There's something cartoon-like about sausage dogs that invariably invokes a smile from passers-by.
I should know. I have three of them, and when they take me for a walk around Newcastle in NSW's Hunter region, where I live, I'm used to people smirking and cracking jokes about snags and barbecues.
Everywhere I look in Newcastle these days there are sausage dogs. It's impossible to miss their long-nosed, long-bodied shapes, hurrying along on tiny legs like they've got somewhere important to be.
They come in several varieties - full-size and miniature, long, smooth and wire-haired - and always have their owners under their paw. No wonder there's a Newy Facebook page called Dachshunds Anonymous. We need help.
When I was small, we had two dachshunds, to give them their original, often misspelt, German name. There was Mimi, who sadly broke her back on beachside rocks on an English summer holiday, and her replacement Gigi, who I remember for fitting neatly along the length of my thighs while dozing, and as the source of wet morning messes on the hall floor.
So when, four years ago, my two young daughters finally badgered - I use this word advisedly - me into buying a family dog, it had to be a dachy. My eldest christened her Cinnamon, and with her dappled brown colouring, it was a perfect fit.
For the girls it was love at first sight. For their separated dad it was a bit of extra company.
Living on acreage near Blueys Beach, north of Newcastle, at the time, Cinnamon took to running amok in the nearby forest, barking at elderly cows in neighbouring fields and only returning home to yells of "biccies" or "chicken". Every morning before school we'd take her to the beach and she would gallop, at greyhound speed, floppy ears pinned back by the wind, chasing bigger dogs and, occasionally, baling up a brown snake in the dunes.
Gentle unless cornered, they can be fierce, with one local dachshund famous for killing 13 snakes in its lifetime. Improbably, they were originally bred as German hunting dogs, with full-size versions used to flush badgers from their burrows and miniatures tasked with chasing rabbits. If they seem haughty, it is perhaps because they've been kept by European royalty for centuries.
In 2020, during an early lockdown, we decided to give Cinnamon the experience of motherhood, and family morale a boost. Three months later, to our astonishment, five cute puppies emerged, which we named after spices.
First there was Saffron, a beigey-brown girl; then Cumin, a similar female with a smear of white; Nutmeg, with an unusual white blaze across her chest and left paw; Chilli, the runt, with a dark mask of Zorro across her eyes; and finally came Pepper, in a kaleidoscope of silver, white, black, brown and pink colouring.
What were the odds? Cinnamon had delivered five girls at her first attempt. I was now one hapless bloke surrounded by 13 females: two daughters, six dogs and five chickens.
The pups became collectively known as The Spice Girls. Although they really, really wanted to stay together, destroying all my rugs and furniture, like the girl band they were named after they were destined to break up.
First to go was Posh Spice, aka Pepper, to well-heeled Vaucluse in Sydney, to a life featuring Louis Vuitton collars and an Instagram following of 10,000. Then Saffron and Cumin left to loving homes in Newcastle, meaning we now have regular Spice Girls' reunions.
We always wanted to keep Chilli as a companion for her mum. However, discovering Nutmeg to be partially blind, due to microphthalmia, we kept her too.
They have their trying moments but when they greet us with delighted squeals and a sweet, wiggly-bum dance, or they roll onto their backs demanding a tummy rub, being a sausage dog owner is a joy, and a reminder not to take life too seriously.
In case you are interested in filtering all the latest down to just one late afternoon read, why not sign up for The Informer newsletter?
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.