Ears flopped and dirt flew as ten doxies bolted toward the finish line in full frenzy Saturday at the Los Alamitos Race Course for the 17th Annual Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals regional competition.
Dozens of dachshunds competed for the top dog title. Dressed in wild costumes, the dachshunds competed for a variety of prizes including $1,000, a trip to San Diego to participate in the Wienerschnitzel Wiener National Finals and a Wienerschnitzel doghouse. A total of 88 wiener dogs competed in this year’s event.
Owners traditionally wear team T-shirts matching their pets’ costumes including hats and accessories. With her dog, Chloe, Ellen Dusch set out to show the crowd what it takes to be a “wiener winner.” Chloe, a 1-year-old, is a first time participant, but she managed to earn a spot in the final race of the night.
In the dog-eat-dog world of wiener racing, every owner has a trick for training, including taking their pups to the park, blowing whistles, squeaking toys and waving doggy treats. But Dusch and her husband went a step further to create a mock starting gate to ensure Chloe would be familiar with the Los Alamitos Race Course environment. Dusch uses Chloe’s favorite toy, a small turquoise dog that squeaks for motivation on the course.
“She’s small, but don’t underestimate her,” said Dusch. “She has the sweetest disposition and is really nice. When we came to the practice race here, another dog was kind of mean and hurt another dog. She went to the dog that was hurt to make sure he was okay. She’s just a really nice dog and really maternal.”
Although Dusch was concerned Chloe’s maternal instincts might distract her from the prize, Chloe pulled through with focus and determination in her preliminary trial race, surpassing the other dogs and nearly leaping to her owner at the finish line.
Two-time champ and the 2011 Wiener Nationals Winner, Penny Lane and owner Trish Ausilio were on hand this year to cheer on their former competitors and pass on the title of Fastest Wiener in the West. Ausilio says she loves coming to the event even though Penny Lane can’t participate in the race. For her, the wiener dog racing community and other dachshund lovers make the experience all worth it. Her top picks for the night included Penny Lane’s past competitor and the new reigning champion, Mr. Schnitzel.
“In a year and a half, Penny Lane won several titles, $4,000 in cash and $4,000 in prizes,” said Ausilio. “I love her. She’s my best friend. We take care of each other.”
At last year’s finals in San Diego, Penny Lane was the first champion to receive a silver take-home trophy in the shape of a dachshund. Ausilio was excited to pass on the title to her former competitors and friends.
Mr. Schnitzel, owned by Lois and Luis Hernandez from Newbury Park, California, beat out 87 other wiener dogs and will go on to compete in San Diego Aug. 4 at the Holiday Bowl. While some wiener dogs veered left, right, and towards the crowd of adoring fans, Mr. Schnitzel kept his eyes on the prize and took home the title of the Fastest Wiener in the West.
Proceeds from the event will go towards finding homes for stray animals in Orange County through the Seal Beach Animal Care Center. Last year’s Wiener Nationals raised upwards of $18,000 for the center, bringing the total donations to more than $200,000 in total.