Hilde on Elizabeth's bed

We first met Hilde on December 5, 2009 when we visited the dog rescue fair on the south lawn behind the Oaks Mall. We had recently lost one of our pack and were down to two Yorkies, Bessie and Connie. It was Cynthia's birthday and we hoped to find a new member for our dwindling gaggle of dogs. We came away with two (but I'll get to that later).

I had seen a few dogs that were of some interest, a Bassett Hound, an Italian Greyhound, etc. And then I saw her, big brandy-colored eyes peering at me through the crate she was in with another doxie. I asked if I could see her and picked her up. She was nervous but that was to be expected. I showed her to my wife Cynthia and she thought the "red dog" was beautiful. And then Cynthia asked the rescue people about the other dog in the crate, a male chocolate dachshund. Out came the male for us to hold as well. One of the rescue people said that they could be separated. I didn't want to split a bonded pair. One of the rescue people took Cynthia aside and quietly told her they wanted the pair to go to one family and would let us have both for one adoption price. Boom. We had two badger dogs.

When we were given the paperwork on the doxie duo we found out they had working names of Poncho and Lolita. German dogs with Mexican names didn't seem right to me. Shortly there after they were renamed Hans (for Johannes Brahms) and Hilde (after the Brunhilde character of Wagnerian opera lore). She was known by many names, Hildemer, Hilde-nator, Hilders, Hilds, G'Hilde-fish, Poo-Eater, Schmildish, Schmilders, and Smoophe. Hilde had names fitting a beautiful red-coated "tweenie" dachshund and all sides of her personality.

Hilde had a nesting instinct. She would chew and tear into any towel or cage pad we put in her crate. Two very nice padded cage inserts became rather deflated with the stuffing turned inside out like it was a winter holiday. You see, she had been puppy mill breading stock. There is no telling how many little ones she had in her first 5 years of life. She came to us, her ears rippled with tiny puppy bites. One thing was obvious; she had not been cared for well and had been either verbally or physically abused. Hilde had what we thought were cigarette burns on one side of her body, hairless scars possibly from being kicked. She was skittish around me. Our best guess was the breeder was a large male and Hilde had classified anything looking like that as bad.

We invited Monique over, the wife of a student of mine, who is an animal behaviorist that specializes in lupine research (I know canine and lupine are different species but their behavior is similar). I wanted her opinion of how we might work with Hilde to regain her confidence in middle-aged men. Monique was encouraging and pointed out though Hilde was skittish, she was also still curious. I was patient. I had no choice. It took nearly 18 mos. before Hilde started wagging her tail around me and coming up to be petted. Though I only had a few months of her trust, I thank her for teaching me patience and showing me the benefits of such love. It was the love to understand her for who she was and what she had been through. It paid off.

Hilde went through losing the use of her back legs due to a common doxie condition called IVDD (Inter-Vertebral Disc Disease). This happened only a few weeks, perhaps a month after we adopted her. You see, as best put in the words of H.L. Mencken, dachshunds are "half-a-dog high and a dog-and-a-half long." They're built like a suspension bridge. And, if allow to get overweight, the sag will start to impact several of the vertebrae in their back (right about where the ribs stop). It's hard to keep weight off of any dog, let alone a doxie. It seems that the gene that says "stop" when you're full is missing from the badger dog. All of our Dachshunds are on a strict diet. We did a good job of keeping her weight under control, but she was a gregarious dog. She would stand on the arm of the couch or chair, her little stump of a tail waging, and joyously fling herself into the air to get to you. It was hard to control her joie de vie. It was probably what caused the IVDD. After several months of strict crate rest, diet and medication Hilde started to be able to walk on her somewhat shaky back legs again. We'd carefully pick her up - hands on the chest and hindquarters to adequately support her spine - and take her outside to do her business. At first she'd drag her hind end around and through her business that meant for a rather frequent washing upon bringing her inside. But, as she started to improve, she started to control her back legs more. She never had great control of her backside again but she was function and had what we called a "drunk hooker" swagger. When she wanted to motivate at greater speed she developed a rather quick "bunny hop." It's amazing how dogs adapt and cope with such a trauma. The time spent holding her and giving her medicine brought us closer together and enabled her to trust me.

At first Hilde was Cynthia's. Hilde was her faithful shadow until separated by IVDD. You see, it was too dangerous for Hilde to sleep in our bed so high off a wooden floor. As she healed, we felt she would be more comfortable in a bed. Hilde loved to burrow under the covers and sleep right next to you. So, with a lower bed on a carpet we decided Hilde would sleep with Elizabeth. She became Elizabeth's dog and her best friend. They would lie in Elizabeth's bed and watch a movie or listen to what my daughter considers to be music. Hilde had great love for and patience with my daughter. She would look at Elizabeth with longing eyes until she would pick her up. Her stumpy tail carefully wagging in slow tempo. The only time we would see that tail, obviously shorted in her puppy mill days in some fracas, in any other motion was when she was asserting her dominance over another of the pack - usually Connie or Bessie. Then, her tail would stick straight up like a flagpole, as she approached the other dog, "zing!" Like most pack activities of this sort, there would be some loud vocalizations and one would acquiesce. Situation solved.

Hilde stopped eating a few days before her passing. I tried all I could to get the finicky dog to begin chowing down again with her normal ferocity. When that didn't return, we took her to the vets yesterday. By noon, we had a call from our trusted veterinarian. The news was not good. Some of the toxicity numbers were over 5-times above the norm. Hilde only had about 20 percent of her kidney functions left (and you don't regain said function once it's lost). The acidosis was killing her. She had lost several pounds over the last few months. I asked our veterinarian, who has been through a number of crises with our pack and has been able to extend the life of many of our beloved hounds, if Hilde was his dog, what would be the rational course of action? Without skipping a beat, he said, "put her down." My heart sank. Less than two years with this pup was far too short -- but that would be my selfish response. Perhaps we could extend her life by a couple of days but that would entail drastic measures and the result would be the same, only more pain for Hilde.

Hilde was released from her previously abused, IVDD laden, failing body on 21 September 2011 at about 6:00p. With her was her human family, her beloved Elizabeth at her side holding and comforting her head. Cynthia stroked her body. We never stopped telling her we loved her and kissed her more times than I could ever count. She passed without pain and went to the rainbow bridge where she waits for me with Candy, Sugar, Laddie, Muphee, Winnie, Millie, Bessie and Ellie. You were a loving and patient companion, Hilde. Thank you for being a cherished member of our pack and the reason we have adopted a total of five doxies thus far (being a doxaholic there will be others). I pray you remember the last two years of your life with us more than the first five in the puppy mill.

Hilde's love transcended death. As we drove home from sending her across the rainbow bridge, answering doubt and disbelief with test results and evidence, Hilde sent us a sign. She had God place a rainbow above our home. The only way we saw this rainbow was by standing in our driveway and looking into the sky. Hilde is safely in the arms of her Maker. We pray the time we are parted passes swiftly. I will always remember you Hildemer, most precious one. God bless.

[Click here for more photos of Hilde]