither into rabbit warrens and harry out hapless bunnies, to big standard 30-pounders whose pas look the size of a basket hound’s. you saw every color and marking —the deep auburn roan pony red, the taffy brown, the black-and-tan, the amazing pied brindles. You saw the various coats — smooth, wise, and longhaired.
This is the dachshund picnic’s eighth year. Ralph Petrozello, a 45-year-old computer graphic artist for a multimedia company, is the picnic’s founder (although due to the picnic’s growth, he, this year, turned the picnic’s organization over to the San Diego Dachshund Club). Petrozello owns two dachshunds, Noodle and Otto. Otto is a miniature dapple longhair dachshund, almost six years old. Noodle, eight, is a miniature red longhair. Neither could attend this most recent picnic, Noodle because she is recovering from back surgery and Otto because he is allergic in everything including Pioneer Park’s magnificent stands of eucalyptus.
Mr. Petrozello explained how the picnics began.
“The idea started out one day when we were in Balboa Park with Noodle, sitting off to the side under the pine trees listening to a concert, when friends came by with their two dachshunds and sat with us. A while later some strangers with the dachshunds happened to walk by and they joined the group. Some tourists walking by noticed us and commented. ‘Oh, look! A dachshund picnic.’ They just had to come over and join us since they had left their dachshund back home with a relative, and they missed their dog very much. We continued occasionally to rendezvous with friends and their dachshunds on Sundays for the two o’clock concert. We couldn’t help but notice how many people came over to see the dogs and remark that they either had a dachshund when they were growing up or were interested in getting one.
“One afternoon in the park I said it would be fun to run one of those free classified advertisements in the Reader and see who shows up with their dachshunds. We decided on a date, Noodle’s birthday, and a rendezvous point, the large fig tree behind the National History Museum. We ran the ad, and we showed up the tree at the appointed date and time not knowing if anything besides immediate friends and their dogs would be there. To our surprise, around 35 people arrived with their dachshunds.
“Many people brought along a picnic lunch, found a shady spot to sit and enjoyed the afternoon meeting other dachshund lovers and their friends and, in general, having a really relaxing, enjoyable day exchanging dachshund tales.
“Everyone kept saying, ‘Let’s do this again.’ When is the next picnic? ‘Do you have a mailing list?’ So I started a list. Each time we ran the ad we would get 25 to 30 new people and their dachshunds showing up, so the picnic grew and grew. We decided to look other areas to have the picnic and came across Pioneer Park. When we realized that it was an old cemetery converted into a park, we thought this would be perfect for a Halloween picnic. So we planned on the next picnic to be called Hallo-Wiener Dachshund Picnic — costumes optional, of course. It was surprising how many people actually got their dogs into some unusual and creative costumes, at least for a few minutes. Like the entire family that showed dressed up as chefs with their dachshunds in hot-dog-bun costumes complete with ketchup, mustard, and relish.”
So that now, Mr. Petrozello explained, two dachshund picnics are held every year. The first is the last Sunday in July and the second (see cover photo) is held on the Sunday before Halloween.
That numbers of attendees at the dachshund picnic have grown is not surprising. According to American Kennel Club statistics, dachshunds are the eight most popular dog in the United States (seventh most popular is the beagle and ninth is the Dalmatian). The AKC registered 44,680 new dachshunds in 1995. To determine approximately how many registered dachshunds might now be alive in the United States, the AKC librarian suggested to me that the dachshund’s average life span — 12 years — be multiplied by an average of the number of dachshunds registered during the past 12 years. Given that in some recent years the AKC has registered as many as 50,000 new dachshunds, I multiplied 45,000 by 12, which indicates that as many as 540,000 registered dachshunds might be nosing about the nation, to say nothing of all the dogs who are not registered.
At noon, when this year’s summer picnic started, picnickers spread out over Pioneer Park’s hilly lawns. They unrolled blankets and worn quilts and checked tablecloths; they set up webbed plastic lawn chairs and wrapped their dog’s least around the chair’s leg. They opened wicker hampers and white Styrofoam ice chests. They popped open soft drink cans for themselves and poured out water into bowls for panting dachshunds. They passed out sandwiches to each other and Beggin’ Strips and kibble bits and dried pigs’ ears to dogs. Some sat under the shade of the park’s eucalyptus trees; the trees scented the heat with their medicinal astringency. Other picnickers say out in open spots, under the cloudless sky. Not only was every sort of dachshund represented, but every sort of person too —old, young, poor, and well-to-do; straight and gay and indeterminate lone; fat and thin, stylish and gauche. Someone said, “This is like the world, except everyone has a wienie dog.”
People walked about, as if at a cocktail party; almost all strollers were led by a dachshund on its leash. But for all that the dogs were restrained by attachment to a human hand, they seemed remarkably unrestrained. Except for the shy, unsocialized dog, who huddled next its owner’s ankle, few did not take opportunity to sniff thoughtfully beneath one another’s tails. Few did not stand quivering nose to quivering nose to take the other’s measure. The sniffing was intense. “They are definitely scent hounds,” said the companion of a busy longhair miniature. “That’s what their instinct is all geared on, what they smell. Sniff, sniff, sniff, everywhere they go.”
The owner of an elderly smooth red female, whose sagging dugs indicated she’d mothered many a litter, said, “I thing they enjoy meeting other dogs who are all on their own eye-and-butt level. It’s not like meeting big guys —all those shepherds, rotties, labs, those golden retrievers.”
A rose is a rose is a rose but every dachshund is subtly different in appearance and temperament. As my companion and I strolled the park lawn and made eye contact with one after another dachshund, we agreed that each dachshund “face” was recognizable as individual. The separate components —muzzle, eyes, top of nose, lips, ears, and set and length of ears, color markings —merge with notable variability. You wouldn’t have any trouble, my companion noted, telling Heidi from Munchkin and Munchkin from Willy. We said that without seeing so many dachshunds together, we’d have never guessed at this heterogeneity of appearance within the breed.
My companion said, “To people accustomed to tall dogs, this must seem odd, these slithering low-slung lizard dogs winding in and out and around ankles.” He reminded me dachshunds we had raised and the dark nights when we tripped over a foot-high sausage body.
Two male-and-female couples and a single female formed a conversational group. At the single female’s feet, a red miniature smooth female named Mitzi, eyes directed toward a plate of cold cuts set out within sniffing distance on a flowered cloth, strained at her lead. Around the sandaled feet of Couple Number One, brunettes in their early 30s, a black-and-tan smooth male, Pepper, huddled close to his mistress’s bare calf. Couple Number Two, white haired and, they said, retired, each held the end of a leash that led to a dachshund. “His-and-her dachshunds, littermates, ”the gentleman said, nodding toward the matched pair of wriggling red miniatures. The two dogs gleamed as well-waxed mahogany will gleam. Each had the shadowy black widow’s-peak marking on its head that indicates that a red dog, in its lineage, has a black-and-tan dog, a trick breeders use to keep red dogs’ roan coats from turning to light brown.
We talked about how we hate it when strangers stop us and say, “Oh, a hot dog!” “Oh, a wiener dog!” Or, worse yet, “A Wiener schnitzel!” Worse, we concurred, because a Wiener schnitzel is a breaded veal cutlet. We said how perplexed we are when strangers make what they must consider humorous japes about eating our dogs, when they begin tossing out this and that hot-dog brand —Hormel, Ball Park, Oscar Mayer —and asking if our dog might bear one of those brand names. Pepper’s male owner wondered aloud if these non-dachshund owners somehow were embarrassed by our dogs’ “half-a-dog-tall and a-dog-and-a-half-long” appearance, or were they doing what all of us do at one time or another, just fishing in our minds for anything to say that makes conversation? None of us knew. But we did all agree that out in the larger world, the dachshund galvanizes talk.
My companion brought up World War I, a time when America turned Hunphobic, Kaiser Wilhelm, who would end by being the last German monarch, owned dachshunds. He took them with him when he reviewed his troops and often was seen in newspaper photographs accompanied by his dachshunds. In England and the United States, dachshunds were stoned in the streets, their owners publicly reviled; dachshund owners in both countries became wary of taking their dogs during daytime. By 1923 so few Americans still owned dachshunds that only 26 were registered with the American Kennel Club. By 1942, dachshund ownership was no longer taboo, the AKC had some 3500 dachshunds on its rolls.
My companion said his father, now in his mid-eighties told him that during World War I dachshunds came to be called “badger dogs” and “hotdog dogs” to avoid association with the Germans. In the little town where he and his father grew up, dachshunds became objects of the citizens’ hatred. His father, he said, remembered that the town’s German butcher owned a vastly obese dachshund and that the children of the butcher’s neighbors tied a string of firecrackers to this dog’s tail and set them off. His father, however, never said what happened to the dog.
In England dachshunds began to achieve popularity after Queen Victoria’s Prince Albert brought two from Germany to England in 1840. The queen owned dachshunds all her life, and as the dogs died, she caused tombstones and statues to be erected in their memories. At about the same time —1840 —dachshunds began to be seen in the United States; the earliest dogs are believed to have been brought by German immigrants. In 1879, the first dachshunds were registered with the American Kennel Club. The Dachshund Club of America was founded in 1895. Dachshunds quickly found hones along the West Coast: by the early 1900s the Western Dachshund Club was formed.
My companion said it was his understanding that a member of the Western Dachshund Clubs, during World War I, so feared that his dachshunds would be harmed that he went out to his kennels and shot every dog. All of us, hearing this, moaned and looked down at Mitzi, Pepper, and the matched set of inordinately well-behaved red dogs. As our eyes fell upon the quartet of dogs, the four sets of dachshund eyes looked up at us. Tails wagged.
Dachshunds were bred to borrow. Night falls or Sunday afternoon nap time offers itself, the dachshund hops onto his human’s bed and burrows down between the sheets or beneath the quilt. Although some owners insist that the dachshund sleep in his crate or his own bed, most permit them the human four-poster. Everyone in our conversational grouping allowed as how we slept with our dogs and went on to confess that with non-dachshund owners, we kept this fact to ourselves. Mitzi’s human said, “People think it’s disgusting, letting your dog sleep under the covers.” We laughed at the silliness of such an opinion.
Mitzi’s owner said that as soon as she turned off her night-light, Mitzi crawled to the bottom of the bed. “Then,” she said, “Mitzi licks my toes and the soles of my feet, right to the ankle. My vet told me this was typical grooming behavior, that to Mitzi I was just another dog getting ready for a night in the den.”
Pepper’s male-owner said that during the day Pepper carried his chew toys into their bed and tucked them under pillows.
“To have them ready for night, is what we think,” said Pepper’s female owner.
We nodded, agreeing that our dogs all engaged in variants of this burying-for-the-night-ahead behavior. We stood, then, for a while, doing just what Ralph Petrozello hoped we would do when he founded the picnics: we talked about our dogs and we greeted other dog owners and asked about their dogs.
Perhaps one-fourth of the attendees were childless couples, childless either because their children had moved on or because they had no children. About half the picnickers were families, with young children. Perhaps another one-fourth of the dog owners, like Larry Fickenworth, from Santec, were accompanied only be their dogs. Mr. Fickenworth brought his red male miniature, Smidgen. I admired Mr. Fickenworth’s Borrego Springs T-shirt and asked how he happened to be at the picnic.
This was the first time he and four-year-old Smidgen had been to the picnic, Mr. Fickenworth said. “I heard about it at Walk with the Animals, the last Sunday in April. I met a guy there who had a Dachshund Club shirt on and I talked with him and then I started getting mailers. I wanted to bring him out to this, because it’s not often we get a chance to meet other little animals.”
Mr. Fickenworth got Smidgen as a puppy. A friend in Lakeside had his mother, and the mother had three puppies. “He looked just like a little kidney bean,”Mr. Fickenworth recalled, adding, “I have baby pictures of him.”
I asked what he and Smidgen had on an average day.
“We got for a walk couple of times, for one thing. The farthest we walk is about six miles. We snuggle on the couch in one of his blankets. He is a good boy even when I’m not at home. He doesn’t make a noise. I think he sleeps. My neighbors tell me the only time he really barks is when I’m around. I have a bird feeder right outside my front door, a birdbath and a hummingbird feeder. He watches those.” As for bathrooming, Mr. Fickenworth said when he’s away, because he and Smidgen live in a second-floor condo, “Newspaper’s about the best I can do. He does his business there.”
Smidgen, at 16 pounds, is a bit plump, Mr. Fickenworth allowed as how he tried to keep Smidgen on his dog food, but admitted. “We cheat. We both eat snacks.”
Did Mr. Fickenworth sleep with his dog?
“Sure. When he was a baby he would lie across my shoulders. Usually, in the evening we fall asleep first on the couch. Then we wake up and head for bed. I say, ‘Ready to hit the rack?’ and then he gets up off the couch and heads for the bed, ready to go.”
I asked Mr. Fickenworth what he did for a living. The question erased the smile from his face. “Right now,”he said “I’m unemployed —General Dynamics. But I am in school. I’m studying to be a computer technician, so I can troubleshoot, that sort of thing. At General Dynamics I was a supervisor. I had 16 years there. I did have a mini-career out of it anyway.”
From our post on his blanket Mr. Fickenworth and I looked toward the picnickers. He said, “The thing I like about being out there is that these dogs look so well loved.” We gazed across the park, where one after another dog owner stroked, petted, kissed, talked with his or her dachshund. Dreamy, satisfied expressions rested on human faces. Mr. Fickenworth added, jokingly. “They all look so starved for attention, poor guys.”
With the help of San Diego Dachshund Club members, San Diego Dachshund Club Corresponding Secretary Mike Martin had set up a club information table beneath a towering eucalyptus. The now 45-year-old club, which has some 60 members, meets once a month on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at Allied Gardens Recreation Center. The majority of the membership is made up of dachshund lovers, but the club also boasts a national dachshund judge, breeders, and professional dog handlers.
For Matrin, an accountant for a large local restaurant, as for many dachshund owners, the word “dog” equals “dachshund.” He said he couldn’t imagine owning a dog of any other breed. “As a youngster,” Mr. Martin said, “my sister and I had a standard red smooth. He was 16 when we lost him. They are great animals in that they have live a long time they enrich your life for many years.” Mr. Martin turned momentarily sorrowful. “It’s hard to let them go but they touch you in such a way that it’s had not to go out and find a suitable replacement.”
Martin has two dachshunds —Hansel, 14, a smooth red miniature, and 11-year-old Lady, also a smooth red miniature. “They are my kids,” Mr. Martin said. “Last year, to get them ready for the Halloween picnic, I went out thrift-store shopping and bought some newborn children’s clothes to dress them in. I didn’t have to modify the clothes greatly to get them to fit. Hansel and Lady came to the Halloween picnic dressed as college kids. They looked kind’ve like Archie and Veronica. Hansel had a letterman’s sweater with pants and a hole for his tail and Lady had this cute little flowered dress. It appeared that they needed some sort of wig, so I cut a swatch of fake fur ad then just lightly taped it on their heads. The hair was red, so it matched their coats and I was able to brush it. They were glad, soon after the picnic started to take off their costumes, though. It was a hot day.”
Ralph Petrozello, host to the first dachshund picnic, bought his dachshund female, Noodle, from Maxsohn Kennels in National City. This kennel has bred dachshunds locally since 1967. A significant number of local dachshunds were born in Maxsohn. Currently, the kennel offers almost every variety of dachshund, including the rarer brindles and dapples. “They are my own soap opera, my own Ali My Children,” said Maxsohn’s owner (and San Diego Dachshund Club president) Rosie Medlock.
I met Mrs. Medlock, an energetic golden blonde in her late 30s, at the picnic. She had brought with her three ten-week-old miniature smooth brindles, erecting around them a wire exercise pen. As she talked with people and lifted her pups in and out of their pen to show them, her well-developed arm muscles indicated kennel work is hard work.
Mrs. Medlock is a daughter of the kennel’s founder, Maria Hayes, and since her mother’s death in December 1993, has, with her husband, Frank Medlock, continued the kennel’s work. Her mother, Mrs. Medlock said, born in Munich, Germany, in 1926, met her soldier-father at World War II’s end a came with him to the United States in 1947, settling in Troy, Michigan. She brought two male standard longhairs —one red and one black-and-tan —with her from Germany, dogs whose pedigrees Mrs. Medlock describes as “reaching way back.” Maxsohn Kennels to this day has dogs from the same lines. Mrs. Medlock estimated her mother reared literally thousands of dachshunds. “She had them,” Mrs. Medlock said, ”long before she had me. Dachshunds always were her love, from early on to the day she died.”
I asked half-joking, “Did you ever think-”
And Mrs. Medlock finished my question, “-that the dogs were more important? Yes. My mom always said the dachshunds were easier to get along with than most people. Even if they get mad at you, they get over it, and if you’re gone and you come back, they are thrilled beyond belief to see you.
“My husband, growing up, always had larger dogs. He never thought a little dog could hold a place in his heart. But the dachshunds have completely taken over his heard. You can’t help but get hooked on a dachshund. They have a happy ability to make you love them.”
“Personality. A dachshund should never have a flat, expressionless face. You shouldn’t not have a clue what’s on his face. Dachsies wear their expressions on their faces. They should either look happy, or mischievous, curious, or even angry, or having an attitude. You can look at the face and be sure that things are running through the dachsie’s mind. That’s what a dachsie should have, lots of expression.
“Dachshunds are loyal and devoted. They are clean and quiet. If they are cared for properly they live a long life. They get along well with cats and with other dogs. They are easy to care for. All they need is a good diet, room to exercise, and love. That’s all they want is to be petted, be touched and be loved.”
Reminding me that dachshunds were bred to go after badgers, Mrs. Medlock said, “Mine go after gophers” The gopher will come up out of the ground, and that gopher might as well have written its will. The dogs won’t eat it or destroy it, but they will kill it and leave it there for me. My big boy, Star will sit next to a dead gopher and look at me, but he will not tear it to pieces. He’s done what his instinct told him to do, which is fine, because I would rather pick it up. Certainly, I don’t have a problem with gophers.
“And they are so very, very intelligent. I tell people when they take a puppy. “Be very careful. This puppy will train you if you are not careful.”
“They are also brave to the point that they will put their life on the line for their master, no matter what they are going up against. I sold a miniature puppy to a lady. The puppy was ten months old and weighted out t o eight or nine pounds. The lady and the puppy were walking down the street. A Samoyed started coining down the driveway toward her. The woman had never seen this dog before. She froze. Apparently, her dachshund sensed her fear or apprehension, and he went after the source of it and didn’t care that this Samoyed could snap his head off like a twig. The little dachsie ran up and attached itself to the throat of the Samoyed. The Samoyed was switching its head back and forth and this dachsie was swinging back and forth in the air. The owner of the Samoyed came out and had to hold it while the lady pried off her dachshund. Yet this same dachshund normally gets along with all other dogs and had never previously or since shown any aggression. He just felt her fear and was not going to let anything happen to her. I was thrilled because that told me that the way we are breeding is well and true, because that’s what a good dachshund will do.”
Do you often see a dog and say to yourself, “This is a Maxsohn dog”?
“Yes, yes. So do other people. Like at the dachshund picnic, someone will walk up and say. “That’s a Maxsohn dog; that’s one of Maria Hayes’s dogs. I have had many people tell me. ‘Rosie, I can spot a Maxsohn dog anywhere!’ “
How would Mrs. Medlock characterize a Maxsohn dachshund?
“I think it’s the expression, the liveliness, the ‘happy, happy’ dog, the temperament, the expression on the face. As a breeder, where you find the type of do you like, then after a few years your dogs should begin to look alike, because that’s the type of dog you are looking for.
“We breed for conformation —the correct head, the correct movement, that the front is correctly placed, the rear end is correctly placed —I don’t like them too far off the ground. They are badger hounds, bred to burrow into the ground after a badger. If their legs are too long, they will have a problem with that. They should be long, lean, have a very strong back. They should not be overchested, but they should have adequate chest. Their eye should be almond shaped and dark except in the dapples, which can be blue or what we call wall eyes. Why we call them wall-eyes is that when just the portion of the eye is blue is shown up around the outer rim of the eye and appears to forma a “wall around the rest of the eye.”
I said that I not infrequently saw dachshunds where eyes seemed to bulge.
“Those little frog eyes.”
That’s not a correct eye. They look a little spooky, it gets into the lineage: it’s a hiccup in the gens, just as with people. But I don’t know what causes it. Not always will a dog that has it reproduce it either. It’s one of those things of nature, it happens.
“Right now the breeders here (in San Diego) actively work to bring in new bloodlines, to make sure the breeding programs are not so tight. We are actually going out to bring improvements in.
“The ultimate idea behind breeding is to improve the breed; it is not to generate puppies to make lots of money. If you are really lucky out of a litter of five, you will get that one dog who will make it in the show ring. But it doesn’t always happen.
“There’s no such thing as the perfect dog. You take the dogs that have the best qualities, and where they’re weak, you match them with another dog who’s strong in the areas that the other one is weak on. If one of them has a beautiful rear, beautiful top lines, but maybe the head’s not quite right, then you’d want to go to a male who has a very nice head.
“There’s a lot of pedigree studying —paper spread around studying lineage and genetics, but it’s never an exact science. Some of it is your best guess. You can take two of the nicest pedigrees you’ve ever seen, put them together, and they produce nothing worth looking at. You can take a dog that doesn’t look like very much and he can produce beautiful puppies for you.”
Had Mrs. Medlock ever brought into being a dachshund who was almost perfect?
“That’s hard. It’s easy to get kennel blind and think you have the best. Almost perfect, I’ve not gotten to that point. My mom did once many years ago. She produced a male called Maxsohn’s Black Chief, a black-and-tan standard longhair. He was labeled by many to be as close to a perfect dachshund as they had seen. He had it all. I haven’t gotten to that point yet. I am getting closer.”
Breeding, I said, must be a great challenge.
“It is. I you’re true to yourself and you’re true to the breed, you can always critique your own dogs and say, “This is a beautiful, beautiful bitch and she will finish | achieve championship status |. But what you need to ask yourself is, ‘Where can she be improved?’
“I know people who are very, very blind to their own dogs. It’s very sad. They will breed to anything and because their male is a champion, assume that the puppies will be wonderful. Doesn’t always happen. The most disappointing thing I think you can do is do all the studying, do all the research, do all the background. Then, the puppies are born, they grow up, and all of them are wrong. It happens. It’s genetics. And it’s a disappointment. It’s had.
“And then you use a male that doesn’t look like very much —he would never make it in the show ring, he doesn’t have it at all. But he has beautiful, beautiful pedigree behind him. So you put him with a female you think would make a good match. And she doesn’t look like much either. And they will give you a puppy that just knocks your socks off. And then you feel like, ‘Yes, I did it,’ “
Did Mrs. Medlock sense her mother’s presence at Maxsohn?
“All the time. When I am looking at a litter and I want to deice if I’m keeping a puppy or not, I will focus in on a puppy and not know why, and that puppy grow up to be exactly what I wanted. I believe she’s guiding me all the time. I think she is also creating some of my mistakes as learning experiences. Because you learn best from your own mistakes. And she went through them all and learned them the hard way. I think she’s guiding every move I make with this kennel. I truly do. I’ve always felt her around me.
“My mom had a friend, Linda Hastings, who lives in Apple Valley, who was years ago a protégé of my mom. Linda and I talk constantly and she also feels my mom’s presence. Both of us believe she is guiding us toward better things, that she is going to help us continue on her name and make sure we never destroy the work she put into it for so long. She put her whole life into it. Nobody has the right to tear that down.
“People call here and say, ‘I bought a dog from your mom 16 years ago. I just lost my little dog, do you have any?’ That shows what my mom put into it, that people want nothing else but what she’s got. Big shoes to fill, mom’s.”
Mrs. Jeanine Sudinski, a breeder, exhibitor, and judge of dachshunds, was for many years a close friend of Maria Hayes, Rosie Medlock’s mother. I’d hoped to meet Mrs. Sudinski at the dachshund picnic, but friends came to visit the Sudinskis —“nondog friends,” she said —that day, so they didn’t go. Mrs. Sudinski and I ended by talking several times on the telephone.
She fondly remembered Maria Hayes and her dogs. “Her dogs,”Mrs. Sudinkski said, “were gorgeous, beautiful full-coated dogs,” Mrs. Hayes, she said, “was a fighter, all the way, God bless her.”
Mrs. Hayes had once shown Mrs. Sudinski a photograph of herself as a 12-year-old, standing on the steps of a church, banding a bouquet of flowers to Hitler. “Maria said that the peasants in the beginning had loved Hitler because they were starving and he gave everyone work and food. Back then, in Germany, it was just like the Depression was in America. He build up the peasants’ ego, she said, and had everyone following him. But they didn’t know that he had in the back of his mind a ruthless plant to rule them.”
Toward the end of Mrs. Hayes’s life, Mrs. Sudinski said, “she was so ill and she had litters of puppies that needed to be cared for. Her cancer started in the breast but after eight years had gone into the bone. The pain was excruciating. She was screaming to die. Rosie said that toward the end all her mother could say was. ‘The pain! The pain!’ But that was what kept her alive, making herself get up every day and take care of those dachshunds. She did a good job. She had people who came in a made sure they were clean and watered every day. The dogs were well cared for.”
Mrs. Sudinski, whose Lucene Kennels in La Mesa also was the birthplace of many a San Diego dachshund, acquired her first dachshund —a black-and-tab smooth-coated female —in 1950, when her husband was serving in Korea and the family was stationed at Ford Ord. “I loved her a lot. I got her from a lady in England who came out to Monterrey to sell her goods. She was a character, like Julia Child. My dog, I was quite taken with. She was a different dog —brazen. She wasn’t that large, weighed about 18 pounds, longer on the leg than a show type dog, and we had more fun together, she and I.
“I bred her for three years – I had my first litter in 1954 in El Cajon – and I just did not get show dogs. For about eight years I tried to show her and there was no interest in the hunting dog here. I got a new dog, a show dog from a lady here in San Diego. She had female dachshund puppies that were several months old, and I knew they were out of very, very good breeding. Back then in the late 1950s to pay $1000 for a dog was a lot of money, and she paid that for the first female she had. She bred it with another very, very good male from New York.” Mrs. Sudinski added, “I’ve been breeding ever since them. We’ve lived 40 years in the same house here in Fletcher Hills and we’ve had 19 dachshunds.”
During the post –World War II years, Mrs. Sudinski explained, dachshunds from Heying-Techel Kennels in Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley were the “in dogs.” The Heying-Teckel Kennels, whose oldest trophy was engraved with the year 1930, first became active as breeders in the 1920s. Mrs. Sudinski recalled the kennel, remembering that the Heyings had an orange grove they had cleared and beautiful gardens with canaries.
“The whole country was flooded with their dogs. Both Mr. and Mrs. Heying bred dachshunds. He bred the wirehaired and she bred the smooth standards. They would crisscross their smooths and wires. They had a kennel of 80 or 90 dogs. They were the ‘it,’ their name dachshund.”
The Heyings’ stud, a black-and-tan standard named Favorite v. Mariehust, said Mrs. Sudinkski, “set the style and the shape for dachshunds. He was like the automobile blueprint; he was the Toyota of dachshunds in that era.” Whelped in 1945, the dog was sucha spectacular and prolific sire of dog-show champions that the American Dachshund, a magazine, also, no longer published, in April 1953 issued a supplement in honor of Favorite, they titled it “The Favorite Issue.” To that date, the then-eight-year old dog had sired 132 registered litters.
Mrs. Sudinski, who saw Favorite when he was older, noted, about him, that “the dog would reproduce himself like a homogenetic type of beast. No matter what the female, the puppies came out like clones, looking like him. And yet his pedigree, his family tree, was all outcross; there was no relationship as in the kings and queens of England, who were all interbred. He was once-in-a-lifetime animal. Everyone started flooding to him for breeding, so all over the country you would see dogs that he sired. “
It was at a time, too, after the war, when the dog world itself was just beginning to open up. The whole country was flying open – the open land, the kennels were going, the money was flowing, houses being everywhere.” The Heyings would sell their “get” from Favorite for $250-$3--, which was an average price on the West Coast in the 1950s, said Mrs. Sudinski, “there was nothing from the Heyings’ kennel. They tried to follow through, but eventually the kennels were sold. The kennel itself is gone. It’s now a gas station and both the Heyings are dead. The land has been sold.”
When Mrs. Sudinski first started breeding, she said that the Denlinger book was bible, I have a used copy of Milo G. Denlinger’s 1954 edition of the Complete Dachshund. Because I have a copy of the same edition upon which Mrs. Sudinski depended (and urge anyone interested in dachshunds to rummage in used bookstores for a copy of this book), she suggested I look up Favorite’s photo in the book. He’s a handsome dog, heavy in the chest, straight of back, and noble in his profile. Even in the old photo, the high sheen of the dog’s much-admired coat is in evidence. And in photograph after photograph of other champions, Favorite is listed as father.
“Dachs” translates out of German into English as “badger" and "hund," of course, as "dog". To understand the dachshund, said Mrs. Sudinski, you first have to understand the badger.
A member of the weasel family, the badger is a burrower with a broad, heavy body, long snout, short legs, sharps claws, and long, grizzled fur. They have perennial glands, which emit a foul odor. The Old World badger, native to Europe and northern Asia, can weigh as much as 40 pounds and be as long from head to tail as three feet. The Old World badger lives in forests and digs tunnels as far as four feet into the earth, where it builds its den. This badger, a primarily nocturnal animal, spends winters in its den. In spring, the female badger will bear two to six young. Badger pelts, in the past, were sold to furriers; badger hairs were used in manufacture of shaving brushes.
"Everything in Germany," Mrs. Sudinski said, "has to have a reason; the dog had to have a use. What the Germans were hunting was the badger, so they needed the shorter-legged dog. Being higher up on the leg, the basset didn't take up the scent. The German breeders started out with basset hounds [the abs from the French "low"]. The basset had longer legs and the dachshund still has the basset legs, except they are shorter. Basset hounds are a quiet hunter; hounds don't yap, they scent. Their forefather the bloodhound is not a yapping dog either; he uses the nose. The bloodhound has the strongest-sensing nose there is."
Mrs Sudinski asked if I'd ever noticed that when my dachshund was on a scent her ears often drag the ground. I said I did, and Mrs. Sudinski went on to explain, "When a dachshund or basset hound drags those ears along the ground, the ears open at the side, creating a funnel effect. The ears open up almost like an African elephant's ears. The dog is funneling in the scent, dragging in the blood scent, or whatever scent he's trailing."
When German breeder/hunters began development of what would become the dachshund, they knew they wanted a dog that would go to the ground. Given, too, that the clawed badger is a vicious, hard-fighting animal with two sharp front teeth and sharp claws, hunters needed a dog who could fight and would fight.
"The German hunters," Mrs. Sudinski said, "needed something that was cunning and vivacious and ferocious and strong-tempered, so they had to go into the terrier. Terriers are really the varmint-killer dogs. So they pulled in the Manchester terrier, and they put that Manchester with that French basset and brought it down a little way and tightened up the skin and got a little bit more fire in the dog."
Mrs. Sudinski pointed out that the Denlinger book shows woodcuts, circa 1561, that illustrate early dachshunds on the hunt for badgers. "You'll see that the hunter has his ear to the ground, listening for the dachshund's barking down below. They've got about four minutes and then the hunter needs to get the dog out. He can shovel down and get him, or in other woodcuts you see the hunters grabbing and getting the dog out of the badger den by the tail."
The construction of the badger den in part dictated the form the dachshund would take. Mrs. Sudinski explained that the badger den and its entries and exits might go as far as four feet down into the ground. When a dog enters the badger tunnel, she said, "the badger, who digs a fennel in a circle, comes back up behind a dog. The badger puts the dog into a 'closet' and then comes back up through the tunnel and escapes, leaving the dachshund to smother to death."
The dog needs the elongated shape and shorts legs. It also needed the big rounded fore chest. "I call them the canoe dog," Mrs. Sudinski said. "They look like a canoe with its legs cut off; all you need is an Indian sitting up there. They should have that rounded front chest, just like a canoe has, sitting up there on the beach. They should have that kind of brisket up in the front, the brisket bone, swinging up in the curve; that's for sliding down in the hole and sliding back up. They have to have a sloping rib cage. If it tucks up too fast behind their lungs and their heart, the dog can get hooked. That long ribbing will also protect the spinal column. They also need to have that big rib car so they can tuck in and hold that air when they're down in the tunnels. And they needed a fairly hairless underside, which the original smooth dachshund still has."
I asked about the dachshund's charming but oddly mechanical gait. "I explain it," Mrs. Sudinski said, " as like the front wheel on a train's engine. You look at the piston that drives that wheel around, that's the way the front leg and rear legs should go on a dachshund, straight ahead and straight back, straight up and down, straight up and down and around, like a piston. The dog has to have a proper hinge in the back that has to bend the leg up; that leg has to be able to compact itself to go down in the badger hole.”
In Northern California, several clubs hunt rabbit and conduct field trials with dachshunds. Were there any such groups in San Diego?
“We did have the interest for a short time. Up at Pendleton a gentleman started a club that didn’t last. It was difficult to get those people up there at four in the morning to put their dogs out to trail rabbit.” Mrs. Sudinski went to one of these. “Everyone was in a lineup. You wear a big number on your chest. When your turn is called, you can either walk it or take a jeep out into the field. They say, ‘Fetch your dogs down.’ You put down your dog. My dog, Monarch, took off on the rabbit rail and then if something crossed, like a squirrel or another rabbit, he would take off a after another scent. They have sentries based out in the field and they mark their scorecards. They give me a huge rosette, naming Monarch ‘Best scenting dachshund today, but unqualified.’ The ‘unqualified’ was because he was sensing all these other scents.” She laughed. “
I asked Mrs. Sudinski about the varieties of dachshund.
“Each one,” she said, “the long and wire and smooth, are distinctive in looks and temperament. Whatever the smooth was crossed into, you will see that temperament come up. The smaller you go, in the little miniatures, the more bark you get, it’s that terrier. You have the basset temperament in the standard, and the miniature has the terrier temperament.
“A smooth dachshund is what you call a blue-collar or middle-class dog. He usually lives in a middle-class family and doesn’t require a lot of grooming. His short coat works well with asthmatic people. Moneyed people, when you get into the upper class, they go for a saluki or borzoi; all it does is complement their image. You see that in your fashion magazine advertisements. But in the New Yorker magazine, for instance, you will rarely see the dachshund except as a comic kind of thing, because of the dwarfism ad short legs.
“The longhair,” she said,” will go to water. They perhaps put some water spaniel in that, so they can shed water. They were bred more for rainy, wet terrain in England. The spaniel temperament is more reserved, like a cat, more of a quiet animal, more shy, loves to be papered. It’s for the kings and queens, the upper crust. It’s the dog that lives in the New York apartment and sits on the pillow and looks out the window.
“Longhairs are the breed right now. When I first started in the 1950s, I would be lucky to see 12 of these at a specialty show. People didn’t want them. What they have done is this; the longhair breeders wanted the conformation they were lacking – they had to fluff to have a big chest. The longhairs had a straighter angle – a terrier straight shoulder – and terriers don’t have the forechest, they are all flat-chested. They were also missing angulation in the rear. So they crossed that longhair with the smooth, and what happened was the Mother Nature stepped in and said, ‘Mmmmmm, I think I am going to put my finger into this and mess this up a little.’ And what she did was start to toss more longhairs in the litters than smooth. People with the smooth dachshund had longhaired genes, say from a great-grandfather; the genes are that strong. They would come up with these litters of five puppies and two would have long hair. There the breeders are, scratching their heads and saying. ‘Where did these little longies come from? These little hippies?’ And they started showing. You began seeing them in the show ring, beautiful bodies on them, beautiful conformation. These were coming up beautiful, not all of them, but enough to get them in the ring, and more and more started coming and fewer breedings showing the smooth they started with. You go to the shows now, you will see an almost even entry or even more of the longhair. I’ve been to some shows where longhairs have outnumbered smooth.
“The wirehaired is the most versatile. He was crossed with the Dandie Dinmount; he is more terrier.” Noting that in her 40 years of attending and judging dachshund shows, she’d seen many beautiful dachshunds, Mrs. Sudinski said, “There’s a wirehair going right now that belongs to a woman in Texas. It is probably the most correct, most beautifully presented dog I've ever seen, correct in body, correct in coat; I could't say enough for her wirehair. How she did it I don't know. I've known her for a long time and she really never had anything as good as this dog." Mrs. Sudinski sighed. "It's a beauty."
Mrs. Sudinski explained how she came to be a dog show judge. "I was always into animal anatomy. I studied this from 1938 on [she was born in 1930] at the Chicago Art Institute, where I started drawing. All the way through high school I studied painting. After that, I went to business college and got a job and then got married. But all along for 25 years I did painting for private parties of their animals, so I really got a good eye for lines. I would be asked to come over to look at a puppy and I'd say, 'There is a break here at the base of the neck; there must be something wrong with the shoulder blades.'
"People would say, 'You really know dogs!' and I said, 'I know what wins in the ring and I know what wins in the ring and I know what the judge is looking for-- the straight lines, no wrinkles or rumples. They didn't want an old-lady or old-man dog with wrinkles; they want a smooth clean-cut ballet-dancer dog with smooth, clean lines.'
"One party to whom I'd talked wrote to the American Kennel Club saying, 'There is all this talent going to waste.' So in 1973 the AKC wrote to me and invited me to become a judge.
"I was raising a family and active in art in San Diego and going to school with Robert Lansing, a popular painter in La Mesa 20 years ago. I had been to a lot of shows by then, so I knew the ring. I did ring stewarding, all along. But actually getting in there at the center of a ring like a lion tamer, I'd never done. You keep everyone in control and you are the god of the ring and you have to know the rules."
One query on the AKC questionnaire was, "How would you conduct yourself at a function before a show?” Mrs. Sudinski noticed, discussing this question, that “being a judge is a very lonely job. You can’t socialize easily. You can only socialize with other judges – like doctors and lawyers, you can only associate with your own kind. You can’t associate with exhibitors. I still wanted to exhibit and they (the AAKC) said, ‘Okay but what your self. You can’t exhibit your animals at a show where you judge for three days before and three days after.’ “
Mrs. Sudinski flies all across the United States to judge dachshunds. At the Westminster Kennel Club do show, she said, syndicated Newsday gossip columnist Liz Smith, a dachshund fancier, every year [blurry text] out Tavern on the Green in Central Park for a dinner for dachshund breeders. ‘ I get an invitation every year. It’s very Hollywood. They have a huge champagne fountain. Liz Smith’s dogs are dressed up like clowns with the face ruff and they have values running around after that dogs to pick up.’ (This year at the Westminster Kennel Club show Liz Smith’s Champion Dachshund Lowe’s Tyche Tyche wins “best of breed,’ meaning she is number one amount smooth-haired dachshunds in North America.)
Mrs. Sudinkski is a longtime San Diego Dachshund Club member. “The club,” she said, “has had its ups and downs and almost dissolved. Back in the 1960s its main trouble as a monarchy-type thing. Members would come in, mostly Navy men. We had a lot of Navy personnel, always rotating, coming and going. They had this attitude, as though we were in the military and they were trying to run the dachshund Club that way; they were always trying to be a staff sergeant, domineer everyone. It didn’t go over too well. We had some very knowledgeable, educated women in the club. One, a college graduate who held a high executive position, was a wonderful writer. I loved that woman. She has since passed away. But they hurt her, the bossy ones, so much. The women were the minority and we did all the menial work, and if we women didn’t do the jobs well enough these men would take the jobs away from us, without a word.
“Then came the wonderful Dr. Adams, Bill Adams; he breeds wirehaired miniatures now. In his quiet manner as an M.D., he calmed the club down. He came in a saved the club. We love him; we think he’s the greatest and always will. We were meeting, then, at the Humane Society on Sherman Avenue and the same pushy gentlemen that we had trouble with were still there, but Dr. Adams was able to control them. He ran the club for quite a long time, and the membership grew, because he was like Rosie Medlock, our new president, he was inclusive, he was able to manage people who had a problem.”
I’d hoped, too, to run into Joyce Philpott, a bubbly, exuberant woman, at the dachshund picnic. The Philpotts, Harry and Joyce, usually attend, but this year they, like the Sudinskis, also didn’t get there.
Mrs. Philpot started breeding dachshunds in 1969. “I think, she said, “we had not very many compared to some breeders. We had eight, total. We quit breeding in 1985. Now, we have a little miniature, Crystal. She’s a smooth-coated dog. She’s in Texas. She’s there t be bred to a champion male. So I’m starring all over.”
What does she like about dachshunds?
“They are extremely lovable they want to be with you and they want to please you and they want to be loved. They just love to roll over on their back and say. ‘Love me.’ But they are also very independent. If they don’t want to do it, they won’t do it. And they are so cuddly. Crystal sleeps with us, cuddles, even in the summer. And with the short hair, she’s easy to keep clean. You can just wash them off with a washcloth and they shine so pretty.”
Mrs. Philpott got her first dachshund in the 1950s. “I fell in love with him. He was called Trouble, and he was always in mischief. My husband got him from a breeder in San Diego. He was a puppy, a real nice red. The red they’re breeding now, the serious breeders are breeding real dark colors. Trouble was that dark red, but not as dark as it is now. There are some reds that have a light tan and it kind of throws you off; the color isn’t true. It’s washed out, what I call a broom color.
“Trouble would look at you and those ears would just kind of flap around as if to say, ‘I really didn’t mean to do it.’ He’d get in the dirty-clothes basked and he’d get out shoes and take them under the bed and work them over. He had a mischievous little streak in him.”
I asked Mrs. Philpott what the stud fee was for a good male.“To breed with a good champion line standard can run $450 to $550, and still the person who has the stud wants one or two puppies. In Texas, where Crystal is, she wants $350 and she guarantees two puppies for us. When we put our baby on the plane the other day, it was heartbreaking. She didn’t know what was happening. She didn’t know what was happening. She’s been there a week. She was in heat when I sent her. I’m waiting to hear if he’s done anything.”
I asked Mrs. Philpott about breeding dachshunds. With the female, she said, you need first to know she’s in heat. “You have to watch them. It [the vaginal discharge] changes color from a little blood to paler, and their tails go over like a question mark. Their tails swish around like, ‘Oh, man, I am all ready to go.’ And when they do get started you have to hold them and to support them because their bodies are so long, their little backs go down. You have to put a rolling pin underneath them with a big rug wrapped around it. It’s quite a chore. Some females fight it; some you have to muzzle with a nylon stocking, wrap it around their snoot and around their neck. That way they can still breathe. Some animals I guess just love to do it, but dachshunds, some of them are ornery.
“Some, they just give out and refuse to do it. And you hold them and try to calm them down. After it’s all over with, they relax. The male will sit there and wash the female’s face and then just kind of lie there and relax. And then it’s all over.”
Once your female is bred, said Mrs. Philpott, “they start to swell up right away. It only takes two or three days.” Approximately nine weeks from the day of the mating, the pups will be born. In most females, as whelping dear nears, the hair round the nipples begins to shed, the breasts swell with milk, and nipples enlarge and darken.
Mrs. Philpott said, about feeding puppies, “I start them out with Gerber’s rice cereal, the very first thing besides mama. Then I go from that to hamburger and rice. I start them out on a very rich diet, right off the bat. Not all that dry-food stuff. I feed them real good meat, and cottage cheese and milk are in there too. And eggs, I feed adult dogs mackerel with the dry food and Pedigree. Every other day is something different. So they don’t get stuck on one thing. I used to feed them raw egg until they found out it was so bad. Now I feed them cooked egg. I always say, ‘Sunday is egg day.’ “
When Mrs. Philpott and I chatted several months later, she had bad news. Crystal indeed has been successfully bred by the Texas stud. Her pregnancy went smoothly, but when whelping day came, Crystal had a hard time. She lost all but one of the four pups she delivered and then, at the veterinarian’s recommendation, was spayed. Mrs. Philpott said Crystal was recovering and her remaining pup was doing well. But Mrs. Philpott’s peppy tone had darkened. I could hear the hurt in her voice. I asked if they were going to try again with another female for puppies and she said she wasn’t sure. I discovered, in chats with dachshund people, many more people than I brought to these pages, that an entire subculture of local dachshund lovers exists.
I discovered that many a friendship had its beginnings in one of these charming and antic short-legged dogs. I discovered, too, that San Diego has many dachshunds in its past. Older breeders, like Mrs. Philpott and Mrs. Sudinski, told me about breeders older than themselves, now dead, who, from early in the century, raised miraculously beautiful dachshunds in Clairemont and El Cajon and Kensington. They mentioned that several of these women could keep in mind entire lengthy pedigree lines that led generation after generation all the way from 19th-century Germany to 20th-century Southern California. At the summer dachshunds descended from these long lines. I also saw at this picnic something that in the last years of this century we see too rarely – a truly varied group of people, a democracy, come together to celebrate a mutual interest. By the time that hot, hot July Sunday afternoon had cooled into twilight, San Diego Dachshund Club Corresponding Secretary Mike Martin confided that he though at least 300 dachshunds had been in attendance. As people packed up their picnic baskets and closed their Styrofoam coolers, they were congratulating one another, saying, “The best ever!”