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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Post #33: Wiener Dog Races

Before the wild roller coaster that made up Henry’s last few days, we had arranged to go to Buda, Texas with some friends.  The Buda Lion’s club sponsors Wiener Dog races every April (Buda Lions Club Wiener Races).  Wife and I had never gone to the races, but we had seen some of the videos on YouTube.  We thought the races looked like a lot of fun, and we had promised ourselves that we would go one day.  When our friends invited us to join them, we decided that was a perfect opportunity to see the races in person.

Now, however, we were grieving over the loss of Henry.  We talked about whether we should go.  Would it be too painful to see all of those other dachshunds?  Would our depression keep our friends from enjoying the festival?  We decided that going to Buda and hanging around a lot of other dachshund lovers would probably be restorative.  So, we loaded up PD, hooked onto our Fifth Wheel, and headed North.

Buda is a really nice town.  How could it not be?  Cabela’s has one of their giant stores in Buda.  Buda also has crowded streets when the Wiener Dog festival is taking place.  People arrive from all over the US to participate and watch.  We set up camp in an RV park the afternoon before the races.  The next morning we followed the traffic to the race grounds.  We managed to find a parking spot not too far from the campground, and walked with PD onto the grounds.

There were rows and rows of tents with vendors on the grounds.  So, along with the races, you could meander through the crowds and buy nearly anything imaginable that was related to dachshunds or dogs, including dachshunds.  There were one or two rescue shelters that had brought in homeless dachshunds for adoption.

We found that there are more dachshund-related trinkets, T-Shirts, and must-haves than we had ever imagined.  We wandered from tent to tent, looking at all of the cool doxie-items.  Wife came away with a pair of dachshund earrings.

Everything was dog-friendly, of course.  There were water dishes at nearly every vendor’s tent.  A few vendors even had kiddie pools.  And there were dogs taking full advantage of the cool water.  Even though this was a wiener dog race, the Lions were diversity-minded.  Other breeds were allowed onto the grounds.  There were some doxie-wannabies mixing with the dachshunds.  At least one Lab claimed that he “identified as” a dachshund.  But when he got near a pool, genetics took over, and he clambered in, dunking himself in the cool water, and then giving himself a hearty shake.  All of the people standing around were understanding, since they were "dog people."  And some of us actually enjoyed the spray as it was a hot day and the mist flying off the dog was cooling.

The races?  Oh yeah.  We did go and watch the wiener dog races.  We did not enter PD.  I felt like we would have needed to at least practice with him before sitting him down in front of a large group of people and asking him to run a straight line.

We watched several heats, and the racing dogs were a joy to see.  The race track had stands on one side, and an earthen bank on the other.  We were in the stands, and could see the folks on the other side sitting on their blankets, or standing against the fence next to the race track.

The race was held on a straight grassy track, with white lines to designate each dog’s lane.  On one side of the field were the starting gates.  On the other end were the motivators.  The dog’s owners were standing behind the finish line holding out squeaky toys and yelling for their dogs to come to them.  There were women and burly men shouting out in baby talk, giving encouragement, clicking clickers, and squeaking toys.  They could use anything they thought would motivate their dogs down the field, except for food.  No treats were allowed.

People were lined up along the sidelines on both sides, some hanging over the fences, ready to cheer along their favorite dachshund. 

The dogs were placed in the starting gates.  The crowd got quiet.  The announcer readied the runners.  At last the signal was given and the race was started.  The signal was a verbal “Go!” since a gun being fired may have frightened some of the dogs into running the other way, or just cowering in the starting box.  The gates opened and the dogs raced out onto the course.

Well, most of them did.  A couple decided it was too hot, so they just lay down in the shade of the starting gate.

People in the stands and along the sidelines began cheering for their favorite runners, or for all of the dogs in general.  Some of the dogs thought the cheering meant they should go over and pay a visit.  So, instead of running straight ahead, they wandered off to the side to say hello to all of their fans.

Then there were a couple who thought they had found new playmates.  So these dachshunds would start up a game of chase.  Running as fast as you can was the idea of the race, so that part was OK.  But chasing each other in circles didn't work too well for running a race.

Above the crowd’s noise you could hear the dachshund trainers and owners shouting their baby talk, trying to get their dog’s attention: “Come on sweetie-pie <squeak, squeak>” “come here sugar-wugar” “that’s my witto baby <squeak, squeak>.”  These noises and gestures were coming from both the women and the men.  Somehow, the women looked more natural doing the baby-talk, squeaky-toy thing than the men did.

Yes, most of the dogs did make it to the finish line, and there were First, Second, and Third place Wieners.

But if all of the dogs had behaved themselves and acted like true racing hounds, the Buda Wiener Dog Races would not be nearly as much fun!