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Dunderbeck's Hair

Dunderbeck's Hair

Spring often makes me think of pets. Our first pet when we were children was a yellow Easter duck. My sister and I named him Donald! Our next pet had a similar unimaginative name, he was a dachshund named Hansel. Later pets included a regal beagle named Drina, the nickname of a real queen Alexandrina Victoria, Regina.

After Kent and I got pets for our children, names got more inventive. Our cat who always ran off and returned at his own particular schedule was named Yat. That was short for “where ‘y’at cat?” Another cat who joined our household in California was named after the new Bay Area Rapid Transit system – his name matched his fearsome appearance – Black Bart! A Dutch Blue bunny who arrived on Easter received the name Hassenpfeffer!

But the pet in this blog entry is a long-haired miniature dashchund, Dunderbeck.

His story starts 25 years ago. My children gave him to me for Mother’s Day. He was full-grown and already had a name, “Buster.” I thought he should have a new name for his new life, so I stood at my ironing board and tried to make combinations of James, Paul, and Cynthia, or Jim, Paul and Cindy but gave up after - JaPaCy and CinJiPa.

Dachshunds are known for their long bodies and short legs. Therefore people often call dachshunds - Hot dogs! Sausage dogs!

Back to my ironing board. Thinking about my children reminded me of how they liked to sing with the record player when they were little. One of their favorite songs was:
O Dunderbeck, O Dunderbeck, how could you be so mean
To ever have invented the sausage-meat machine
Now all the neighbors’ cats and dogs will never more be seen
‘Cuz they’ve been ground to sausage meat in Dunderbeck’s machine.

Paul came into the room just then, so I asked, “How about Dunderbeck for a name?” “A sausage dog, that’s perfect,” said Paul.

We enjoyed that little dog and he thrived for 15 years with us. In dog years, that brought him to 105!

But in 2003 something happened with Dunderbeck. He started losing his hair! With a long-haired miniature daschund, all of his good looks is in his hair. Especially Dunderbeck, because his black and silver-dappled coat was a very special attention-getting combination.

Why did that little dog suddenly start losing his hair? It might have been because he was old. But small dogs often live quite long lives. It might have been because he got an infection that summer. But the veterinarian said no.

I think to this day that Dunderbeck lost his hair because he loved me. Dogs do return the love their people give them.

I lost my hair that summer because of cancer treatments, and I cried when my hair fell out. My dog sat beside me on the front step while I cried. Especially for a girl or woman, her hair is a part of her self-image. I thought my family would think I was ugly. I kept my head covered up with turbans, hats and my realistic-looking wig.

It’s a strange thing, but dogs can get so attached to their owners that they can actually get sick in sympathy. Animals can get a psychosomatic illness.

Dunderbeck loved me so much that when he saw me cry over lost hair, he decided to lose his hair too.

Now if a dog can love you that much, how much more can people love you? How much more can God love you? What can we do to repay that love? Love them back.

I showed my love for Dunderbeck by giving him medicated baths until he got better. How did he show his love for me? He slept at my feet until I got better. We showed our love each in our own way. And when I did get entirely better, when it was clear to every man and beast that my doctors and my medicine had cured the cancerous invasion, Dunderbeck gave in to old age, at 112 - or 16 - and died.

Kent buried him under the yellow-blooming shadbushes. They will start blooming any day now, and I will remember the little long dog that loved me so well and so long.