A tasteful breed
Dachshunds were bred to hunt badgers in Bavaria over four centuries ago; the foresters were looking to create a dog that was courageous and slender enough to fit down the burrow, sufficiently lithe to maneuver into the den, and tenacious and strong enough to fight the badger to death. While the Germans were certainly successful in their original intent, their design seems to be at the expense of day-to-day functionality, especially for a city dog. A country known for engineering outstanding automobiles apparently overlooked the fact that animals need their legs to be in a certain proportion to their bodies in order to get through the day with any amount of ease. It doesn’t seem very forward-thinking to mold a creature like this in terms of walking, climbing stairs, or mingling with taller species. If Frankie was any lower to the ground she’d be slithering. Her tiny legs are really no more than nubs, just dangling appendages-after all she has no opposable thumbs, elbows or knees-and have about as much functionality as a thalidomide baby.
As a breed, Dachshunds are renowned for their intelligent expression, their independent-read: obstinate-nature, their unfailing confidence, their courage bordering on recklessness, and above all, their insatiable appetite. They are the pigs of the canine world. Once Frankie hit puberty and began to blossom, and then balloon, my vet grew concerned. He happens to own a dachshund himself and only feeds it once every 36 hours. He instructed me to do the same. While I find that borderline-abusive and have since switched vets, Frankie has indeed been on a diet since she was 18 months old. It seems a sad existence. She gets half a bowl of dry food every morning, no more, no less.
Not satisfied with the small portions of dog food she’s served each day, she supplements her diet in all kinds of creative ways. New York sidewalks are an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord for her. Once she was so bold as to grab a donut from the dangling hand of a portly Puerto Rican man as he was walking along, and swallow it in one swift gulp. She pre-calculated the pace of the man from half a block away, pulled the leash, partly tripping me, in order to finagle her way to the other side where she doubled her usual stride. She jumped on her back legs as she became parallel to the donut and, without missing a beat, devoured it in its entirety before we had a chance to save any part of it.
“Dios Mio!” the man shouted.
“Jesus H. Christ!” I shrieked.
Early on, when she’d begin to trot quickly and then break into a full gallop, I would encourage her strides toward a more cardiovascular work out, and run alongside her, shouting catchy, motivational phrases: “That’s right, girl, work it, work it, push it, push it good / push it reeeeaaal good / Salt and Pepas’s here and we’re in effect / want you to push it, babe / coolin’ by day, then at night workin’ up a sweat / c’mon girls, let’s go show the guys that we know / how to become number one in a hot hot show.”
I now know that her swift but measured movements are inspired by nothing more than the Big Mac that someone’s dropped a block and a half away. She’ll sniff for hours for one crumb on the streets. She has squeezed her nose so far into cracks in the sidewalk I thought she would completely disappear. These are not walks, they’re total drags; she pulls me along, zigzagging from food item to food item. She loves trash, whether served fresh or leftover. Decomposing animals are also a favored delicacy from the street-menu and range from Sun-Baked Runover Rat Road Kill to Tiny Baby Bird in a Half-Shell. Like most gourmets, she never has to eat the same thing twice.
When Frankie was around six months old, I moved to Sixth Street and Avenue B in the East Village to share an apartment with Carolyn, a girl I met through a roommate service. We had a good dynamic right off the bat; she was a friendly, successful radio DJ with a raging social life and great alternative style. During that first month we were getting along in general, yet we grew more and more perplexed as small items throughout the apartment were going missing.
“Have you seen my bobby-pin that was in the bathroom caddy?”
“No. You didn’t borrow a large gum eraser off my desk and forget to return it, did you?”
“Sure didn’t. But I happen to be missing the little yellow candle. Did you move it to the living room?”
“Nope. Didn’t touch it. And I suppose you have no idea what happened to the brand new tube of Chapstick that was sitting right here on this table this morning in this very spot?”
The situation was getting more and more tense and the accusations less subtle. Eventually, innuendo turned into outright hostility.
“I know those Skittles I bought yesterday didn’t eat themselves.”
“Well, neither did my half bag of rye bread. Boy, you can really put it away! You better watch out: when your metabolism changes, you will blow up like a fucking beach ball!”
We had reached the high level of passive aggressive cattiness that we girls do best, when we began to find our possessions one by one. Each morning in the garden, Frankie would relieve herself and release another of our missing possessions, in a newly mangled form. It was always a new discovery. We would meet in the garden each morning to watch the show in wonderment. Would the Chapstick lid still be on, or would one piece come out before the other? Would the pad of Post-it notes hold firmly together, or come out one at a time, and would the color be dulled in any way? We were so glad to have the mystery solved and the tension broken. This became our morning ritual; we would have a laugh as we drank our coffee and so began to barely miss our small knick-knacks, hair accessories and office supplies.
Frankie’s appetite for household items grew as fast as she did. She devoured larger and larger objects made of rubber or leather and also developed a taste for wood, fabrics, cardboard and linoleum. She has been known to pass a champagne bottle cork, as well as the metal clamp that holds it down, the champagne bottle label, half of a boot, and shoelaces.
Nevertheless, Carolyn and I were getting along like a house on fire, and that was more important to me than the alarming rate I was spending money repairing and repurchasing things. We often had parties and small gatherings at our place that lasted until the wee hours. Her group of friends was extensive and diverse. She had been seeing Charlie, a music writer from Los Angeles. I fell in with a guy named Sal, a performance artist, screenwriter, and musician who was writing a rock opera, and a part-time substitute teacher. I have a soft spot for people who work with children. I later learned he only worked with them about once every two months, so he was always broke. But he had long hair and oozed with sensitivity. Sal hit my other soft spot by passing out with Frankie curled up on the couch. He loved Frankie and I loved people who loved Frankie.
One Saturday morning, after a rather late night, I reached toward the windowsill as light began to pour in. We had put the condoms there to properly dispose of in the morning, of course, as civilized people do.
“Sal,” I said, “what happened to the condoms?”
“Dunno,” he said.
“Huh,” I said, “that’s weird.”
As I stumbled out to the kitchen to put on the coffee, I came across a horrifying sight: Frankie sitting on the couch and gulping down what looked like a balloon. As I reached the kitchen, I realized it also looked like what could have been the reservoir end of a condom and noted that it was similar in color to the condoms we used the night before. Well, it also could have been a balloon, I reasoned, you never knew what you’d find in our house. But I still had my doubts. It just seemed too much of a coincidence that a balloon would so similar in color and shape. I was repulsed. I was concerned. I was thinking, could she have? When she refused breakfast I knew at once she had.
“You little whore of a bitch,” I whispered as I refilled her water.
A couple of hours later when our overnight guests had gone their separate ways, I knew I had to do the inevitable: consult with Carolyn. What went into Frankie came out, as we both knew all too well. Even though I was a bit embarrassed, I knew she would see the evidence, and I thought better to prepare her for the shock sooner rather than later. I asked her if she had accidentally left any hot pink balloons out the night before in order to completely rule out that option, and then explained what had happened.
“How could you be so careless?” Carolyn, being a couple of years older and wiser, said. “Leaving condoms lying around, I mean, who does that? What were you thinking?”
“Dunno,” I answered, with my head lowered.
“I mean, why can’t you just flush them down the toilet,” she continued, “or put them in the trashcan in the bathroom, like normal people.” She stepped on the flip top trashcan to emphasize that she and Charlie were examples. “What the fuck?” she said, dumbfounded.
She and Charlie had disposed of a couple of condoms there just hours before.
We looked at each other, and then at Frankie who was lying listlessly on the couch, smacking her lips, and eyeing a small figurine on the side table.
Now I was worried about Frankie’s health and felt guilty for not taking the correct post-coital precautions. “Carolyn,” I said, “What if she becomes ill? Do you think it can harm her? What if one of them becomes caught on another household object that is already inside her and begins to stretch? Do you think it’s possible it could pop inside her?”
We sat down, did the math and realized Frankie had consumed four condoms total, a lot to digest. But since she seemed fine, we began to joke around about whether or not she could get impregnated by a human. Who would be the father and how would we know? Would we have another Anna Nicole situation on our hand? How would we raise this puppy-love child? Would we raise it together, as in this dachsie-baby has two Mommies? Would we qualify for child support and, if so, who would be paying it? As neither of the guys had full-time jobs, this became an important issue which we debated at length. Would we get DNA testing and even if we did, who would be the better father? Would it be the handsome, but hairless Charlie-he had alopicia, a condition that leaves the entire body hairless, but wore a very hip shaggy wig-who was a small time music writer with a big time coke habit? Or would it be the performance artist who hadn’t performed in years, except for the night before, had wild and unwashed hair, didn’t bathe often, and also did lots of coke?
It was soon after that we decided to dump the chumps. Frankie was fine, of course, but that little scare put everything in perspective. We realized we had a dog to raise; we had responsibilities and wanted more out of life than what Frankie’s possible baby-daddies had to offer. Losing interest in our respective artists of the week, we quickly and quietly moved on.
Since the incident, I have learned to be more discreet and thorough in my disposing of prophylactics, but the rest of New York City has not. Frankie seems to have developed a taste that simply cannot be satisfied. She has no shame, no dignity, and no couth. She would run over a baby to lap up a condom. She would knock over an old lady if the lady’s walker had pinned down a condom, and she would jump on and over a passed out homeless person, dig through his sleeping bag, step on his face, and emerge with a half-swallowed condom if the opportunity arose. Her country cousins are busy hunting down wood-chuck, rabbits, foxes, otters, and wild boar, but for a city dog, tracking down, attacking, and then devouring her prophylactic prey must be the next best thing.
I’ve always believed her fixation has to do with her ancestry. Dachshunds are generally highly adaptable creatures, which explains why Frankie can be seen donning a trendy hoody one day and a fashionable leather coat the next. She’s embraced much of city living and can lounge around on furniture and burrow under 500-thread count linens for hours just waiting for dinner to be served. She enjoys a good cocktail party and works the room, mingling from ankle to ankle, looking up and batting long eyelashes, then lapping up the attention. Despite her adjustment to the city and the finer things in life, though, she clearly isn’t a true New Yorker-and I guess her innate animal instincts won’t let her be-because she, unlike the famously unimpressionable inhabitants of the city who have seen and done it all, continues to obsessively rubber-neck when she walks down the street.