Sunday, August 12, 2001
Sure, their legs are short ï¿½ no one is questioning that. But what these little dogs lack in stature, they more than make up with raw, feisty courage.
No one who knows dachshunds would describe them as possessing a quiet grace ï¿½ their strength lies elsewhere. Where they excel is their fierce loyalty and courage. They are fearless, and will often let nothing (sometimes not even their owners) get in the way of what they want.
Nowhere is this shown more dramatically than at one of the various "Wiener Nationals" races held throughout the country.
A track that normally races greyhounds will work in conjunction with the Humane Society or a local animal rescue organization (they find homes for unwanted pets) and race dachshunds on the track. Generally the little-legged pups only dash down the main straightaway, and all proceeds go to the sponsoring charity (there is no betting on the dachshunds).
How popular has wiener racing become? A quick search for "Wiener Dog Nationals" on the Internet will yield dozens of hits. A rough estimate would place the number of races at more than 30 a year, from Los Alamitos, Calif., to Chattanooga, Tenn.
Ready, set, go
The Kansas City metropolitan area held its own eighth annual event recently at The Woodlands in Kansas City, Kan. Hundreds of area dog owners signed up, and a lottery trimmed the field down to the 64 needed for the day.
Eight dogs raced in eight heats, with the winner of each heat advancing to the final run. Each dog is accompanied by two humans: one to load the dog into the starting boxes and give the dog something to chase out of the gate, and the other to call the dog from the finish line.
According to the official rules, each dog needed to show proof of current vaccinations against bordatella, distemper and rabies. The owners were asked to pay a $5 entry fee, but each family was given four free admissions for the day.
Despite the oppressive heat, The Woodlands was packed. The eastern side of the lower level was set aside as a staging area for the wieners and their families, but it was pretty much standing-room-only elsewhere.
Dachshund heats were run after the first, third, fourth, sixth, seventh, ninth, 10th and 12th greyhound races. The first heat winner, Krispy, liked racing so much that she did not want to stop. She eluded all the humans, even the track officials, and ran nearly around the entire track before finally being nabbed.
Not to be outdone, Mister Scooter of the second heat got out of the starting box early ï¿½ he snuck out the back before it could be secured ï¿½ and took off down the track, as if he could get a head start on the rest of the field.
Throughout the day, it became more and more obvious that the key to winning was not in how fast the dog was, but how fast the human was that the dog chased. Several dogs burst out in front, only to catch up with their people and be overtaken by dogs whose owners were more athletically inclined.
The most interesting story belonged to Jack, a black-and-tan from Overland Park, owned by Barry Cowden. Five days before the race, Cowden's pickup truck was stolen with Jack still inside. Cowden posted a reward but heard nothing until two days later, when Jack was found wandering near the Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County. The ordeal left Jack mostly unscathed, and he was able to win his qualifying heat.
And the winner is ï¿½
The eight heat winners returned to the track after the 14th greyhound race for the grand championship bout. This year's winner was Kobe, a 3-year-old black-and-tan from Kansas City, Mo. Kobe's human, LaRue Linson, explained that Kobe took fourth place two years ago as a pup. They did not hit the entry lottery last year, but got lucky this year to return and win it all.
Linson and Kobe do no special training together, but they do run together frequently at a museum near where they live. The team turned in the fastest time of all the qualifying heats ï¿½ 13.02 seconds for the 110-yard run. It was no coincidence that Kobe and Linson together were far ahead of the rest of the championship field. The second-place dog, Maggie, even abandoned her human and decided to chase Kobe instead.
All the heat winners received a yellow ribbon for their victory. After the finals, the prize packages consisted of new dog beds and various other doggie goodies. The top winners received special trophies to commemorate the fact that, even though they are small, they can still run pretty fast.