This thoughtful chap is Claus, a red, miniature smooth-haired dachshund. He is a gem and I would like him to join me on the sofa! What a splendidly serious chap he is, with his vase-y front legs and inscrutable expression – one which seems to suggest that he has seen more than most of us, and been impressed less, too. We met young Claus on hound and terrier day, the second day of showing at this year’s Crufts; with him were his lovely owners, cheerful and very friendly twin sisters over from their native Sweden both to enjoy a holiday and then tackle Crufts. Communication wasn’t a problem for any of us and what was a chance encounter turned into an ebullient time for all. Apart from this trim small gentleman, so pensive in his pose, the ladies had brought with them his litter sister, Lotte, and even tinier ‘little’ Claus, who is a rabbit-sized dachshund – entered as a separate class on the continent. Each dachshund had its own distinctive character: Lotte, a bit barky like me, but unlike me a bit stand-offish (the ladies apologised); Claus-the-Great, dignified, easy-going and sociable; Claus-the-Less, sleepy, cuddly and cute as a button and still only a pup. Four o’clock had come and gone when we happened on this little family in a quiet corner of their hall so most of the dachshunds had been removed from the benches which had been theirs all through the judging. Boys and girl alike agreed that they did not mind not having won a class; it was wonderful to be here, in England, having a lovely holiday before the big occasion that is Crufts, with all its ups and downs, its stress and feelings. We all smiled and laughed and extended our hands – our paws – across the bridge which links such little souls as us to the most prestigious dog show in the world. Good to be here, they laughed; a privilege to qualify; an experience to treasure. Lovely little fellows!
Next door, in the Hound section of Discover Dogs, we found a small a black and tan, with perfect, shiny black claws resting gently on an elbow – nestled in his loving owner’s arms. In the neighbouring booth we found his standard-sized cousin, whose bulk made him much more of an armful: a real dog, as some may say. To this small spaniel, the gentle, inquiring eyes of the variously-sized dachshunds are very striking and the questions they were asking have stayed with me. To the touch they are lovely things: trim yet tough, with good strong muscles; their silkiness is irresistible; their ears simply demand to be stroked; their paws, as mighty as a mole’s, demand to be taken and tenderly grasped; a good strong back, and capable legs. But best of all, that intelligent and intellectual expression, borne aloft the nose from which spring the scenthound’s special gifts!