Friday, June 25, 2010


For the American Dachshund magazine, August, 1966

-Great Heart in a Small Body

Dickie was a beautiful red Dachshund. Friends who had a kennel-full gave him to us because he was either one-six-teenth of an inch too broad or one-six-teenth of an inch too narrow (I've forgotten which) across his chest; but he looked just perfect to us, and we were glad he didn't have championship conformation, for otherwise they would never have given him away.
He was a happy dog from end to end of his long, low body.  He cocked his head first to one side then to another, as if surveying, first critically, then confidently, his new people family.  He was willing to go with us.
Dickie was two years old.  Though he had lived in kennels all his life, he was very well trained.  He was as well-mannered as he was happy, and that made him blue ribbon material to us.
He was delighted to be turned loose.  He investigated every inch of the house and yard.  One day when he found a crawl-way open, he investigated under the house.  Apparently, at some time workmen had dug trenches and then had left them open, unused.  Into one of these, Dickie fell.  He begged to be rescued.
I was alone at the time, and I had recently had an appendectomy, so I just couldn't see getting down on my stomach and crawling on my not-quite-healed incision in bitter cold weather on frozen ground.  I listened to his pleading for an hour, meanwhile looking out the window, hoping to see my husband coming home.
Dickie might have hurt himself, I thought.  My conscience nagged me to go after him.  So I put on my oldest slacks and jacket, and tied a scarf on my head.  The crawl-way was so small I had to lie flat on the ground and wriggle to get through.  Dickie had picked the farthest trench to fall in, and I had to pick my way carefully through the bones the other dogs had left there.  I kept reminding myself that all the snakes and spiders were dead or gone in the winter, but it still took a lot of will power.  I got Dickie out, unharmed, and he scurried through the opening and into sunlight and freedom.  I crawled slowly back over the cold, dark ground, lay flat, and started squirming through the opening, head and shoulders first.
Dickie and the Boston Bull were so delighted to see me emerging safely that they began to help by pulling at my hair and scarf and covering my face with licks.  Scolding and commanding didn't dampen their enthusiasm.  I couldn't wriggle on out, so I had to back up and extend my hands and arms through the hole first, to ward off the exuberant dogs....
Both Dickie and I were dirtier, and I was wiser.  Believe me, I put up the door to the opening and made sure it was never left down again.

Dickie liked all of us immediately, Sam and me, his master and mistress; Carey Ann, six months old baby, his charge; and Duke, his Boston Bull friend.  He minded Sam and me without question.  He watched Carey Ann dutifully, making sure he lay just close enough to her play pen to see her but just far enough away that she couldn't reach his ears.  He and Duke played for hours on end, and occasionally they played themselves into trouble.
They followed me to the barnyard one day as I took the feed to the chickens.  We passed a little wooden pen where hay was stacked and where an old tom cat and his wife lived with two new kittens.  The mama cat came running as she saw me with the feed, but Mr. Tom stayed on guard.  Dickie and Duke, by mutual agreement, dashed through the open gate toward Mr. Tom.  At the first sound of a fight, Mrs. Tom raced back to the hay stack and took on Duke, evening up the odds; she quickly put him out through the gate and ran back to check her babies.
Dickie felt that he was no match for Mr. Tom, whose sharp claws and teeth were finding too many marks, so he decided to stop the fight by running away.  In his haste he got confused and ran through a hole in the wall instead of back through the gate.  Or at least the front part of him got through; his fat rear was stuck, with Mr. Tom's claws dug in solidly.  I dropped the chicken feed and ran to help settle the battle, but just as I got there Dickie pulled his last part through, and I could see dog and cat going around the corner of the barn with Mr. Tom riding high on Dickie's back.  From that time on, the dogs gave the cats a wide berth.

Winter passed into spring, and spring passed into summer, and the fryers were ready for a chicken dinner on Sunday.  My brother and his wife brought their three-year old son, Kevin.  Kevin went exploring and got a little too close to a young rooster - the one that got away.  The rooster took a sudden aversion to Kevin and jumped right in the middle of him with legs and wings, spurring and flogging the frightened child.  Dickie, who had never before taken notice of the chickens, immediately grabbed the rooster by the neck and, with one good snap, broke the neck; he gave the dead rooster a satisfied look and calmly trotted off.
For the rest of the day, Dickie was the hero.  They all wondered how such a small dog could muster up enough strength to break the rooster's neck with one snap.
All but me - and I knew, because the week before, Dickie had uninvitedly helped me catch a pig that got loose.  He clamped his teeth down on the pig's hind leg and held on with such grip that I could not pry his jaws apart.  Duke grabbed the pig by the snout, and then I was really in trouble.  My yelling and the pig's squealing brought the hired hand, and he rescued me and the pig.  On that day Dickie was not the hero.

On the Fourth of July, Sam and I got up early to drive to Ruidoso for the horse races.  As we would be gone all day, we put Dickie out of the house with a bowl of water and food.  That night on our way home, as we turned off the state highway and passed over the cattle guard, our headlights showed a Boston Bull and a Dachshund sitting by the side of the road waiting.  It was ten miles from the house!!  We were aghast to think the dogs would have followed us that far from home, and amazed that we were lucky enough to find them.  After that when we went some place, we left Dickie in the house and told the hired hand not to let him out until we had been gone at least two hours.

But one hot day in August I was washing and all the men were working on a windmill in one of the pastures about ten miles away.  I had an unusually big wash that day and was hurrying to get finished before I had to fix some lunch and take it over to feed the men.  Though I hurried as fast as I could, I didn't get through, and at 11:00 I unplugged the washing machine, went in and fixed a hurry-up meal and a big thermos of iced tea, and started off, late and rushed.  I forgot all about Dickie.
I drove over the ten hot sandy miles and unloaded the lunch.  After we had eaten and were relaxing over cold cups of tea, someone asked me if I had brought the Dachshund.  They said they could hear him crying.  I listened, and I heard a whine.  I found him lying under the truck.

The moment I looked at Dickie I could tell he was in bad shape.  He had traveled those ten miles of hot sand in about an hour's time.  We decided to see whether rest and shade would restore him.  But after an hour it was obvious that he was not going to recuperate by himself, so we took him to the tank of water.  We dipped him and held him in the cool water as the windmill pumped it from the ground.  Dickie stopped whining and lay limp in our hands, and gradually it dawned on us that Dickie was dying.
We put him in the car and started home.  Half way back we found Duke sitting under a clump of bear grass, waiting.  How I wished that Dickie too had stopped to wait, but Dickie's great heart had pushed his small body on until he reached his goal.  When we got to the house, he was almost lifeless.  The nearest veterinarian was seventy miles away.  We got the medical book down, but couldn't decide whether Dickie had sunstroke or heat exhaustion.  However, since the cold treatment hadn't helped him, we decided to try the heat.
We wrapped him in a soft blanket and heated some beef broth and poured a little of it down his throat with a spoon.  Dickie gave one little sad sound, and I thought for a moment he was responding, but it was just a small goodbye.
Our world is mighty lonely without Dickie-dog.


Unrelated photo; source unknown.


Anonymous said...

Hi Joey and Maggie, thanks for sharing this article. I am always amazed by your deft skills at finding such amazing info. This was a touching article. Sad, but reflects the wonderful nature we Dachshundists all love about our beloved weiner dogs. Hold onto to Dachshunds tight! Happy Friday Joey and Maggie

Anonymous said...

How I wish there was a way to warn us. I sat and cried. I cannot handle these stories of loss. It just breaks my heart. I guess people on a farm lead a different life. There was no reason for this dog to have died. It is our job to keep them safe. It just tears me up.

Rowdy and Bette said...

We were a bit of a mess when we typed out this story as well.

jacqueline said...

So sad! Poor little guy...

Teddy said...

Dickie was a valiant dog. So incredibly sad that he died the way he did. Lady and I cried. We know about heat exhaustion from living in 113 degree heat. Lady wouldn't even take me out after 8:00 am or before the sun went down. Now we are in the cool Himalayan Mountains and I can go out any time I want.

Ronnie said...

I never gave heat stroke in dogs a serious thought. Plenty of water on hot days. Never leave a dog in a hot car. But not this scenario. This story is sad, but eye opening. So sorry to read about Dickie's demise.
It's a heartbreaker.

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