Today, there much talk about a flesh-eating drug called “Krokodil,” which is derived from the Russian* word for crocodile. There is quite a bit of paranoia about the drug spreading to the US, but it doesn’t seem likely at this time.
However, every time I see a report about this drug, I instantly think of a dog– more specifically, a dachshund.
The dog is written about at length in Konrad Lorenz’s Man Meets Dog (1949). Lorenz was one of the founders of the science of ethology, and wrote extensively about dogs and other domestic animals. He is perhaps best known for the modern interpretation of the theory of imprinting, which posits that certain animals, particularly birds, come to identify their parent species by attaching themselves to the first moving object or living thing they see.
He is also famous for the discredited hypothesis that most dogs are derived from golden jackals and only a few dogs have wolf in them. The jackal dogs were juvenile and friendly toward everyone, while the wolf-derived dogs were one-mannish and reserved.
The dog named Krokodil was a jackal dog. He was purchased to replace a real crocodile that was given to Lorenz when he was a young boy:
I shall begin with the example of a dog whose apparently touching juvenile affection was so exaggerated as to result in the positive caricature of a dog. It was a dachshund named Kroki which I was given by a kind relation with no understanding of animals. At time I was a small boy but already an active naturalist. The dog was called Kroki because the kind donor had first of all presented me with a crocodile, which in the absence of heating my terrarium, refused to eat, and which we therefore exchanged in the pet shop for the animal which bore the nearest outward resemblance to it! The dachshund was an aristocratic creature, long-bodied and short-legged– truly resembling a crocodile–and its pendulous ears literally trailed the floor. He was of an affecting friendliness, and greeted me on our first acquaintance as only a dog can greet a long lost master. Of course I was flattered, until it became clear that he greeted everyone else in the same manner. He was obsessed with an overwhelming love of humanity which extended to all mankind. He never barked at anybody and, even though he probably preferred my family and myself, he would readily follow a stranger if we did not happen to be available.
Now, this dachshund’s behavior is utterly unlike the dachshunds I’ve known, and my grandmother’s dachshund could have also been named after the archosaur. Unlike Lorenz’s dog, she not only had the crocodile’s body, she had the crocodile’s disposition as well. She barked at everyone, and I don’t know how many different people she bit. She bit me and all the other grandchildren, and as a result, I have a bit of fear of smooth dachshunds. I don’t have the same reaction with the other coats– the long-haired ones look like really strange golden retrievers– but if I see small smooth one, I get a bit nervous.
In the US, the dachshund is the “wiener dog.” I have always thought this was a stupid name.
Maybe a better name for them would be crocodile dog.
It fits them so much better!
*Krokodil is also German for crocodile. Konrad Lorenz was Austrian and a German-speaker.