The light was snuffed out of my life the day my beautiful Madison passed away on January 27, 2012. She had gone through so much pain, but in the end, while she was in my arms, she closed her eyes and let her head rest on her pillow. She was gone and she took with her the joy that once filled my life. In its place was an abyss that not even her sister or brother could fill. They were sad too. Lexington stood for hours gazing out the sliding glass doors that overlooked the yard. It was as if she expected to see her sister outside playing. Eventually Lexington left her job as sentinel; she must have reluctantly conceded that her sister was not coming home.
After the loss of a beloved pet, some people swear never to bring another animal into their lives again. But the agony of my loss sent me in quite a different direction. I researched the Dachshund Club of America for a rescue or for a breeder. I thought it amazing how every time I called the rescue, they came up short. Is it possible that there are no dachshunds that need rescue?
As for the dachshund breeder, I found a fabulous one in Robin Gianopoulos who has been breeding doxies for more than 55 years. Her dogs have been in Westminster and countless other dog shows. She presently owns Brownie, who just became the number one longhaired standard dachshund in the country.
This lovely woman welcomed me into her home that was Disney World for this dachshund lover. At any one time, she houses at least 7 doxies—long-hair, smooths, minis and standards. She became my treasured friend and teacher whom I never would have met had it not been for Madison.
I waited a year for the puppies to be born. During that time, I did call dachshund rescues again and once again they came up short. Meanwhile, three times Robin thought one of her female doxies was pregnant. Three times my hopes built up only to be dashed when she announced it hadn’t taken. I’ve read articles that clearly state once you find a good breeder, you may have a long wait for a litter to be born. It isn’t like stepping into, dare I say it, a pet store and instantly finding what you want.
The holidays came and went, Thanksgiving, Christmas, all first holidays without our beloved Madison. We have a tradition of sending holiday cards with pictures of our dogs. The cards for 2012 depicted Lexington and Park on our rocking chair surrounded by holiday decorations. As much as I tried to fill up that chair, the photograph had a great big void-it missed the presence of our beautiful Madison who always took her place perched in the middle of her brother and sister.
I got the phone call from Robin early in January 2013. Violet was indeed pregnant. The gestation period for dogs is about 60 days. The litter will be born by the middle of March. I was over the moon with excitement. All during the pregnancy, Robin kept Violet strong, healthy and under the constant care of a great veterinarian.
Robin later reported that when Violet started going into labor, she was having trouble delivering on her own. It was almost midnight on March 12 when Robin resolved to wrap Violet in a blanket and rush her to the emergency clinic. But just as Robin pulled into the parking lot, Violet delivered the first pup, a little girl. Robin turned the car around, wanting Violet to complete the delivery in the comfort of her own home. It was now early morning on March 13, 2013. One by one the rest of the litter was welcomed into the world. Violet had two girls and two boys (see photo at top of story).
Both Violet and Robin were exhausted the day after the birth. We got our first chance to see our new puppy and her litter mates on day three. Robin had rigged up a pen for Violet and her pups in her bedroom where they would have quiet time away from the rest of the doxie gang. The girls were a stunning mahogany color making them look very much alike. The boys were very different. One was a honey color and the other was black with tan markings.
Robin gave me pick of the litter though all of the puppies were spoken for. I took the girl who looked like she might have a little Hunter’s Crest going down her face from her forehead to her nose. Madison had one from the crown of the back of her head that extended down her neck. Secretly I hoped for a red, smooth girl just like Madison and couldn’t believe my luck that Violet, a long-hair, had indeed given birth to smooth pups. I learned that smooth is dominant over long-hair and since the sire was a smooth, the chances were great that the pups would also have that trait. I later mused that Madison may have had a hand in this. After all, if it wasn’t for Madison I never would have met my new friend Robin and her dachshunds. And I certainly wouldn’t be getting a puppy. Thank you, my girl, for staying connected even after death.
One more connection to Madison haunts me. One of the girls was born on March 12 just before midnight. I feel certain that the girl I picked was the first born and her birth date is March 12 not March 13 as the rest of the litter. As a side point, Madison’s day was October 21.
As we waited 10 weeks for the puppies to grow, get strong and ready to come home, my friends bombarded me with the same question: “What are you going to name her?”
My decision for the name Madison was based on my love for New York City. I might mention, 10 years ago Madison was not a popular name, but just a year after I named my girl, Madison became one of the most popular names in the nation. I often said to her, “Do you think we started a trend?” The year after we got Madison, I turned and looked at her one day as I was dashing off to school. She appeared lonely sitting on the sofa watching me leave. That’s when Lexington came along. Then the next year, Park joined the pack. Everyone readily assumed that this pup would have a city name too, but there was a long seven year interlude between Park and this new pup. The city theme was perfect for the three who came three years in a row, but with the loss of Madison went my desire to keep that theme alive. I relinquished it for the pretty name Melissa. Robin asked that I continue the family line by adding a flower name. Her mother was Violet and her grandmother was Rose. In deference to my pup’s maternal line, I decreed her Melissa Tulip. Tulips are one of the first signs of early spring and this pup was born in early spring. The name was complete.
The day Melissa Tulip came home, Robin gave us the kibble she had been feeding the puppies. She also gave me the information on vaccinations that my girl already had and a list of vaccinations yet to come. Only a responsible breeder takes such care in making sure her puppies remain healthy.
When Melissa Tulip walked into our house, she didn’t exhibit a moment’s anxiety. I attribute that to a therapy Robin does with the pups to foster good temperament. It was as if Melissa Tulip simply dropped her bags just inside the door, looked at Lexington and Park and declared, “Let the games begin!” And, oh, how they did begin!
Robin makes a point of keeping in touch with the people who get her puppies. The first time I brought Melissa Tulip for a visit, I got a quick lesson on the connection Robin has with her pups. As we pulled up the gravel driveway leading to Robin’s house, Melissa Tulip, who had been curled up in her car seat fast asleep, suddenly sat up and sniffed the air. When I took her out of the car, it registered where she was and excitement set in.
Robin met us at the front door, and as soon as Melissa Tulip saw her, she actually jumped into Robin’s arms and smothered her with kisses. I was so happy to see this reaction. It was further corroboration of how happy the pups were in Robin’s care.
Thank you, Robin Gianopoulos, for being you. Thank you for screening us and wanting the best placement for your beloved dachshunds. Thank you for making the pups healthy, happy and giving them great temperaments. Thank you for inviting us into your extended family of dachshund lovers. And thank you for our adorable Melissa Tulip who fills our daily lives with such joy.
One final note, but it is a sad one. Robin has been diagnosed with cancer. It has spread, so the time she has left is questionable. I dread losing my friend, but I think of the families, like ours, whom she has filled with joy. And I think of all the great pups she brought into the world. When the time comes for Robin to cross over, I know she will find the Rainbow Bridge. There will be such a celebration when Robin is reunited with all the dachshunds she brought into the world who have passed. And there might even be a little girl standing in line to introduce herself to Robin. When she gets her turn, I know Madison will hug Robin and thank her for bringing happiness back into the lives of her mommy, daddy, sister and brother in the form of sweet Melissa Tulip.