They were a day old when I first saw them- their eyes hadn’t opened yet and they fit comfortably in the palm of my hand. Two of seven Dachshund puppies were to soon become a part of the Pais family, which already comprised four dogs.
After receiving several visits from us, ‘the twins’ as they were soon referred to, were welcomed into the Pais home about a month later. Despite being from the same litter, the difference between the twins was stark. Gretl was noticeably smaller and sleeker than Pippa; she was hazel brown and preferred the comfort of her canine sisters to the presence of human company. She despised being caressed and cuddled and preferred to keep to herself. On the other hand, Pippa was the colour of pepper with a strip of brown that stretched across her forehead, making it look like she had not tweeted her eyebrows for too long.
While Gretl had soft features, Pippa had a long snout and deep, expressive eyes- I always insisted that she resembled Barbara Streisand. She was an extrovert to the extreme and felt blissful when she experienced the warmth of a human embrace. Her bark was loud and ferocious and she was liberal with its use- as I sauntered home from the bus stop following a long day at college, I would be greeted by her reverberating voice while I was still at the end of the road; she was quite the feminist- she would attempt to ward off any one of the male gender who dared to enter our home with her boisterous determination; notwithstanding her small size, she would challenge Rottweilers and Huskies with her threatening bark. How such a loud sound could be projected from something so little was beyond me.
I would summon Pippa by yelling “Pipewpewpew”, imitating the noise of a gun, and she would leap across the house, as though her paws were made of spring. Despite the contrast in personality, the twins were inseparable. Their relationship was comical, to say the least. The sight of them sitting one on top of the other or working together to achieve the nefarious task of shredding the garden to bits would knock anyone’s socks off.
They were a year and two months old when the twins were separated. The veterinarians could not diagnose what exactly went wrong, but Pippa’s lungs were slowing failing her, and eventually, she left us. When we returned home from the hospital, we saw that a small hole had been dug in the garden, so that Pippa could be buried in her favourite place. As I held her in my arms, I suddenly understood the concept of dead weight. From the inside of the house, the other dogs all howled a dirge for her.
Never in my life have I seen anyone cope with a loss as well as Gretl did. She lost her other half, but she was determined not to allow us to feel that void. She took it upon herself to continue to bring us as much joy as the twins as a unit did. Occasionally, this introverted, stuck up dog will come leaping across the room to greet a human, a sight that had lost its familiarity; gone is her quiet, mild self- Gretl now threatens dogs ten times her size with her noisy bark. The twins may have been separated, but by some link of empathy, I know that the twins are still united.