WIENER DOG GAMES

When Fritz was just a few weeks old I started playing tug of war with him every day at 4:00. It took him about 2 days to get welded to the idea that this was what we were going to do every single day for the rest of his life. So for the last 13 years Fritz has deposited a toy at my feet at around four in the afternoon. That works out to about 4000 times he has been indulged. If I fail to get the hint that the games should begin, he sits up straight and tall on his ample haunches, and gives out a little aggrieved bark. If I continue to ignore him, he shoves the toy a little closer to my feet, insensitive clod that I am, and waits. Like most Dachshund owners, I am accustomed to giving in. So I bend down to grab his toy, and of course, he’s off and running with it. Then he brings it back and gives me another chance to grab it . What’s eerie about this is he is blind in one eye and missing the other completely, but he still knows the second I go for the toy. Once he decides I should grab and hold, we play a form of tug of war where I lift him into a couple inches into the air like a 16 pound dumbell. For Fritz, this is the best part. It doesn’t hurt him, because the Dachshund bite is second only to pitbulls and bull dogs. If I really want to make him happy, I utter terrifyingly convincing growls to get his hair up.

And, of course, what is good for one dog is good for all, so as soon as he hears Fritz and me growling, Izzy runs in hysterically barking and, staying well clear of Fritz who does not appreciate this incursion into our sacred play space, ends up running around in circles tossing his own little toy in the air and pretending he’s having a good time. Then Franny has to chase Izzy and get the toy from him , and the excitement level escalates until Fritz, just furious at this interference, starts going for Izzy. Mokie and Mercedes, needing only the slimmest excuse to declare war, are soon at each other, too. Everyone has to get sent to their separate corners before calm can be restored, and therein lies the problem with playing games when you have more than one Weiner: big egos with teeth.

I’ve tried to play ” Find It!” with them, too. This involves calling out suddenly “Let’s play Find It!”, and when they all come running, I tell them to get up on the couch and sit. Some of them actually do it. Izzy loves this game, and knows all the strategies, the first one of which is to not get up on the couch. I sternly order him up, but he hops down again right away. This is because he knows a treat is going to be hidden under a big blanket on the floor, and if he’s on the floor already when I say “GO!”, he’ll have a better shot at it. Eventually I do get them all on the couch and tell them to stay while I hide the treat under the blanket. Then I give the word and 6 Dachshunds descend on the blanket in a frenzy of nosing and scratching. Izzy always wins. It’s like he expects a trophy. By the third round, though, Izzy is so worked up he insists on bouncing off the couch seconds before I say “Go”, and nothing I can do stops him. At this point either the other dogs lose interest and walk away in disgust, or they all get so fired up I have to stop the game before the knives comes out. It’s like having a little Kindergarten class of sociopaths.

Then, of course, there’re the games they play with us that they make up. There is a well known practical jokester tendency in Dachshunds, and Franny shows it more than most. I first figured this out when she was 2 years old. Izzy and Fritz were the only other dogs then, so of course I spent a lot of money on those little luxury items to which Weiners feel they are entitled. I had bought them each their own bean bag bed and matching little plaid blanket, and they all knew perfectly well which bed was theirs. This was when we lived up North in a 2 story house with proper stairs. One night I sent them to bed, and Izzy came back downstairs looking confused. “Izzy”, I said, “get to bed.” He turned slowly around and trudged back up. A few minutes later he came down again. “Izzy!” I said. “What’s wrong with you?” I picked him up and carried him upstairs myself, none too pleased, as he was well aware. When I got to his bed, I started to slide him under his blanket when who should come shooting out, but Franny! She vaulted onto her own bed and disappeared under her blanket. I narrowed my eyes a little, considering, finally shrugged and went back downstairs.

The next night it happened again. This time it was Fritz whining dolefully after I had sent them to bed. I marched upstairs and found him laying beside his little bean bag instead of in it. I threw back the blanket and there lay Franny with a big grin on her face. I ordered her into her own bed, got Fritz in his, and hoped that would be the end of it. But once a Weiner latches onto something entertaining, they just don’t let go. Franny played her little game of Musical Beds for several weeks, then stopped. When she resumed the game, she added a twist: if Izzy went to get in his bed and she had got there first, she would explode snarling out of the covers and scare him half to death. This has been going on for years now. All the dogs have gotten to where they gingerly sniff their blankets to see if Franny’s lurking in there. This has upped Franny’s status to Invincible Underdog Numero Uno, so I guess there’s a point to it after all. Of course, there is this downside: nobody wants to sleep with her on cold nights anymore.

Franny’s other favorite trick involves begging and pleading to be carried up the loft stairs. ( These ladder- like stairs in our Southern California home are too steep for them to climb..well, all except Mercedes, of course, whose mother mated with a monkey.). Franny desires to be deposited onto our still warm bed every cold winter morning, where she will instantly make herself at home by digging a nest for her skinny anorexic self under the covers. (This irritates my husband, which makes him all the more interesting to Franny. She’d rather sleep next to him than me. Of course, I have decended in rank by virtue of my obeisance to her for years, now, while he has risen steadily by virtue of his Son Of Vet disregard for dog feelings. He equates them with cows.) Anyway, I wish her Joy of Nesting, and go about my morning chores downstairs until I finally get a chance to sit down and read my email. After a few minutes of this I’ll begin to feel uneasy, a viseral feeling of being watched that sends the hairs on the back of my neck waving a Franny alert. I turn to look up at the edge of the loft that extends slightly over the couch, and staring down at me will be Franny, WMM fully deployed. Then the weinerwhining commences. With an exasperated sigh I get up and head up the loft stairs, where she has dashed to wait for me at the top.

Now I never know if Franny really needs to come downstairs because she has to pee, so of course I can’t just ignore her. And she knows I can’t ignore her, even if she doesn’t know why. It never matters what they know, it’s how they use it, just to dispell any quaint illusions new Dachshund owners may be hanging onto about peering deeply into the psyche of the Weiner mind. And for Franny, knowing I will inevitably climb up the stairs to her is all the information she ever needs, because just as sure as I am going to climb up those stairs to get her, she is going to jump out of the way and land back on the bed. If I stop one step from the top, she will get back off the bed and stand just within reach, and as soon as I stop feigning disinterest in her, back on the bed she’ll go. We can do this all day, or I can cut to the chase and climb all the way into the room and grab her. This she finds extremely rewarding because she is effectively directing my movements, a very big deal in the Dachshund Domination Sweepstakes. In celebration of her victory she’ll bounce all over the bed, roll on her back in a sarcastic pantomime of supplication, spin around a few times in the blankets, and finally lay down in a play bow that says “Let’s do it again!!”

Tomorrow I definitely will start ignoring her.

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