Because of rain, the track at the Germantown Charity Horse Show Arena is what professional bettors would call sloppy. Puddles mar the center of the track, but luckily for the day's racers — more than 60 long-bodied, short-legged dachshunds — the puddles are shallow.
The Germantown Festival's 12th Running of the Weenies is a 10-heat, 50-yard doggie dash. Culminating in the Grand Weenie Race, in which the winners from the qualifying heats compete, the annual event benefits the Germantown Animal Shelter.
During the races, most of the owners squat on their haunches, using their legs as starting gates. The dachshunds squirm and bark, fighting to get loose. In the spectator stands, other dogs bark back.
At the finish line, families are yelling, coaxing, jumping up and down, squeezing squeaky toys, and waving treats.
"It's usually the dog's favorite person at the finish line, and they'll bring toys or treats," says Bethany German, a Germantown shelter animal control officer. "They can wave whatever they want, as long as they don't pull the dogs over the finish line."
One woman has a tennis ball and, as the race starts, she throws the ball toward the finish. Her dachshund sprints to the ball, grabs it in its mouth, and brings it back to her ... at the starting line.
In another qualifying heat, six dogs begin to run toward each other, becoming a barking scrum in the middle of the field.
Finally, two dogs find their way to the finish. But the race still needs a
- Winner Madeline Gail (right) takes an early lead in the Grand Weenie Race.
In other heats, the dogs tear to the finish so quickly it's hard to tell which wet nose crossed the line first.
By the Grand Weenie Race, there is a lot of energy on the field. Last year's winner — Harley — and the runner-up — Mia — are competing again.
One of Mia's owners is holding a giant pink ball at the finish. In her qualifying heat, he rolled the ball backward just before Mia hit the finish line, guaranteeing a sprint to the very end.
"They love that ball," Jenni Anderson says of Mia and her sister Mattie. "I had to hide it all summer so they wouldn't pop it."
Finally, the dogs are released, their long bodies soaring inches off the ground. A black dachshund named Madeleine Gail wins.
At the finish line, Madeleine's owner, horse trainer Jamie Kroh Jones, says they found Madeleine in a ditch on the way to a horse show, and she only has one good hip. But apparently, one is all she needs. "I just say 'shoo shoo' and she comes running," Jones says. "We had her toe nails done for traction."
Despite her pink ball, 5-year-old Mia has come in second place again. "I don't know how many more years we can do this," says Anderson, "but we'll definitely do it again next year."