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Germans and their love for dogs

Peter Zudeick, JPNovember 29, 2012

Sometimes it seems that Germans get on better with their dogs than with their fellow citizens. In his fourth column, Peter Zudeick ponders Germans’ passion for pets, especially pooches.

Foto: Fredrik von Erichsen/dpa
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

It‘s not uncommon to see wood or copper engravings hanging on the walls of German pubs emblazoned with proverbs such as "The early bird catches the worm," "Always be faithful and true" or "Fortune and glass soon break, alas!" Another favorite is: "My dog is true in the tempest of life ...and Man not even in the wind." It was supposedly St. Francis of Assisi who said this but I don’t believe it. It can only have come from a German who owned a dog – a German shepherd, probably. The ultimate German dog.

It could have been a poodle. In Goethe’s "Faust," Mephistopheles – the devil - appears disguised as a poodle. Poodles shouldn’t be offended. After all, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer lived alone with a series of pet poodles as his constant companion. Every few years, his four-footed friend would die and he would have to get a new one. But he gave all his poodles the same name: Butz. Supposedly, when he got annoyed at Butz, he would scold him by saying: "You are not a dog. You are a human. A human, a human!"

Foto: Matthias Hiekel dpa/lsn +++(c) dpa - Report+++
A poodle as a human?Image: picture-alliance/dpa

"For, to be sure, how is a man to get relief from the endless dissimulation, falsity and malice of mankind," wrote Schopenhauer in his essay "On Human Nature," "if there were no dogs into whose honest faces he can look without distrust?" A deep attachment to dogs pervades German culture: "All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers is contained in the dog," said Franz Kafka; Frederick the Great of Prussia once exclaimed that "the more I see of men, the better I like my dog!"; writer Carl Zuckmayer believed that "A life without a dog is a mistake," while actor Heinz Rühmann maintained that "you can live without a dog, but it's not worth it" and German comedian Loriot was of the opinion that "living without dogs is possible - but meaningless." Clearly, anyone who is anyone in German history has harbored a canine crush, or at least, purported to.

Mouse and cat © Sergii Figurnyi #29643389 - Fotolia.com
The cat is Germany's number one petImage: Fotolia/Sergii Figurnyi

Germans love sausages – and sausage dogs

Over 80 percent of Germans describe themselves as animal-lovers, but not all of them are dog fanatics, some of the 4 billion euros spent by Germans on their pets every year is invested in cats, guinea pigs, canaries and parakeet.

Dogs aren’t even the nation’s number one pet – that particular honor goes to cats, followed by guinea pigs and rabbits. Dogs take only fourth place. But they have a high profile. Take the Dachshund. In the form of a nodding soft toy, it adorns the rear windows of so many German cars that it’s become a symbol of the nation’s Sunday drivers. The flesh and blood version is popular too, be it short-haired, long-haired or wire-haired. It tends to be called Waldi, have short, stubby legs and a confident manner. Which is, in fact, a little unusual for German dogs, since German dog owners favor a strict upbringing. In the absence of children to boss around, they like to teach their dogs how to behave. The dogs don't seem to mind though because they are, after all, "man's best friend".....

Foto: Frank May
The Wackeldackel as the nodding soft toy is known as is a common feature in German carsImage: picture alliance/Frank May