Short on legs, long on heart

Saturday will be a day at the races at the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds in Elma.

But the racers won’t be horses, cars, bikes or even greyhounds.

The competitors displaying their speed, strength and determination will be dachshunds.

“It’s entertaining if nothing else,” said Sheri Jones, who’s been organizing wiener races for four or five years. “Half of the dogs will end up at the finish line, and then it’s a 50-50 shot whether the dog will run the wrong way or cross the finish line.”

This is the first Northwest Wienerfest, which will feature contests for dogs of all breeds, activities for children, and food (including, of course, wieners).

The wiener races have become a popular Northwest sport, showcased at Oktoberfest Northwest and as halftime entertainment at Seattle Seahawks games.

“The dachshund race has been voted the favorite halftime show for the past four years,” Jones said.

The races don’t last long; the dogs run 35 feet. Winning dogs advance to run again until a champion is produced.

How fast can a dachshund go? Faster than you might expect, said Amber Kiss of Kirkland. Her 4-year-old dachshund, Dobby, has won more than his share of races.

“He’s always been very ball-motivated,” Kiss said. “He beats the big dogs to his ball at the dog park.

“He wants that ball. On race days, I won’t give it to him all day, and then I’ll take it out at the race, and he gets so excited.”

But even Dobby has been known to stop before he reaches the finish line – a common problem for racing dachshunds, Jones said. “We always have one that takes off in a random direction, and it’s the big crowd-pleaser when 10 people take off to chase it.”

Recently, she wasn’t able to round up experienced racers for an appearance where she was showcasing dachshunds available for adoption. The rescue dogs gave it a try.

“We let go of them, and they all turned and looked at me,” she said. “One ran to the finish line, got 4 inches away, and then turned around and came back.”

Not one of them crossed the finish line.

“It’s not a professional sport,” she said. “But it is funny.”