When people come to visit me, the first thing they notice is the dogs.  Well,
actually, a visitor  will notice the dogs peripherally, I guess; the first thing he
really notices is the fact that something small, loud and brown has just happy-
peed all over his foot.  Or that his ankles are bleeding.  Whichever.

The dogs are obviously a huge part of my life, to the extent that I even named
this web page after their furry little loveliness.  And I was all proud of myself,
like, what an awesome name! I can’t believe it’s not taken!  I called my sister,
totally psyched, and told her about our new website and she responded with a
bored little laugh and was all, “oh, great, yeah, that’s really... ‘cute,’ I guess.”  
My sister is much, much cooler than I am.

But the dogs are essentially my children, and all of them have their own
personalities and their own little quirks.  When people see the pictures of all of
them together, they ask how in the world I ever tell them apart; I wonder how in
the world I could ever mix them up.

It all started when I was in college and wanted a dog.  I really wanted a
dachshund; mom and dad had two (Fudge and Lucy), and they are the funniest
damn dogs.  I decided I would get two. (Believe me when I say that you do NOT
want only one.  They are intolerable when they’re alone.) I also decided to
name them Boris and Natasha.  (Ha!  Like Bullwinkle!  Funny...right? Y’all?)

So after graduation, I got Boris.  Immediately, he became known as Bo, and in
the beginning, he was the Cutest. Thing. Ever.  I would wear these long skirts
(whatever, it WAS stylish back then, I swear) and he would grab onto the hem
with his teeth would just drag behind me all day.  Like a little mop.  

But then I started law school, and Bo developed an attitude.  He did not LIKE it
when I studied.  Interestingly, he gave no damn about me going to school and
leaving him; it was only for a few hours, and Bo does not like getting up in the
mornings, so he’d sort of half wake up, stumble around in the yard, pee, and
then come back inside and fall immediately back asleep.  He’d usually be
snoring when I left.  But he HATED it when I tried to read.  Hated textbooks.  
Hated notebooks.  I could be reading, and Bo could be sleeping next to me, and
if I got up to go to the bathroom or to get a drink, by the time I came back, he
would have already removed the cover from the book.  He could dismantle a law
book twice his size in under five minutes.  It was amazing.  And it was also the
source of intense amusement for all of my friends at school, who could NOT
figure out what in the hell I was doing to my books.  The cover was missing off of
every last one, and the remaining pages—which were literally held together by,
like, love and hope—had these itsy, bitty little holes all over them.  Teeth marks,
I would explain.  Right, my friends would say, smiling hugely, and then they
would back away, veeeeery slowly.  

So for Christmas, my parents gave me Natasha.  Again, the Cutest.  Thing.
Ever.  She was wearing a tiny pink sweater, too.  Bo hated her immediately.  
Fortunately, he warmed up a little bit when he found out that  she’s scrappy as
hell, and even as a bitsy little puppy, loved to wrestle with him.  So the two of
them were happy, and all was good.

But then, one day, I went to buy them some dog food.  And there, at the store,
was the Cutest.  Thing.  Ever.  Except he was also. The Ugliest. Dog. You Have
Ever. Seen.  He was spotted.  He had pink eyes.  And he came home with me.  
We named him Gimmme (he likes to spell it with an extra M.... y’all?).  Which is
short for “Gimme that ugly dog.”  Which is pretty much the demand I made when
I first locked eyes on him.

It didn’t take long to realize that poor little Gimmme had a myriad of problems
associated with being part albino.  He loves being outside, for example, but he
can’t see a damn thing.  So he runs around with his eyes squeezed shut.  And
the dog is fast.  He zips around the yard at top speed until he reaches, say, the
fence, which he cannot see, and which he does not anticipate, and which he
pounds into at top dachshund speed, with the top of his spotted head.  When
this happened in the beginning, I would freak out and run over to him and try to
put ice on his noggin, but soon I realized that he couldn’t care less, and that he
has learned to use his head as a battering ram.  He is like a small, blind goat.  
He barrels everywhere headfirst, and after a few days, he learns the lay of the
land well enough so that he can figure out where everything is, and from that
point on, he travels pretty safely.   

Gimmme and Tasha were puppies at the same time, so they pretty much grew
up together.  And they were also supposed to get fixed together; Gimmme’s
“special appointment” was for January 2nd.  Tasha’s was supposed to be the
following week.  

Imagine my surprise, then, at waking up one morning to the sounds of my father
screaming, “Think about baseball! BASEBALL!”  I followed the peculiar noise to
my parents' bedroom, where I discovered him desperately trying to, um,
"disengage" Gimmme and Tasha, who were, shall we say, “locked” in a
passionate embrace.  Despite Dad’s helpful suggestions (“Try Janet Reno!  
Think about Janet Reno in a thong!”), we had to sit there and stare at the two
attached dogs, who were blushing all the way to their toenails, and who   couldn’
t really figure out where to put their feet, and who kept flopping over.  Finally,
the miracle ended, and both of them went tearing off into separate bedrooms
and hid under beds, and neither could be coaxed out for the better part of an
hour.

Obviously, you know where this is going.  Gimmme got fixed.  Tasha did not get
fixed, because the vet was concerned about an allergy she had.  I told the vet
about her dangerous liaison with Gimmme, and the vet checked her out and
performed an ultrasound.  He reported back that she was not pregnant.  Guess
what? The vet was wrong.

About three weeks later, Tasha was gaining weight.  Initially, I attributed this to
the new diet she was on; she was an incredibly skinny puppy, in part because of
her allergies, and so I thought she was just bulking up.  But then she got
nipples.  Big old brown, hanging-down nipples.  So we went back to the doctor.  

When the doctor admitted that, oops, guess what, my family went into four alarm
mode.  The house was converted into the Home for Unwed Dachshund
Mothers.  Tasha spent her days lounging around in her own room on special
dog maternity pillows.  Her diet consisted primarily of home cooked foods, we
wouldn’t let her run too much, and (I am absolutely not joking), on the advice of
a
licensed veterinarian, purchased aromatherapy kits to soothe her nerves in
her birthing room.  Meanwhile, Tash watched a lot of soap operas, enjoyed
mood swings, and bitched at Gimmme about being unemployed and never
coming around to see her.

Three birthing books, fourteen towels, two friends, one case of the dry heaves
and seven hundred dollars at Wall-Mart later, there were four new puppies in
our family.  Tasha was a great little mom, and all the puppies were healthy and
happy.  She loved them intensely and wouldn’t let anyone else near them, until
they were ready for solid food, at which point her love turned to blind hatred,
and she kicked them all out of her bed for good.  

The plan was to give the puppies away to friends, and these friends were lined
up and ready to take them.  In the end, however, my family members were too
attached.  So my dog count increased to four (I got custody of Pugsley, the
incredibly-sweet-but-scared-of-everything-in-fact-what-is-THAT-UNDER-THE-
BED??!-runt of the litter).  Mom and Dad took his counterpart, Wednesday (Ha!
Like the Addams family! Funny...right? Y’all?).  They  also took Max, and
temporarily, Maggie, who will one day live with my sister, when she finally moves
into a building where dogs are allowed, or where the pet deposit is less than,
say, the gross national product of China.  

And that’s why I live with four dogs.  And when I visit my parents, there are eight
dogs running around (it was nine, until poor old Fudge, who was seventeen,
passed away).  Somehow, they have decided they are pack animals.  Although I
can’t imagine wild herds of dachshunds running through the wilds in primitive
times, striking fear in the hearts of early-man carpet owners everywhere, the
pack thing seems to work for them.  They travel as one large, fluffy group with
thirty two legs, eight easily excitable bladders, and about a jillion tiny little teeth.  

So if you come over, you’ll know what to expect.  Bring your earplugs and your
patience.  And watch out for your ankles.

Anklebiters: Or,
How I Ended Up
With EIGHT Small,
Persistent Dogs.

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