With three idiosyncratic dachshunds and a gallivanting
bullmastiff the size of a pony, Thomas and Katherine Dettmer are
doppelgangers for the Disney film
The Ugly Dachshund.
With three idiosyncratic dachshunds and a gallivanting bullmastiff the size of a pony, Thomas and Katherine Dettmer are doppelgangers for the Disney film “The Ugly Dachshund.”
The couple acknowledges their uncanny lifestyle resemblance to the ’60s classic about a married couple, their six dachshunds and one misfit Great Dane.
“Hello, you’ve reached the Dettmers,” says Katherine’s voice recording on the couple’s message machine at their Gilroy residence.
The rest of the message is somewhat indecipherable. A chorus of barks echo in background, flooding the receiver and drowning Katherine’s greeting.
By day, Tom practices law in San Jose. His wife Katherine works remotely for a private investigation firm from home.
The rest of the time, the Dettmers are dedicated, doting dog owners.
Right now they’re getting ready for the 107th and 108th annual Golden Gate Kennel Club All-Breed Dog Show at the Cow Palace in Daly City this weekend, and hopes are high.
“Get back, you beast!” said Tom in the background, trying to enter his house unfollowed by 4-year-old Buck, their 140-pound bullmastiff who consumes five cups of kibble per day.
Buck was on Tom’s heels, attempting to accompany his master by squeezing through the narrowly opened sliding glass door. It was covered in slobber smudges and wet nose smears.
In addition to Buck, Tom and Katherine have two 3-year-old, smooth-haired dachshunds from the same litter: a male named Redmond and a female named Rose. They also have a 6-year-old standard wirehaired dachshund named Raylene.
“Just knee him or kick him,” said Katherine as Buck leaped in the air to say hello. “It’s not like you’re gonna hurt him.”
The bullmastiff spends his days surrounded by a tiny entourage of yipping dachshunds, so an unawareness of his actual size is understandable.
When the Dettmers and their furry brood aren’t in Gilroy, they’re traveling by motor home to regional canine shows and special events such as the one in San Francisco, which features almost 1,500 dogs, more than 135 breeds and is one of the most prestigious ranking shows in the nation according to the club.
“She’s a show dog,” said Katherine as she groomed Raylene, the grizzle-faced “clown” of the group.
Raylene lifted her paws one-by-one like a woman who’s had a million manicures and knows the drill.
The veteran show dog out of the other four, Raylene is one of a dozen entries from the garlic city vying for top-dog status in the Bay Area this weekend. Among her local competition – an Irish setter, Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas and Newfoundlands will also be strutting their stuff.
The Dettmers have been showing dogs since 1990. They have dozens of ribbons and glossy glamour shots at high-profile canine events such as Eukanuba and Westminster dog shows to prove it.
However their home accents say it all: The Dettmers are dog people.
Dachshund figurines, dachshund ornaments, dachshund calendars, dachshund magnets, dachshund paintings and a “dachshund Xing” sign peep out from shelves, walls and tables.
The Dettmers are the kind of folks beloved cult movies such as “Best In Show” – a comedic mockumentary exploring the subculture world of dog showing and canine enthusiasts – draw inspiration from.
“We know people from that movie,” interjected Tom, though he admitted the film is a little glorified.
As she clipped Raylene’s toenails, Katherine, who has been serving as president of the Gavilan Kennel Club for the past seven years, said the wirehaired is a champion.
The dog held still as Katherine brushed its facial whiskers with a small comb.
To be a champion like Raylene, a dog has to rack up a certain number of points and wins. Redmond has a major win, but isn’t a champion. Buck is coming along at his own pace, having accumulated all of his minor points but no major wins.
As the couple stood in their back yard watching the dogs play, Rose ran up to Katherine and stood on hind legs.
Katherine picked Rose up and kissed the pooch’s soft stomach.
Tom’s gaze was fixed on Buck as the dog loped around their spacious backyard.
He explained the cesarean section born bullmastiff – the only puppy in his litter – could tackle a full-grown man with the force of four tons when running 35 mph.
He said bullmastiffs were bred in the early 19th century by English gamekeepers to guard estates of the wealthy, with the intention of creating a watchdog that could immobilize a poacher without actually mauling the culprit.
That way, the intruder would be left alive to face the consequences.
“They’re bred as man-takers,” explained Tom, putting his hands around Buck’s velvety neck and demonstrating the impossibility of connecting his fingers.
More than two feet in diameter, Buck’s neck was a rock-hard cylinder of solid muscle.
The dog’s goofy and irresistible smile, however, a permanent fixture on his mug, gave away Buck’s true demeanor.
It’s closer to that of snuggly bunny rabbit, gargantuan teddy bear or affectionate child than ferocious guard dog.
Tom, who admitted a favorite pastime is watching TV on the couch with his massive companion, said intruders have a lot more to fear from the dachshund, then they do Buck.
“The dachshunds will bite,” said Tom. “He’ll just lick.”
Katherine said Buck has no major wins, yet – but she’s hoping he’ll get noticed in San Francisco.
“I just love dogs,” she said, watching her clan of four-legged, hot dog resembling pets shuffle around the grass. “I love being around them.”
No doubt love is what keeps the Dettmers devoted, be it showing, grooming, breeding or cuddling on the couch.
There’s no money in it, Katherine pointed out.
“It just costs money,” said Tom, smiling down at Redmond, who was standing between Tom’s legs.
Redmond looked back up at Tom, and wagged his tail.