Sunday, September 21, 2008

(Second) fastest dog in the West

What is it about dachshunds, especially miniature dachshunds, that compels people to announce "Look, a wiener dog!" to no one, and for no apparent reason? I don't care for the term, although I have no objection when my friend Rachel from New Zealand refers to Maxine and Anya as my "sausage dogs". But I put that quibble aside once a year for The Running of the Wieners, held in conjunction with German Heritage Days by the Platt-Duetsche Society of Grand Island.

Grand Island is Nebraska's third-largest city, but this is an exemplar of Nebraska's small-town festivals, many of which celebrate the immigrant (and, if you count wacipi or powwows, Native) cultures represented in the state. Lots of German immigrants settled in the Platte River Valley, so why not set up a biergarten and race dachshunds for fun?

[Ellie starting Anya]

The basic format is this: A series of qualifying heats in which up to eight dogs run (I think) a 40-yard dash; the fastest eight in each age class run a second and final race. There is also a costume contest, and a number of vendors sell doggie-related items in the Platt-Duetsche parking lot. But the main draw for us is just the chance to spend time with other dachshund enthusiasts, marvel at the variety of coats and colors, and watch kids enjoying the dogs.

Today marked the 8th annual Running of the Wieners, and our third. Maxine is an athletic dog and made the finals last year, so we weren't too surprised when she won her qualifying heat with a time of 4.3 seconds. She improved that time to 4.28 in the final, despite easing up at the finish line, and claimed second place only two-hundredths of a second behind the winner. Her motivation: I was standing at the finish line, tossing and cradling a ball in my lacrosse stick—the only thing Max enjoys more than hunting rabbits is chasing balls, especially lacrosse balls. If I had stepped back from the finish line, she would have charged full-speed the whole way and taken gold.

[Top to bottom:
  • Pre-race: Mark, Ellie, & Maxine
  • Ellie starting Max
  • Forget the trophy; this is my reward!]

Anya also took home a prize, a third-place "Judge's Choice" ribbon for her "Indiana Jones" costume. It was actually a fly-fishing vest and boonie hat, but Ellie doesn't seem to mind.

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