Lum: The babies’ birthday
On Saturday, my dachshunds Freddie and Nicky turned 9 — 63 in people years — their black fur rapidly growing gray.
I could hold them both in my cupped palms when I brought them home in their eighth week, an adorable, writhing ball of puppy breath, with Nicky — true to form — leaning back for one last bite of kibble from his bowl as I picked him up.
There was an ad for black dachshund puppies, and my friend Hilary and I drove down to Carbondale because we had never seen or heard of black dachshunds. I took one look at those three babies (Nicky, Freddie and their sister, Frankie, who was kept by the owners) and called my daughter Skye, who lived around the corner.
Skye and my granddaughter Riley came right over.
“Get both of them, Su,” Skye said.
The very day before, someone had asked me if I was ready to get a dog. My dachshund Trudy had a long and painful end, and I’d vowed not to go through that again.
“Absolutely not,” I said, meaning it.
Hilary said later that she was thinking, “Not two; not two,” because that would mean she’d have three dachshunds — including her crochety Tucker — to tend to if I died on her.
Skye pointed out that they could keep each other company when I was at work. The Aspen Times was extremely dog-friendly, but I couldn’t bring babies into that mix until they were old enough to fend for themselves.
As it turned out, they regretted my retirement a lot more than I did, having spent six years under my desk.
But that first year, when they were getting old enough to fend, was a madhouse.
I started off with the best intentions and an expensive fence blocking off their bed in the kitchen, but at 6 a.m. the next day, when they woke up screaming, I popped them under the covers with me, and there they have remained.
Really, what’s the point of owning burrowing dogs if they’re not snuggling with you?
Luckily I lived just a few blocks from the Times and could stop by at regular intervals for feedings, pee breaks and cuddling. In time, I opened the cover to the dog door, and they, discovering a brand-new world, began a campaign to escape from the yard.
I say “they,” but Freddie was the ringleader escapee. Nicky just followed, hoping there would be treats at the end. I had to put a piece of plywood under the back gate — which only had a 2-inch clearance — because Freddie could flatten himself and slide under. The plywood in place, he climbed the fence like a monkey.
Freddie found escape holes along the fenced yard that you wouldn’t believe a mouse could get through. Hilary and I were constantly nailing up chicken wire and putting cement blocks into their newest excavations.
These days, I could leave both the back and front gates flapping, and — yawn — the elderly pups wouldn’t dream of escaping. They know which side their bread is buttered on. They get gourmet food, they sleep in the bed, and Hilary takes them for long, exciting jaunts in the woods, and all they have to do in return is not to pee or poop in the house. Not a bad deal.
Housebreaking the two of them was a real nightmare. One would distract while the other would run inside and pee on the living-room rug. I would put one set of sheets in the washer only to have them look me in the eye and pee on the bed.
I got them in May. It was a stormy summer, and neither one of them would wee-wee in the rain.
Then, all of a sudden, like real kids, they grew out of it and grew up, and in a couple of years they’ll be ready for walkers.
Su Lum is a longtime local who dreads the day. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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