Back in March 2005, we asked our daughter, Kristina, what she wanted for her 19th birthday. She said unequivocally that she wanted a puppy. A few days later we welcomed a blond dachshund puppy named Olivia into our home.
Blond dachshunds are relatively rare and have slightly different personalities than traditional dachshunds, but they are wonderful dogs.
At the time we had two older dogs, but Olivia was the highlight of our family and she soon established herself as the alpha dog. I have had 12 dogs in my life and Olivia was the brightest. Not only was she smart, but she also displayed extreme empathy toward her human family members. She knew how to make us smile and sought out every opportunity to do so.
Olivia learned to fetch and chase the Kong (a pear-shaped rubber ball that bounces unpredictably when thrown). If you threw the Kong once, you had to throw it 300 times because Olivia could not get enough of playing with the Kong. Olivia loved to drop the Kong in our backyard fountain and get you to fetch it for her.
As many guests at backyard barbecues discovered, she figured out how to make the humans fetch.
Olivia was also very protective. One time we had a holiday party with about 50 guests. One couple brought along their cousin as an unexpected guest. About halfway through the party the cousin came running down the hallway into our living room from the master bedroom, dragging Olivia on his pant leg. She even tore a hole in his pants.
While we were initially embarrassed and surprised at Olivia’s behavior, it turned out that our friend’s cousin had just been released from prison earlier that day and was inspecting the contents of my wife’s jewelry box. Olivia caught him red-handed.
When Kristina was sick (which was frequently because she has cystic fibrosis), Olivia was her constant companion. When the home nurses came to administer care, Olivia would watch and stand guard. Eventually, Olivia learned to sit quietly and watch intently as the nurses treated Kristina. Olivia brought cheer and knew how to entertain a sick person. Olivia even went to the hospital with our daughter on occasion.
When Olivia was nearly 2 years old, we got another dachshund, Molly, who was her lifelong best friend. The two dogs were almost identical in size and weight and were inseparable.
About two years ago, the veterinarian gave us some bad news. Olivia had developed canine Cushing’s disease. Cushing’s disease is a type of cancer in the pituitary gland that can be treated in humans, but not in dogs. At first, the prescribed medication was effective, but the disease inevitably progressed.
Olivia lost her sight and she could still smell the Kong, but could no longer place it in the fountain for us to fetch. She loved to cuddle with us, and until recently still found ways to enjoy life, albeit in a more subtle fashion. During the pandemic she brought us considerable comfort.
Last January, when we celebrated Olivia’s 16th birthday, Kristina brought Olivia some whipped cream in a Dixie cup. Despite her ailments, Olivia perked up and enjoyed quite a birthday celebration.
Dogs with Cushing’s disease are not normally in pain and usually pass away in their sleep when an organ fails. However, Olivia clearly began to feel discomfort as her bark turned into a moan. She was uncomfortable either emotionally or physically and was telling us that the end was at hand. This was exceptionally difficult because we unexpectedly lost our youngest dachshund, Dukie, last February when he ruptured several discs in his spine, which could not be treated.
One thing about Olivia is that, even until the end, she never lost that new puppy smell, which I cherished the last time I held her.
Molly, now an old dog herself, took the loss of Dukie, and now Olivia, very hard. It is amazing how dogs socialize among themselves. Molly is almost 15 years old and has a heart condition, so we are concerned that the loss of her lifelong friend may adversely impact her health.
While it is sad to lose a special dog, Olivia had a good run — a life well lived. At times like this, perhaps it is best to paraphrase Dr. Seuss who said, “Don’t be sad at what you lost, but be happy for what you had.”
While it is hard not to be sad, we truly were blessed to have a wonderful dog who brought our family over 16 years of joy.
Jim de Bree is a dachshund lover who lives in Valencia.