Excerpts from articles by Laurence Alden Horswellthat appeared in the American Dachshund October 1956, January 1960, and December 1963 issues (Submitted by Bob Bray and Jeanne Rice)
Joseph Mehrer was born in Bruel, near Mannheim, Germany, and in 1921 married Maria Moos, in Heidelberg. They came to America in 1923 and opened a kennel in Forest Hills, NY where they bred German Shepherds and Wirehaired Fox Terriers. In 1929 and 1930 they began to breed Dachshunds, and were well established in this breed by the time they built their present kennel in West Hempstead, NY in 1936, adopting the kennel name “Marienlust” — Maria’s Pleasure. Josef arrived at a mental image of his interpretation of the Dachshund standard — what he called his “Muster” or “pattern” – and toward this ideal, successive generations of Marienlust Dachshunds converged until in 1938 Leutnant v. Marienlust (pronounced Loit-nant) represented the pattern with such concentration that he has made a singular contribution to Dachshund type and quality in this country. It was also in 1938 at the DCA Specialty at Morris & Essex that Arri v. Marienlust received the rating of Vorzuglich (meaning Excellent) while being shown in the Open Black and Tan class under the famed judge Gustav Alisch, executive vice-president of the Dachshund Club of Germany. Today, Leutnant’s name probably appears more often in current three to five generation pedigrees of show quality Dachshunds than any other American or imported Dachshund. I can do no better than to quote (and up-date) the paragraphs from Popular Dogs and the AKC Gazette, in October 1950 on the occasion of Leutnant’s death:
“Ch. Leutnant v. Marienlust’s influence on the Dachshund breed in this country deserves more than an obituary paragraph. Back of Leutnant (Zep v. Marienlust ex Senta v. Luitpoldsheim) on both the sire’s and the dam’s sides appear double breedings of Irwin [Erwin] and Fey v. Luitpoldsheim and Thea Kickebush, and contact with Lichtenstein and Lindenbuhl.
Through Ingo and Mirzl v. Luitpoldsheim. Leutnant also stems back through Harrass Flottenberg to Prinz and Thea, and through his dam to Rotfink Schneid.
Good qualities of these and other ancestors, concentrated in Leutnant, have been passed along to many of the best known American-bred Dachshunds, and to many more which were not exhibited enough to attract public attention. It is possible to name only a few. Leutnant was best Dachshund at the Dachshund Club of America’s Specialty at Morris & Essex in 1940 under judge Walter H. Reeves, at the age of two years and five months; and the best smooth dachshunds at the greatest annual Dachshund contest, in fourteen of sixteen years since, are in the first to fourth generations of his get (all champions).
1942 – Gunther v. Marienlust (1st generation); 1943 – Gunther v. Marienlust (1st generation); 1944 – Superman v. Marienlust (1st generation); 1945– Gunther v Marienlust (1st generation) BOB; 1946 – Bit O’ Black Of ‘Tween Hills (2nd generation); 1947 – Cynthia of Jo-Rene (1st generation); 1949 – Cinderella v. Marienlust (1st generation);1950 – Aristo V. Marienlust (3rd generation); 1951 – Derbydachs Schatze (4th generation); 1952 – Kleetal Congenial (3rd generation); 1953 – Hardway Welcome Stranger (2nd generation); 1954 – Kleetal Rondo (4th generation); 1955 – Kim of Lildon (3rd generation); 1956 – Steve v. Marienlust (3rd generation)
On the Pacific Coast, Ch. Cavalier v. Marienlust and Ch. Favorite v. Marienlust have gained the widest recognition as show Dachshunds and sires of show Dachshunds.”
“Leutnant was born January 1, 1938, and died July 23, 1950 at an age of more than twelve and a half years. American Fanciers can congratulate Josef and Maria Mehrer on having bred a Dachshund of such force for good in the breed, and sympathize with them in their grief at his inevitable loss. His offspring will keep his name alive and his memory green – or should it be described as the purple of Dachshund royalty?”
It has been the Mehrer policy not to campaign Marienlust Dachshunds much beyond pursuing championships of principle breeding stock, and the Marienlust name has achieved it’s widest fame under the ownership of other exhibitors such as Jeannette (then) Gillies’ Ch. Gunther v. Marienlust and Ramona (then) Andrews’ Ch. Aristo v. Marienlust, the Heyings’ Ch. Favorite v. Marienlust, and innumerable other illustrious Marienlusters.
More than once in twenty-five years, the breeding stock at Marienlust has been decimated by unforseen casualties [most likely distemper], but the Marienlust “pattern” has survived, and the Mehrer skill has surmounted many difficulties to maintain and advance Marienlust type. Marienlust policy has never been to maintain many brood bitches at one time … systematically to refresh the bloodlines woven into the Marienlust strain with outcrosses selected only after close scrutiny of the prospective studs themselves and extensive first-hand study of their offspring, for which the Mehrers made repeated trips across the continent and even to post-war Germany … and — to borrow a phrase from the late G. F. Muller of the renowned German Flottenberg strain, whose breeding policies were closely parallel — “to breed a hundred litters in the mind, during wakeful hours, for every litter produced in flesh and blood.”
In an interview published in the January 1960 American Dachshund, Mrs. Mehrer stated that “if Americans were as careful in their breeding as the Germans and English are, many more great Dachshunds would be produced here.” In the December 1963 American Dachshund, she gave advice to breeders in the words of her husband:
“PICK PUPPIES WHEN THEY ARE FOUR OR FIVE MONTHS OLD.
I don’t try to choose the good puppies at birth. I like to wait until they are four or five months old. First, I want a close, tight paw — a cat paw. Not the kind of paw that separates the toes or is flat. Then I look at the front. You don’t want a dog that you can hang a hat on his shoulders. The shoulders should go in with the body. And then your mouths. But puppies don’t always grow evenly, so it’s hard to be sure that the bites are good or bad when puppies are very young. Watch the hindquarters as the puppy goes away from you, to see that they don’t come too close at the hock. I want them where at five or six weeks you can put three fingers between their hind legs above the hock — four fingers if the pups are four or five months old. [Mrs. Mehrer was thinking only of Standard Dachshunds.] And make sure you don’t get hocks that are high. Finally — and maybe I should have said this first — look for personality. I hate a shy dog. If a puppy comes over to you — good. If he lies down or crouches, that’s no good. If you’re going to show a dog, you don’t want one that’s going to sit down in the ring, or do the hula hula. So if you’re looking at a whole litter and trying to choose one, try to get the friendliest one.
KEEP ONLY THOSE BITCHES THAT HAVE SMALL LITTERS.
Josef was strong for small litters — five at the most. If a bitch had a litter of eight or nine, he would wait a year and breed her once more. Then if she had eight or nine again, he wouldn’t keep her. Yes, you can do away with the puppies over five right after they are born, so they won’t take anything more out of the mother, but they have already taken too much out of her. While all those puppies were in the mother, she was dividing her strength among all of them. That isn’t good. She should have been giving her strength to only four or five puppies. Josef kept only bitches that had small litters.
BEST NOT TO SHOW DOGS UNTIL THEY ARE 20 MONTHS OLD.
Josef always showed his own dogs — except one time when he was in the hospital. He thought it wasn’t fun to have someone else show them. He never showed a dog under a judge that had given that dog major points. He thought it wasn’t fair to that judge. If you show them earlier than 20 months, then by the time they’re ready, they have been so much taken apart at the ringside that no judge will look at them. Interest in those dogs has gone. Mrs. Mehrer also said that she thought many U.S. Dachshunds too large, saying that when they are too large, they lose style and type.
At the 1954 annual meeting, Josef and Maria Mehrer, for their unique contribution to American Dachshund breeding, were voted honorary members of the Dachshund Club of America. On January 4, 1959 Maria Mehrer was presented with honorary life membership in the Dachshund Association of Long Island in recognition of Mrs. Mehrer’s long and outstanding services and contributions to the organization, and to the Dachshund breed.
Josef Mehrer died on August 29, 1956 and Maria Mehrer died on October 15, 1965.
In the June 1967 American Dachshund, Diane Poranski wrote: “This is a note about the fate of the famed Marienlust kennel, which stood in West Hempstead, N.Y. It seems Progress, like Time, waits for no one person or establishment. I was sick when I first saw the sign in front of the kennel announcing the coming of a gas station. Now the kennel no longer stands, and the new building has started. I only hope the memory of the people who built that fine kennel and name are not forgotten. I do hope people will remember what Josef and Maria Mehrer did for the breed.”