Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
My twin dachshund puppies, Nicky and Freddie (named after the beloved Nick DeWolfe and Freddie Fisher, though Fisher despised dachshunds) aren’t really puppies anymore – in March they will be 4 years old and (sob) already have small tufts of white hairs on the bottom of their chins.
It seems like last week that my home was turned into Lum’s Laundry with all the peeing, pooping and puking going on that parents of newborns know so well. I thought that they would never be housebroken and then – just like that – it was over and they turned from babies to insane teenagers to adults.
They stopped playing Crazy Dog every night, racing around the house snarling and snapping, chasing their squeaky toys and their “Itty Bitty Balls” that always zipped under the furniture, bounced into the toilet or disappeared into the baseboard heaters. Now the basket of toys holds no interest for them at all unless a visiting dog discovers their old treasures, triggering the “MINE” reaction.
At work, we call them The Germans. All the other dogs romp around trying to win their affection while they hunker under my desk and lift their lips. Freddie is friendly to humans but some of the ladies at Carl’s Pharmacy have been trying to woo Nicky – Mr. Shy (or Mr. Tease) – for years, to no avail.
After a lifetime of owning dachshunds, what I regret most is not having talked to them more. Nicky and Freddie understand a lot of words and, having figured out that words are communication, they began to listen.
When I say, “THIS way,” they know we’re about to change course. When I say, “I’m not going anywhere,” they don’t get in a lather if I’m just getting groceries out of the car. On the other hand, if I say, “Let’s go in the car” they hurl into action.
“Ready to go to WORK?” sends them roiling out from under the blankets. If I tell them “You’re going for a walk with Hilary and Tucker,” or “Nancy, Roger and Sam are coming to take you for a walk” (Tucker and Sam are dachshunds, the only other dogs they relate to) they leap on the chair by the front door and watch for them.
“We’re going visiting” lets them know that they won’t be left behind when I start making “going somewhere” actions. “I have to go, you have to stay, I’ll be right back,” sends them – resigned but surprisingly obedient – to their bed.
There are words that they fully understand but ignore (“QUIET! Shut UP! No BARKing!”) – these are dachshunds, after all. As E.B. White once said of dachshunds, “I’ve never known a breed of dog who understood so much what I said, or held it in more contempt.”
Their language skills are, of course, limited. We can’t discuss politics (“Sarah Palin? Who’s that? Does she have TREATS?”), but they know that when I say, “We’re home,” they exit from my side of the car, while if I say, “We’re at work,” they need to wait until I let them out of the passenger side.
Totally by accident, I discovered that the puppies had a passion for laundry right out of the dryer, the hotter the better. I had thrown a pile of hot laundry on the bed, forgot about it (as usual) and returned to find them snuggled deep inside it. I thought nothing of it, put away the laundry but, after several recurrences, I finally saw the light.
Now I say, “LAUNDRY!” and Nicky and Freddie fly up their ramp onto the bed and bury themselves in its warm depths until, like people staggering out of a sauna, they’ve had enough and need to go outside for a breather or a roll in the snow.
Every morning when we set out for work, they’re always excited, champing at the gate and, when I open it, they burst out like hounds on a fox chase, barking wildly just in case there’s a bear or a kitty or some other enemy in the alley.
When it’s really cold, I warm up their blankets in the dryer, but they’re usually frigid (and so am I) by the time they deign to suspend their investigations of the alley and are ready to be boosted into the car.
This winter I (the old dog) learned a new trick. Now when I get them all excited by saying “Want to go to WORK?” and they plunge through the open gate, I hold up their warm blankets and say, “LAUNDRY!”
They stop in their tracks. They know exactly what “laundry” means – it means WARM. They run to the car. “Paws up,” they understand – then I give them a boost into the car, ready to be covered with their laundry.
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