Let me just say it in the very beginning: my husband and I have 12 Miniature Dachshunds.

Yes. Twelve. And in the past seven years, we’ve buried four more beloved Dachsies. Meet the cast of characters at our house, from the oldest to the youngest: Lilith (age 14), Charley (age 12), Maestro (age 10), Adia (age 10), Taz (age 9), Panzer (age 9), Jack (age 4), Black Pearl (age 4), Finn (age 4), Oskar (age 3), Vienna (age 3), and Twist (age 3). Here is the story of how my husband and I came to be the loving parents of 12 Dachshunds!

Jack, Pearl, Finn, Vienna and Twist are siblings. We adopted Charley when he was nine; his owner had died and he had no family. Oskar was also adopted when he was four months old because his owners decided that coping with a Dachshund was too much for them.

My husband of 22 years and I are childless; we’re one of those crazy couples that likes animals better than kids! And we adore Dachshunds; our pack has smooth, long and wirehaired coats, ranging in color from black, black and tan/cream, brindle, freckled piebald, red, and dappled (silver, black and tan). We are both retired Air Force officers and wherever we were stationed, we acquired a Dachsie or two. Today we live in rural Montana high in the Rocky Mountains in a big house with a fenced side yard for the canine side of the family. However, any place a Dachshund happens to be occupying at any given time instantly becomes his realm; very typical for these “wiener dogs.” The American Kennel Club (AKC) describes Dachsies as highly intelligent, independent in nature, stubborn about their own agenda, courageous, sensitive, humorous, and wary of strangers but extremely loyal and affectionate with their owners. I can attest that this is all true. What they don’t mention is that Dachshunds require a lot of attention from their people. If they don’t have something to do (bone chewing, ball chasing, lap sleeping, barking at anyone outside, annoying our two parrots, car rides, etc.), they’ll create their own fun.

This brings me to the game of the week at our house: toilet paper tetherball! Jack and Oskar are the brains of the bunch and Finn is the muscle. While I’m otherwise occupied with my own life, Jack and Oskar figure out how to open the cabinet where the toilet paper is kept, Finn nudges it open and absconds with a roll or two and the game is on! As I’m working quietly in my office, a huge commotion breaks out in the halls and living room. The pounding of big Dachshund “shovel paws,” plus the fierce yapping and growling is my key to see what the gang is up to. By the time I step warily into the rest of the house, I find it completely covered with Charmin! Up and down the halls, wound around chair legs, and in a move of sheer genius, knocked onto the deck, landing right in the middle of my best flower box! That’s Pearl’s work; she’s the best shot in the pack and once landed a smackdown roll straight into the bathtub—while I was in it! Now I watch while Taz and Adia head-butt a full roll all the way down the hall from the bathroom to the kitchen, only to be blocked by Vienna and Finn who send it spinning under the TV stand before Maestro can snatch it. I round the corner screaming like a banshee just in time to catch Charley and Twist in a tug of war over the cardboard from an empty roll. At my feet, Panzer and Lilith gaze up at me with wide, innocent eyes—letting me know that they’re only the cheering section in this afternoon’s entertainment.

As I pick up the 26 miles of toilet paper now carpeting my home, I wonder how many screws are loose in my head that caused me to create this pack of four-legged maniacs. I feel a cold nose touch my ankle and look down into Jack’s deep brown eyes. In those loving eyes, I find the answer.