In this excerpt, Sarge mentors his doxie protege Duke on how a proud, full-blooded dachshund is supposed to act:
Mentor, Protégé—and Honorary Dawg
Hearing Mama read that story supposedly told by Duke got me to thinking about that rascal of a dawg. I’ve mentioned before that my pal Duke is a bit goofy. That’s why I’ve decided to become his mentor—if I don’t show him the ropes about how a dachshund is supposed to act, then who will? Humans in general don’t seem to have a lot of insight about us doxies, so Duke needs a well-experienced and wise dachshund to teach him what is appropriate and what is not in our dog world—so that would be me.
I have a big task ahead of me, I am certain. He’s got a lot to learn, but from what I’ve seen, he does catch on rather quickly. And he is a good-looking dawg who needs to know how important his place is in his family. One real problem with him is his endless desire to play with those two pesky felines when he comes for a visit. He needs to understand that our noble breed should also act like what we are—a top dawg, not a mere plaything for cats to abuse.
From the outset, one thing I’ve tried to get across to him is the fact that all dog toys belong to me. Yes, that’s right—as the elder statesman dawg, it is my due to be in charge of the dog toys. But lately, Duke has challenged me on that issue every time he gets a chance.
At first, he would simply drop any toy in his mouth if I came around—and, I didn’t even have to growl to get my way. He was just a puppy, and I liked the way he deferred to my superior standing, no pun intended. But as he’s gotten a little older and bigger, he’s also grown bolder. Over the course of the past few months, I’ve had to growl in order to get his jaws pried open to drop the toy. He’s also taken to running off with my ball, my bone, and especially any squeak toy within barking distance. He seems to think that if he brings his own toys, then I have no right to them. WRONG. If a toy ends up under my roof, a.k.a. my domain, then it rightfully belongs to ME.
And along with my training of Duke, I must also mention that most humans don’t understand that to us doxies, a squeak toy represents a live quarry that we must kill! We must either squeak it to death or somehow get that squeaker out, thereby rendering said toy DEAD. That is inbred in us badger dogs, so if we aren’t afraid to chase badgers into their holes in the ground, then we will go after anything that squeaks, for sure—and it is very important for us to follow our instincts. Mama has gotten exasperated on more than one occasion when I killed a cloth toy by getting the stuffing out of it in five minutes flat. “Philip, look at Sarge! That toy is supposed to be tough; at least the commercials on TV say it is! He’s already killed it.”
Daddy doesn’t understand how I can kill toys so quickly, either. For example, Steve’s “dogs,” (shih tzus), Zoe and Charlie, seldom play with toys, according to Steve. I heard him tell Mama once, upon watching me attack my toys, that Zoe will play with toys maybe once a year, whereas Charlie will play with them more often. And, he added, they were never interested in getting the stuffing out of them, either. I thought that was ridiculous! What those two dogs do all day is beyond me. Why, even cats stalk and attack hair bows and balled-up pieces of paper, for heaven’s sake. I’ve even seen Piper our cat circle in for the kill on a dumb ol’ plastic bottle cap!
When visiting lately, Duke has even disturbed my much-needed naps by bringing a squeak toy within range of my nose, squeaking it constantly and growling in what he thinks is a menacing way. HA! It is mainly annoying, and it would take more than that pipsqueak’s yammering to scare me. Oh, I know what he’s saying: C’mon, Sarge, let’s see what you’re made of! I HAVE YOUR SQUEAK TOY, so are you dawg enough to get it away from me? Huh? Can you do it? And I’ve seen his head down with that glint in his eye, daring me.
Being younger and therefore more nimble than I, he’ll gallivant all around the house with one of my toys: jumping over cats, children, and what have you, to elude me.
He thinks he is so clever, but I still have a few surprises up my sleeve—er— paw, for him. You might have won a battle or two, my nimble friend, but I’ll win the war. I’ve got to show him who’s boss, all the while teaching him what he needs to know so I can be proud of my accomplishments as his mentor. I won’t be around forever, so his proper training is of the utmost importance.
Our humans have even noticed what he’s been up to, so it must be really obvious. Recently, when Clark and Mavis visited us and brought him along, Duke was trying my patience again, using my favorite squeak ball as bait. Napping on my corner of the couch, I was minding my own business when he jumped up beside me and proceeded to squeak that ball right beside my ear. Ouch! Literally a rude awakening, I growled and jumped down. He ran over to the other corner of the living room, squeaking the toy in an irritating way and growling. I sauntered over there and sat down right in front of him, making no move at all to get his toy. I just sat and watched.
Clark said, “Mavis, look at Sarge. He sees Duke with his toy, and now he’s just staring at Duke. Wonder what he’ll do about it?” Watch and learn, Clark.
Duke kept squeaking the toy and growling, and I kept sitting and staring. By and by, Duke’s jaws were getting tired, so I made my move. He had relaxed his jaws for a moment, and I lunged right at his nose, whereby he was caught by surprise and dropped the ball. I quickly snatched up my ball and trotted back to the couch, head held high. Aha, puppy. One must learn patience. You are simply no match for a pro like me, my dear dawg.
Duke, nonplussed, just sat there, as Clark and Mavis laughed at his demise. “Hey Philip,” called Clark, “you guys missed the show. Sarge took his toy away from Duke before Duke even knew what hit him!”
That, my dear Duke, is merely the beginning of your education. You’ll have to be more alert than that—even a cat could get the best of you if you don’t have your wits about you.
After that incident, Duke was more wary of me, and in my mind, he also seemed more respectful—as he should be, of course. Oh, I didn’t wish to hurt the dawg, but merely wanted him to become a decent representative of our breed. His training far from over, I was determined to get through to him that he needed (1) to respect me, his elder, (2) to never let the cats get the best of him, and (3) to learn the tried-and-true dachshund methods for obtaining what he wants. Some of these are inbred, meaning they are natural instincts of our noble breed, but even with that, his instincts could use a little polishing up. That’s where I come in—to get him where he needs to be.
The first order of business will be to teach him how to obtain yummy human food, which we seldom get to taste. Oh, I know that it isn’t supposed to be good for us, it might upset our tummies, or we’ll turn into pure nags if given any. Although these notions of humans are probably rooted in truth, my main question about human food has always been this: if it is so bad for us, then why do humans talk about it, watch it on TV, prepare it to eat, go to the store often to get more of it, and then eat it all the time? But above all, why does it taste so good?? I submit that if humans can eat it with such great satisfaction—down to smacking their lips, licking their fingers, even rubbing their tummies after meals—then it is logical that we doxies, with our superior noses, should have the right to enjoy it even more than they do. They have been given the misguided idea (probably from dog food makers) that dog food is the only thing that is good for us. I just do not see it myself. Therefore, I am constantly honing my skills for acquiring human food.
Of course, several humans in my family already understand this entire situation about their food: Papa and Sellars, of course, and occasionally the sisters, but Mama reprimands them when they drop me bites. Papa, being far more cunning than little children, always manages to get his hand down underneath the table where I’m sitting near his chair.
The grandchildren, less experienced than he, simply pick up bites from their plates and drop them for all the world to see. They’ll learn when they get older, but meanwhile, I hope they pick up a thing or two from Papa. He’s the master at sharing food while doing something else, thus distracting others from even knowing what he’s doing. He’ll be telling one of his famous stories, all the while getting bites of my favorites down to my open mouth. One time he told me that I looked like a crocodile, just sitting there smiling with my mouth open! He’s unusual like that.
Another aspect of Duke’s training will be to help him sharpen his skills involving the cats. Oh, I understand and accept the fact that he wants to play with them—I ended up playing with Tate and Joey at Aunt Bethany’s—but he must be made to realize that cats don’t always play fair. Perhaps it’s a good thing that he’ll play with them, thus saving me from having to do so myself. They will act like they want to play, then the next thing a dawg knows, he’s got a scratched up nose, and that hurts. Duke hasn’t been on the business end of Piper or Aslan’s sharp claws yet, but one of these days I’ll hear him yelping, and then it will be too late.
He also has to be wary of the grandchildren, but he’s pretty much gotten that figured out by himself. He’s been hugged too tightly once or twice, had an ear or his tail pulled already, or been whacked with a flying toy—so he’s learned from the school of experience on that score. I must admit that it didn’t take too many times before he learned to stay out of their way. They don’t mean us any harm, it’s just that they are little, and Mama can’t watch them every second. She’s careful to make sure they don’t hurt us, but as soon as her back is turned, something will happen. That’s the way it is in our house, a.k.a. the circus.
Duke already grasps that if he isn’t getting enough attention to suit himself, he knows how to look really pathetic: drooping ears, sad eyes, and an overall dejected countenance. I’m proud of his initiative in that area.
He does overdo the whining a bit, but he’s catching on that Clark and Mavis don’t really like it, because they tell him so in no uncertain terms. When our humans don’t like something we do, they don’t mind letting us know, either. If we doxies aren’t smart enough to learn and adapt to any given situation, then we won’t get what we want—and we shouldn’t.
All in all, I’m fairly satisfied with Duke’s progress. He’s started leaving my toys alone much of the time, staying out of the children’s way unless he knows they just want to rub his back, and getting under a likely food dropper’s chair when we have family meals. I love Papa so much, and not just because of the food issue, either. He is always making people laugh, he loves being outside like I do, and he just understands how we dawgs feel and how we think.
He once honored me by appointing me his special granddawg. Well, I wish I could let him know that I’d like to appoint him an honorary dawg—because he loves us, of course—but also because he just naturally understands our desires and feelings so well.
I think he’d be pleased.