to the dogs or whoever
When we heard about the Weiner Nationals at the racetrack in Berkeley, we were understandably intrigued. This is a Dachshund race in which the little short-legged beasts run in the downtime between the horse races. My only other experience with racing having been at a track in New Jersey, during what I will always remember as “The Good Summer,” I naturally had fond memories of sun, slushy margaritas and pounding hooves.
When we arrived at the track the wind was blowing fiercely off the muddy water, and the sky was gray. It had begun to rain. We entered through the clubhouse where for an extra $2 you have the luxury of being able to come inside when you want to, which on a day like this was well worth it. After picking up our requisite $8 mimosas we headed over to the track just in time to put together enough clues to realize the first race was going on. We could hear the announcer rattling off the horses’ progress in his auctioneer voice, but as to where the horses were we didn’t have the slightest clue. It is oddly easy to loose sight of them, until suddenly they round the corner and are barreling toward the finish line and you. They pass you once, and it’s over.
The horses always have really inextricable names like, “If You Give A Moose A Muffin” or “Satin Quacky Pretty Lady Horse” or “My Other Ride Is A Croissant.” Which you figure is a joke that can only be understood by rich people in Kentucky who are a few juleps short of a derby if you know what I mean.
After the equine winner (who through no fault of his own was almost certainly named something like “Mister Buttons’ Day At The Races.”) was made to stand for a few moments in front of the crowd while the tiny jockey took pictures with the horse’s owners, it was time for the dogs.
Throughout the morning I had been wondering, both silently and aloud, about what made the short-legged beasts run. And the answer I was about to find out is not a goddamned thing. The dogs were positioned about 50 feet apart on the racetrack, with one owner holding the pooch at the starting line, and what was presumably another owner, or close friend of the dog, positioned at the finish. Everyone involved was wearing a little vest with a number on it. When the starting bell was sounded the owner released the dog who either ran as fast as he could toward the finish (this almost never happened), ran as fast as he could away from the finish, sat down immediately, or zig-zagged to the mid-point of the race and then veered steeply to the left often running into another contender who had taken that opportunity to sit down and smell the dirt. People always talk about herding cats like it’s such an impossibility, but have those people ever seen a dachshund race?