goodbye Sebastian

snout of a Dachshund

Before you start thinking that this has become a Dachshund Blog, I assure you that it’s unintentional that I’m writing about weiner dogs twice in one week. I can’t guarantee that I won’t find another topic Dachshund-related, but I can’t imagine that actually happening. To be clear – if a dog of this breed pulls a family from a burning building and saves them all from asphyxiation,  then I’ll likely feel obligated to make some sort of mention of it. You’ve been warned.

It’s customary to look back at those who’ve died at the close of a year. The papers at year’s end are loaded with articles about ‘who we’ve lost in (insert this year here)’. We’ve lost quite  a few notable, as well as notorious, people in the public sphere this year. Yet I only want to talk about one particular dog.

You’d think I’d have the decency to do more than mention my grandmother MildredMid‘ in passing. A lifelong smoker taken down at the spritely age of 91. There’s plenty of material there to fill at least a month’s worth of blogging. And that would barely begin to do her justice. I might still get to that, but first things first.

As I mentioned before, we had weiner dogs in the family. When I was a child, we adopted many dogs. There was a near endless parade of the canine down and out. Through years and years of such experiments in dog adoption, my mother always insisted that one day she’d have her own Dachshund.

Rather than even bother with an empty nest when everyone moved out for college and beyond, my parents found a breeder and soon enough brought home a bouncing baby hound.

Unlike their previous adventures in parenting, Sebastian actually listened. And behaved. Well, mostly. Remarkably well for a Dachshund.

Before I wax poetic about what a gentleman the little guy was, I must tell you: he had his faults. Who doesn’t, right?

He took protecting the property seriously and considered it a personal affront when the gardeners came with their unbearably loud machines and strange voices. And sometimes he smelled…how shall I put this? He was not a young dog.

I’m not necessarily someone who appreciates little dogs, but you have to take even little dogs on a case by case basis, and Sebastian had enough personality to make up for what he lacked in size. More than enough. Sometimes he had enough personality for at least one more dog.

Enough about faults. He had plenty of attributes to more than overshadow his few drawbacks. ‘What was the one singular characteristic that made him who he was?’  you ask. This weiner dog liked to eat. What? You say, ‘Many dogs enjoy a good meal?‘ Yes, you’re right. But this dog truly lived for mealtime. He was not apologetic about this. Not remotely. It was a very earnest obsession with him. His food was neither chewed nor even swallowed. He literally inhaled it.

He knew exactly what time of day it was based upon the exact hour of his meals. After someone had already fed him, he made a game of looking at others in the vicinity with his big, brown, sorrowful eyes…as if saying, ‘No-one’s fed me yet. And it’s five minutes past when I have to be fed. Five minutes. I know I can’t tell time,’ he’d insist, ‘But I know it’s been an eternity lasting exactly whatever five minutes means.’ 

He was the definition of passionate. It was a sort of wonder to behold. Am I overdoing it a bit? I’m really not.

Many dogs could be described this way. What else does a dog have to look forward to? I knew a guy in Colorado who wrote a song from the perspective of his dog. Dan Sheridan was his name and the song’s refrain went:

‘I love you Dan/because it’s dog food again…’

Most dogs love mealtime. Not so remarkable you say? Yes, ok.

But Sebastian had something else about him. It might not have been unique, but I’d never heard of it.

See, my dad was a diabetic. As a matter of fact, he was a Type 1 diabetic, which means he had it as a child…grew up giving himself injections of insulin. He was more than a bit proficient at managing his blood sugar and figuring out when he needed more insulin. Or sometimes when he needed less.

When his blood sugar was too high, it was not a good thing but not immediately life-threatening. Long-term, high blood sugar is not a good thing, but the urgent situation is really low blood sugar. If a diabetic has too low blood sugar, it can be really bad. I’m not going to get more specific, but really bad means what it sounds like.

Why on earth am I giving you a lesson in diabetes? Because our little (but did I mention enormous personality?) Sebastian could somehow tell when my dad’s blood sugar fell below a certain level, would crawl up to my dad’s forehead, and lick him till he startlingly awakened. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he saved my dad’s life on numerous occasions.

When my dad was in the hospital, it was not seeing Sebastian that was hardest on him. There’s a reason why therapy dogs mean so much to people who’re holed up in a ward that they can’t leave. If you’re someone who appreciates dogs. I suppose if you didn’t, you might have already given up reading this.

I could go on about this unbelievable little ball of energy. Fifteen years he gave it his all. I’m sure my mom would’ve been happy if she could have another fifteen more with him.

Come into the kitchen, scoop out a reasonable portion of his kibble, pour it into his bowl and pull your hand away quickly while you watch him inhale.

little (plenty big personality) Sebastian

chocolate spewing forth

Mud cake with chocolate sprinkles by Leon Brooks

Had a very interesting conversation with Andreas Heinekroon, Elizabeth Francois, and Jim W (if you’ve been here since the beginning, he’s the one who was unknowingly lured into trolling the comments of this blog by Lisa Galaviz) about chocolate being poisonous.

Apparently everyone was aware that chocolate was poisonous for dogs, but Andreas informed us that it was also poisonous for humans. Only in massive quantities it must be said, but it’s true nevertheless. In case you’re wondering, it’s 2 kilograms (4.4 lbs) of chocolate for the average human. As long as you eat less than that, you should be ok.

But for dogs it’s a different story, and for some dog breeds chocolate is particularly dangerous. For whatever reason, the Dachshund is a dog for whom chocolate is especially dangerous. You know, I’m not sure if that’s even true. I’ve heard it over the years from so many sources that I’ve just always taken in at face value.

See I have a history with these little weiner dogs. My grandmother had one when I was really small. My parents got one when everyone left home and they could enjoy co-habitating with dog rather than sons. We know quite a lot about the dog that is the Dachshund.

Which leads me to my story. When I was in school, I had a friend who had her own Dachshund called ‘Peterson‘.* Like so many of his breed, this little guy lived for mealtimes. His feeding schedule was strictly adhered to and, as a result of his daydreaming only about eating, he quite literally inhaled his food. I’m rather certain that if you inquired, he’d have informed you that the amount of food he was getting was not nearly enough.

I don’t remember how it happened exactly, but there was a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate in the pantry, and Peterson knew it. My suspicion has always been that he’d planned to make his move for weeks if not months. Someone inadvertently left the pantry door open, everyone was going about their business, and suddenly it was discovered that the package of chocolate was now an empty plastic bag. Peterson‘s mom and I reacted instantaneously. We both knew how dangerous chocolate was for this breed and that time was of the essence.

We scooped him up and rushed him into the bathtub. Even though it had only been a few minutes since he scarfed down this huge bag of chocolate, he was already looking a bit queasy. This was not going to be nice. Actually, it was going to be the opposite of nice.

I’m going to refrain from making any bulimia jokes, but I want it to state for the record that I showed a modicum of reserve. If that chocolate started to digest, it was going to be really dangerous for that miniature dog. We had to make him regurgitate and we had to do it fast.

If there was a more graceful way to go about this than sticking your finger down his throat, well then I wish you’d been there to tell us. We could’ve really used that precious information right about then. But without an alternative, it was a bit of fingertip down the gullet.

One of us was holding Peterson over the tub while the other aimed his frontside like a garden hose toward the drain. Am sure that’s as graphic as I need to get. Suffice it to say there seemed to be twice the volume of the original bag of chocolate that came back out of his little body. As if he were defecating out of the wrong orifice (and I said I wouldn’t get graphic-shame on me).

Felt a bit like we were at a college beer party and someone had had too much to drink. But at the same time when our adrenaline wore off it was also a wonderful feeling to know that our quick response probably saved Peterson‘s charmed life.

Because ultimately that’s what it was. A saying I learned recently that is pertinent: ‘Better an empty house than a bad tenant’.

(*some names have been altered to protect the innocent…actually, just one name)