A Dachshund Major General

We’re not sure how to do this. To be honest, we never thought we’d have to do this. Not for years, and years. And in those years the Dawlish dachshunds were going to have all kinds of adventures patrolling our garden, and the new cottage. They would walk in the ravine and dig up lots of sunlight for later and Augie Doggie was going to finally catch that squirrel.

Except Augie Doggie caught something in November. We felt incredibly stupid going to the vet about it because his primary symptoms were chronic sneezing and a sudden apathy for his three o’clock walk. Augie Doggie loved his three o’clock walk. He would trott into the hallway and stand there. If we were in the kitchen he put his head around the doorframe and looked expectant. And if I was upstairs he barked blue murder.

This was appropriate, Augie being a braw, blue dachshund.

And we would go out and catch squirrels (well Augie tried to, us girls weren’t fussed about the squirrel thing) and run around dachshund highways, and generally I was glad if my arm stayed in its socket.

And maybe later we would have the TV Cuddle and Buffy would wash him with the kind of obsessive-compulsiveness Catholics say hail Marys. We can say this having said our share of obsessive-compulsive Hail Marys. Mostly for sick dachshunds.

Anyway, the sneezing didn’t let up and neither did the not walking and it spawned a laundry list of other symptoms. It turns out, if you were wondering (we were not) there is no veterinary equivalent to House, MD. But the people we had were lovely and tried really bloody hard.

So did Augie. But it is hard to be a blue dachshund who chases squirrels when your magnificent belly shrinks and your appetite goes away and everything is wrong internally.

Still, we thought he would be okay right up until Monday, when they couldn’t run further tests because his little doxie blood pressure dropped mid-test. And the tests they did run came back with lots and lots and lots of clots in his little blue system.

So, now the Dawlish Dachshunds are singular. And there’s this squirrel that froze and is languishing on a snow mound near our house, and we feel bad for it, but mostly because we knew the loveliest blue Auge who would have had such fun eating his squirrel at last. And who would have been sad when no one let him eat it, but would have accepted cuddles as an alternative.

His nemesis was next door’s Archie and in no particular order he loved food, Buffy, cuddles, ravine walks and Buffy. And food. And more food.

He was, in fact, the very model of a dachshund major general, and he ate flowers in the garden both perennial and annual. But that isn’t actually Augie’s song. All our animals have one, and we rewrote lots for the Dachshund duo. But this is Augie’s.

No, Augie’s son was completely, utterly bonkers. As was he.

Vale, little blue Augie. The world should have been so lucky as to know you were in it. Here’s to sun, Fabulous Orange Ball, and finally catching that squirrel.

The Dog

We decorated the tree today. A bit late, seeing as we’re into double figures on the calendar, but December is one of those months that goes at full cant.

So, we were late getting to our tea today. Midway through the TV cuddle with Dachshuds it dawned on us we hadn’t poured out, so we stopped and put the kettle on.

Today’s tea is Peppermint Amour. Taste-wise there’s not a lot to say about this one. It’s mint all the way through, which won’t work for everyone but works for us. It’s a bit like drinking an After Eight. It tastes of summer evenings when we drank Mint tea at the lake, less because we liked it and more because a friend had brought it back from Egypt.

Of course, mint tea is at its best cold, because its more refreshing that way. We could even have made it that way today – it was unseasonably warm. Bizarre, but the Dachshunds were delighted. We all forewent coats and had a distinctly unseasonable ravine ramble. Augie Doggie barked at a few squirrels, Miss Buffy was all dainty about the mud and her feet and did her best three-legged run. (Yes, we know she does it. It’s luxating patella, there’s no point operating and if one more well-intentioned stranger asks…)

They were so delighted we thought we’d better finally deliver on that poem they promised them. We’re almost halfway through December and the cat is well ahead of them in the poem dedication stakes. These things matter when you are a Dachshund of atypically delicate feelings.

There’s a lot of good dog poetry out there, but this one is top of our list of favourites. It’s short, sweet and definitely counts as more light verse.

The Dog
Ogden Nash

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I’ve also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.

But of course cuddles are best when they’re wet! That way, you too can be nice and soggy, they dry off, and the charming long-nosed ones get a cuddle for their trouble.

The Fashion in Dogs

Today was an almond-themed day as both Advent calendars yielded almond-based teas. From DavidsTea there was Chocolate Covered Almond. It’s a rich black tea that no matter how long you steep it tastes primarily of chocolate. The poor almonds never stood a chance, and it’s a shame because we love a good almond-flavoured tea. About 10-15 minutes in we thought the almonds were starting to come through, and perhaps they would have more fully with a bit of milk.

Chocolate teas are funny that way; sometimes the creamier you make them the subtler they become. Regrettably we didn’t think of this until towards the end of our second cup. That said, it stood up quite nicely even without the milk. It’s rich and probably another dessert-type blend, but we had it for elevenses with chocolate shortbread. (This may be partially why we couldn’t taste the almonds.)

From Germany was a herbal or fruit tea, Gebrantne Mandel, which our imperfect German made ‘toasted almonds’ (the internet tried to tell us they were burnt but that seemed unlikely). A brief chat with the calendar-maker revealed the name to be caramelised almonds, which made still more sense. She adds a drop of milk probably wouldn’t hurt this tea either, but we didn’t try it. The flavours were just so delicate, and we were enjoying them so much that we didn’t like to risk it. Also, it pours out a lovely pink colour and we didn’t want to spoil that, either.

You do have to let the Gebrannte Mandel steep quite a while, though; the instructions say 5-10 minutes and we really did give it 5 minutes, but it looked unhappy with life and anaemic. It tasted and smelled fabulous, though. There’s apple and hibiscus (hence the pink) in with the almonds and the result is a gloriously sweet-smelling blend that tastes as good as it smells. And 15 minutes later we got a much more substantial cup. Patience is a virtue with this one, and we just don’t have it in spades when it comes to tea. We’re working on it though. Especially when it gets you results like this.

Also on the roster was a walk with the Dachshunds. They’re currently sure excuse to get out of the house, which is no small thing. They were also beloved of E.B.White, better known to the world for his children’s books. Here’s what he has to say on the magnificent Dachshund…and other dogs. But mostly the dachshund.

The Fashion in Dogs
E.B.White

An Airedale, erect beside the chauffeur of a Rolls-Royce,
Often gives you the impression he’s there from choice.

In town, the Great Dane
Is kept by the insane.

Today the Boxer
Is fashionable and snappy;
But I never saw a Boxer
Who looked thoroughly happy.

The Scotty’s a stoic,
He’s gay and he’s mad;
His pace is a snail trot,
His harness is plaid.
I once had a bitch,
Semi-invalid, crazy:
There ne’er was a Scotch girl
Quite like Daisy.

Pekes
Are biological freaks.
They have no snout
And their eyes come out.
Ladies choose ’m
To clutch to their bosom.
A Pekinese would gladly fight a wolf or a cougar
But is usually owned by a Mrs. Applegate Krueger.
Cockers are perfect for Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
Or to carry home a package from the A&P without clowning.

The wire-haired fox
Is hard on socks
With or without clocks.
The smooth-haired variety
Has practically vanished from nice society,
And it certainly does irk us
That you never see one except when you go to the circus.

The dachshund’s affectionate,
He wants to wed with you:
Lie down to sleep,
And he’s in bed with you.
Sit in a chair,
He’s there.
Depart,
You break his heart.

My Christmas will be a whole lot wetter and merrier
If somebody sends me a six-weeks-old Boston terrier.

Sealyhams have square sterns and cute faces
Like toy dogs you see at Macy’s.
But the Sealyham, while droll in appearance,
Has no clearance.

Chows come in black, and chows come in red;
They could come in bright green, I wouldn’t turn my head.
The roof of their mouth is supposed to be blue,
Which is one of those things that might easily be true.

To us it has never seemed exactly pleasant
To see a beautiful setter on East Fifty-seventh Street looking for a woodcock or a pheasant.

German shepherds are useful for leading the blind,
And for biting burglars and Consolidated Edison men in the behind.

Lots of people have a rug.
Very few have a pug.

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 N.B. The Dachshunds of Dawlish would like it on record that they too would tussle with a burglar if one ever came calling. Honest, they would. And they’d eat the pheasant too. Feathers and all. They’re very economical that way. No wonder E.B. White loved them!

Tea and Whimsy

We opened the German-made calendar this morning to Sommer Darjeeling. Following the directions on the accompanying Christmas card we poured it over a sugar cube and added some milk.

N.B. We haven’t taken sugar in tea since university when we befriended Brits who only put sugar in baking. But tea traditions should be followed at all times, so we followed this one. (For best result we’ve been told to use sugar crystals but suspect those of hiding behind another Advent door. Until then we improvise.)

And okay…we cheated a little. But it was only a little! We took the merest sip of Sommer Darjeeling black just to see what it would taste of. The instructions are there for a reason. The milk gives it a creaminess it doesn’t have on its own, while the sugar helps bring some of the more subtle tea notes to the surface. It’s a bold, bracing tea and it was exactly what we needed to wake up. Darjeeling is always the queen of black teas and this is no exception.

At the complete other end of the spectrum is DavidsTea’s Organic Cinnamon Rooibos Chai. That’s a name that’s a mouthful! But it lives up to it. Because we think of rooibos as warming-up tea, we made it after walking the Dawlish Dachshunds in the ravine.

It still looks like Narnia, as you see. But at least a white Christmas is a good omen. Or, well, we guess it’s a white Advent about which the old grannies say…um…nothing, as it turns out. Ah well.

Anyway, Cinnamon Rooibos Chai is perfect warming-up tea. Rooibos naturally has a kind of inbuilt spice that would lead the proverbial grannies above to say it would stick to your ribs. It dovetails beautifully with the cinnamon for a cup that tastes a bit like mulled wine but without the alcohol or a particularly satisfying musical cadence. But it’s desserty too; you would drink this for breakfast.

Instead, if like the Dawlish Dachshunds you have vowed to stay by the fire until the sun comes back, enjoy this with a nice helping of crumble. And for everything else, there’s Sommer Darjeeling.

To tide you over until then, and in keeping with yesterday’s optimistic note, we move from the sublime to the ridiculous. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve used a parodic bit of hymnody as a poem though, and we miss singing. Besides, this gave us the best laugh we’ve had all year. Enjoy – but don’t read it over tea!

Ode to the Dachshund

It was all things Dachshund today thanks to a surprise parcel from a friend across the water. Specifically, she billed it the Delightful Dachshund Parcel.

 

Miss Marschallin Cat is guarding it now, lest Dachshunds get any ideas about their place in the hierarchy. (They are minions.) Still, we thought we’d try and find a poem for them, if we could.

But just before that, a bit about the tea. It’s white and called Pomograteful, because some ill-advised person let the marketing people, or the naming people, or whatever people get to name these things, have it away with the puns. Calendar, you are a lovely Advent Calendar but leave the terrible puns to our unsuspecting relatives, will you?

Anyway, if you hadn’t put it together, it’s a pomegranate and white tea  blend that makes for a low-affine, sweet desert tea. The sort we’d save up for Lent when we’ve sworn off sweet things but still want a bit more after supper. The pomegranate gives the tea a spectacular colour and also zest – and it smells divine. What’s not to love?

We’re being purred at and waltzed on and gently bunted, which is typically our cue to go do the Boring Lying Down Thing from Miss Marchallin. You know the one; you burrow under lots of lovely blankies and lie perfectly still while the cat sits on you. It also means we’ve nattered too long about something other than Herself. But we live dangerously here at Chorister at Home, so before we go, have a poem about Dachshunds. And you thought we’d never find one didn’t you? Well, we did  – but we wouldn’t want Her Nibs to find out. So this is between us, the blog and some metaphorical bedpost, yeah?

The Dachshund Speaks 
Morgan Dennis, 1947

Because I waddle when I walk,
Should this give rise to silly talk
That I’m ungainly?  What’s ungainly?
I’m really rather graceful – mainly.
The experts have been known to state
That there’s a twinkle in our gait.
One said “They have a clumsy grace,”
Which after all is no disgrace.

My funny features may abound;
Short legs, long body, low-to-ground,
But I’m about the perfect pal,
For man or woman, boy or gal.
I’m gentle, very playful, kind,
I housebreak fast, ’cause I’m refined.
I’m smart but never sly or foxy –
No, do not underrate the dachsie!

 

Ungainly? Never! We give you the very model of dachshunds major generals…who may just have missed that memo about housebreaking fast. But who’s keeping track? Anyway, they are very definitely, absolutely, completely and utterly refined.

 

 

See? Seriously refined. Okay, look, maybe the jury’s out on that too. Maybe. But there is no contesting the loveability of a Dachshund. Trust us – we’d know.

Advent III: the Jocundity of Dachshunds

As if in proof to yesterday’s declaration that it’s not spices in tea, really, we swear on a bible, that we take objection to, today’s selection was called Gingerbread. Straight and to the point. It’s a robins packed chock full of ginger, and it smells and tastes like gingerbread in a cup. So much so that we investigated the ingredients for traces of molasses. We found none. Low on caffeine and richly flavoured, it’s a perfect evening tea. This is how you do spiced teas properly.

In other news, it’s Advent III, the Sunday when the rose vestments come out and we relax whatever Advent discipline we have going. We always think that if ever there was a day we could let the blog slip, it’s this one. But we enjoy the blog, and Gaudete Sunday happens to be our favourite. Even if we still haven’t sung Hills of the North Rejoice this season.

In perpetual embodiment of jubilation though, are the Dachshunds of Dawlish. We owe them a poem, not least because Miss Marschallin has had two this season to their none. But also, no one does unbridled joy like a Dachshund leaping around your knees. We don’t even have to do anything for it. If we look vaguely in the direction of the kitchen from three o’clock onwards, they leap in jocund fashion at the prospect of food. If you go into the kitchen any time after half three, they run in giddy circles. Open the gate to the family room and they race to see who can crush the sofa cushions fastest. It’s like being perpetually bombarded with optimism, and it’s contagious. So here’s a poem to the Dachshunds, with love and affection. We really are sorry we insisted on bathing them earlier today.

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Lost and Found

Ron Padgett

Man has lost his gods.
If he loses his dignity,
it’s all over.

I said that.

What did I mean?
First, that the belief
in divinity has almost
disappeared.

By dignity
I meant mutual
self-respect, the sense
that we have some right
to be here and that
there is value in it.
(Values are where
the gods went
when they died.)

My dog Susie doesn’t seem
to have any values, but she does
have Pat and me, gods
she gets to play with and bark at.

The Dachshunds have many values, if you’re curious. Fabulous Orange Ball is high on the list. It’s narrowly outranked by Food. Sun is crucial, and warm. We’re sort of in disgrace until the warm weather comes. But they bark anyway, because apparently part of being perpetually optimistic about the universe involves making a joyful noise unto the Lord at every possible occasion.

On which note, we’ll end with Hills of the North, just so someone sings it this year. The important thing to note here is that there are two sets of lyrics, and ours are right. Well, we think so. The people who sing the other ones probably disagree. Both are quite good in their own way though.

Returning to Sayers

This week the Dachshunds of Dawlish join us in finally getting to grips with Busman’s Honeymoon. We here confess to having never read it before, though there’s no good reason why we should not have, considering our love of Dorothy Sayers. Our hardback folios make for awkward travelling companions, is at least part of the trouble. Equally though, the ending of Gaudy Night has always felt so balanced and resolved that we’ve never read further. (That’s not strictly true either; two years ago, we picked up Thrones, Dominations but though we liked it, we never know how much to count it.)

If you’ve never tried it, reading with Dachshunds is not to be undertaken lightly. In fact, we find these reading companions exhausting. They want to run around at a great speed, and we need quiet to read.  If we do settle them, we are then pinned to the chair while they sleep —we are of course, the human pillow in this instance. There hasn’t been much sleeping on their part though, because we’re still only 30 pages in and it’s Wednesday.

What we’re really doing, we’ve decided, is savouring this particular Sayers. We love Harriet’s company, and are reluctant to give it up completely. Once the whirl of the holidays is over we suppose we’ll read it in earnest in spite of the Dachshunds, because after so much people-time we’ll need the excursion to Talboys like a good cup of tea. Then, well then I think we’ll be about due a return to that boating scene on the Cherwell, because it’s been ages since we read it in context and anyway, we meant it about not wanting to give these characters up.