You can tell right away which is the good dog and which is the bad one. Sophie is sitting upright on the back seat of the Jeep, seat belt fastened, looking straight ahead, patiently waiting to go for a ride. Henry, on the other hand, is not sitting down, is not wearing a seat belt, and is looking sideways, deviously planning his escape.
Henry is my first hound dog. I have had golden retrievers for the past 30 years. My current golden is 8-year-old Sophie. The golden retriever is noted for its gentle nature and soft mouth, as in, carrying birds without eating them. Dachshunds are the total opposite. They are true killers. If only I had known. Henry pokes his snout into anything. He runs around like a madman, obsessed with scents, barking incessantly. He ignores my pleas to stop immediately. “Why bother trying?” I wonder.
I should have known better. Volumes have been written about the stubborn nature of dachshunds. E.B. White wrote this about his dachshund: “I would rather train a striped zebra to balance an Indian club than induce a dachshund to heed my slightest command. When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes. He even disobeys me when I instruct him in something he wants to do.”
Because of Henry, I have gone to the emergency room twice — the first time in an ambulance, the second time on my own two feet. Henry Longfellow, I should say. He is a 6-year-old piebald dachshund. This is a rare variation — in fact, a genetic mutation. The best way to describe Henry is that he is a dachshund wearing a dalmation suit, as a child remarked to her father in Central Park in New York City one day. My first visit to the emergency room, thanks to Henry, was a few summers ago. He stuck his snout into a ground hornet’s nest in front of my house. Suddenly, Sophie was yelping, running in circles, covered in brown spots. By the time I realized what was happening, I, too, was covered with angry hornets. I shouted at my daughter to run, and I ran after her. The goal was to get to the nearby creek and jump in. We managed to do this, but when we returned home, I fainted dead away on the porch. An ambulance soon arrived, and off I went to the emergency room.
Everyone else, including Henry Longfellow, was just fine. “Way to go, Hankie,” my daughter Lili said to Henry. And to me, “Why did you ever buy a dachshund?” It had been an impulse purchase. Shortly after losing my husband of 30 years to melanoma, Lili and I were on our way to Loehmann’s for a bat mitzvah dress and got sidetracked. And got Henry. Sophie was not pleased with the addition to our family of three, but since she is a golden retriever, she welcomed Henry graciously.
In 2008 my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, published a study of 6,000 dog owners of smaller breeds more likely to be “genetically predisposed towards aggressive behavior.” Guess which breed was number one? Not the crazy Jack Russell terrier. Not the pugnacious Pit Bull. Dachshunds! They bite strangers (20 percent of them), and they attack other dogs; sometimes, they attack their owners.
Henry has not attacked other dogs or me, but he did attack a raccoon. Which brings me to my second visit to the emergency room. Early one morning Henry had a raccoon cornered on my property. The raccoon kept trying to climb a tree (who knew?) and kept falling backward. Not a healthy raccoon. Even I know that these fiends are nocturnal. Henry decided to go for it. The raccoon put its teeth into Henry’s snout, and he tried to run away, with the raccoon attached. Because I love Henry, I pulled the beast off his snout. In the process, I came into contact with raccoon saliva, which is how you get rabies. After a few stitches and a rabies vaccine booster, Henry was back on the hunt. I, on the other hand, went to the emergency room for the first of four (quite painful) rabies shots.