Camera Familia #22 — John Dyer Writes

Manila, Philippines. Circa 1958. A year before this photo was taken, Mom took me to visit a friend who lived in an apartment near downtown Manila. I had never been in an apartment before. I didn’t even know such things existed.

The lady had a dachshund named Gretchen. I had never seen a Dachshund before.

Gretchen knew a trick. The owner balanced a cookie on the dog’s nose. The dog stood still. The owner said, “Okay.” The dog flipped the cookie into the air, and ate it. I had no idea dogs could learn tricks.

Gretchen had a litter of puppies. I had never seen puppies before.

Can you believe it? I was seven! Anyway, we took one home, and someone in the family, probably Mom, named her Hildegard. We called her Hildy. Years later, Mom claimed the dog’s name was actually Brunhilda. It was Hildegard. These were important events for me. I remember everything about it.

One day, Hildy had puppies. I had no idea how that happened, but I got to pick one for us to keep. I named him Mercury. We called him Mergy.

These were standard Dachshunds. Mergy weighed about twenty pounds as an adult. See the photo, Mergy and me, circa 1965.

It never occurred to anyone to teach these dogs tricks, but they did have a behavior. They hunted rats, big old Chinese Brown Rats, about a third their size. They’d bag them early in the morning, after Lucina got up, and stack the bodies on the front porch. Dad would come out for the newspaper to find Hildy and Mergy guarding their catch, waiting to be praised.

Technically, Mergy was my first pet, and I’ll always remember him that way — but both dogs slept with Lucina, so they probably thought they were hers.

At the time, I had no idea that was an option.

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