George Richards was born in Philadelphia, PA on December 17, 1911. Among Dachshund obedience enthusiasts, he is a bit of a legend (ROCK STAR would not be an exaggeration) and is even a YouTube sensation!
After serving in the United States Navy during the Second World War, George worked for the US Department of Agriculture for 35 years. His job took him to many places and included a two-year stint in India. In addition to his career and family life, George had many and varied interests. He enjoyed gardening and photography, sang in a barbershop chorus, drove an ambulance, and was a first aid instructor for the American Red Cross. But his real passion was Dachshunds, and George loved working with and training his dogs.
George began his career in dog sports at the tender age of 59 when he enrolled in a training class with his pet Dachshund Heidi. After Heidi was killed in an accident, George and his wife Edith sought a new Dachshund. A miniature smooth puppy that they named Gretel von Bupp Murr soon joined their household.
George and Gretel enrolled in obedience class. Gretel excelled, graduating at the top of her class. She earned her CD, CDX and UD. At that point, George began to look around for new challenges for himself and his beloved smooth girl. OTCH and UDX did not exist then. Nor did AKC agility, earthdog or rally. A friend suggested that George and Gretel try tracking.
Gretel earned her Tracking Dog (TD) title three months after she and George started training. The pair went on to earn TD and TDX (Tracking Dog Excellent) titles in Canada and Bermuda. In the later country, Gretel was the first ever TDX dog although the title had existed for a decade prior to her earning it. To commemorate Gretel’s accomplishments, the Dachshund Club of America created a special plaque in 1979 that was presented to George at its national specialty that year. It was inscribed:
Dachshund Club of America
Outstanding Tracking & Obedience Award
Gretel von Bupp Murr
American UDT, Bermuda UDTX, Canadian UDTX
As George recounted in a 2005 Front & Finish article, “you may have noticed that only the letters “UDT” follow “American” in the listing on the plaque. That was because the American Kennel Club had not yet established the Tracking Dog Excellent title.”
The first official AKC TDX test was held in Florida in 1980. Gretel was one of the five dogs entered, and she drew the fifth (last) track. The first four dogs failed. Nine year old Gretel did not thereby becoming the first TDX titled dog all breeds in AKC history.
Gretel passed away in 1985. George had her cremated, and her ashes were placed in a beautiful urn that has since occupied an honored spot in George’s home. For the next five years, George and his wife were unable to bear the thought of a new dog. Eventually, however, they found Hansel. The red smooth Dachshund was just a year old but needed a new home after his owners decided that they could not deal with a dog and a new baby.
Hansel would ultimately earn a UD and a TD. He and George did not train for a TDX, but rather focused on variable surface tracking instead. Hansel and George entered at least one VST test but did not title. Hansel also earned several UDX legs before unexpectedly passing away in his sleep in February 2003.
This time George — who had lost his wife Edith several years earlier — was not alone. Just a month and a half before Hansel’s death, he and George had welcomed a miniature longhaired puppy into their home. George named the pup Hummel … or more correctly Hummel von Bupp Murr (same “surname” as both Gretel and Hansel). George and his “Hummy” were soon a familiar site to obedience fanciers in the Maryland / Virginia area. By 2008, Hummel had earned a CD and CDX. The following year, George and Hummel entered the Potomac Hound Club Obedience Trial looking for Utility legs. Hummel qualified in Utility B earning first place in that class. His score also earned the High in Trial award for Hummel and his 98-year-old handler!
Addendum: George Richards passed away on June 17, 2012 in Maryland. He is survived by two sons, four grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. George’s beloved Hummel will now live with his son John.