Dachshunds and Owners Celebrate at Annual Friendship Festival
8-month-old Lomax, rescued from a puppy mill, meets new friends at the Dachshund Friendship Festival.
Diversity is the rule on most spring Saturdays in New York City's Washington Square Park. Newly-minted New York University students test-drive their bikinis alongside grizzled old-timers in faded protest shirts, while pit bulls – their tongues lolling – pace the fountain. Labrador retrievers chase pigeons. Street performers emote. Chess players deliberate. A motley assortment of humans and canines shares space in the sun.
Twice a year, however – once in April, and once in October – the park’s demographic undergoes a radical shift, as a small but vocal group descends, tails wagging in solidarity. These are the days of the Dachshund Friendship Festival.
This year, the vigorous mingling began at noon as dachshunds of every stripe converged for the Spring Fiesta. With hundreds of energetic, lavishly costumed dogs and people gathered in one place, a carnival atmosphere soon prevailed.
Long-haired beauties – those Breck girls of the dachshund world – flirted with muscular short-haireds. Curmudgeonly-looking wire-haireds tried to appear distinguished and remote (hard to do when you’re wearing a hat shaped like a slice of pickle). Vendors offering sodas, pretzels, ice cream, and – of course – hot dogs strolled through the crowd. (This reporter encountered three dachshunds named Nathan.)
At 1 o’clock, the throng was called to order under the Arch for the singing of the Dachsong, a paean to the breed. Although lyrics and music were available on the Friendship Club website, several civic-minded attendees brought hard copies of the song to distribute to the uninitiated and unprepared. Many owners held their dogs aloft during the anthem, but as the last chords of the song faded away, and the dachshunds were returned to their feet, the north end of the park began to teem once again.
Dogs with outgoing personalities rushed to greet each other, their little legs flying across the cobblestones in delight as they spotted potential friends. Others, perhaps feeling shy, surveyed the scene from a distance. Everywhere, animals in sundresses, bandannas, beanies, leather vests, and – in the case of one very game specimen – a suit comprised of felt flowers – met, mingled, sipped water from collapsible bowls, and sniffed each other's outfits.
On the subject of clothing, dachshund attitudes vary. Some dogs at the Fiesta seemed mortified at having to appear in costumes (presumably) not of their own choosing. Others had the jaded air of veteran actors at their umpteenth Academy Awards, bemusedly taking it all in and reflecting on the days when they too could pull off a sleeveless gown.
Still others, it was clear, had been waiting all year for their turn in the spotlight; the pearl-chokered short-hair, for instance, knew immediately what her public wanted, and – like a former beauty queen – happily obliged with a few poses before enthusiastically devouring a biscuit. Some, like long-haired Leonardo, went about in their birthday suits.
Other dogs seemed a bit overwhelmed – if game. 8-month-old Lomax (pictured), had been rescued from a puppy mill in Georgia, and arrived in the city malnourished, sickly, and afraid. On this day, however, he appeared to be coming out of his shell.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen him like this,” his owner remarked, as Lomax stood on his hind legs and attempted to scramble up the side of the fountain in order to get a better view of the drum circle taking place inside. “He’s usually very timid, but he seems to be doing better now.”
Perhaps knowing he was being discussed, Lomax quickly sidled back to the safety of his owner’s ankle. “I guess he’s ready to call it a day,” she said. “This has been a lot of activity for him.”
The next Dachshund Friendship Day will take place this fall.
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