GRESHAM – Under a clear sky with ideal track conditions and arecord crowd of wiener watchers waving signs and cheering them on,the eight fastest and best-conditioned wiener dogs in the Northweststood inches apart and seconds away from earning the title of”Fastest Wiener in the Northwest” in the finals of the2004 Wiener Dog Summer Nationals held Sunday at Multnomah GreyhoundPark (MGP) in Gresham.
The race was the culmination of the three-day event that broughtmore than 20,000 wiener watchers wondering which wiener would beable to overcome evolution’s best efforts to tame its ingrainedneed for speed. From Missy, a 5-pound red wiener, to the aptlynamed Stan “The Man,” a whopping 21-pounder, the field ofover 120 dogs represented the gamut of the wiener world and madefor 18 unpredictable qualifying races leading up to Sunday’sfinale.
Befitting the endearingly unique nature of its competitors, wienerdog racing has a few nuances that differentiate it from otherracing. Most importantly, all of the dogs are pets, notprofessional
Equally important, there is no electrically powered rabbit (or bonein the case of MGP) that zips around the track luring the dogs tothe finish. Instead, one owner of each dog stands in front of thestarting gate with a beloved toy and runs to the finish linesqueaking the toy or yelling words of encouragement to keep theracing novices on track. The other owner stands at the finish line,calling, clapping, screaming or whatever it takes to motivate theirwiener to run faster than the others.
While all wiener races were deemed “non-wagering events”and thus closed to official betting, based on qualifying and lastyear’s event the heavy favorite had to be Bucky, a dappled10-pounder. Bucky had shattered his own track record in apreliminary heat Friday night by lapping the field by an unheard-of30 lengths en route to a time of 13.33 seconds and had looked goodin the semi-final earlier in the day.
Yet Bucky had been in this position before, entering last year’schampionship as the heavy favorite after setting the track recordonly to see his doggie dreams slip away after losing focus. ThatHenry, the up-and-comer 14-pound tri-dapple who had nearly matchedthe track record minutes earlier in a semi-final, was standingmerely inches away in the five post only heightened the drama.
Closer to the rail stood pretty boy and crowd favorite Amos, the11-pound silver dapple whose legendary status had been cementedwhen he slowed down during a qualifying run to look back and taunta slower competitor before turning on his eye-catching speed andeasily winning. Fan signs supporting Amos littered the crowd andthe matching custom shirts Amos’ owners wore when escorting him tothe starting gate only enhanced his iconic status. As if knowingall eyes were on him, Amos hot-dogged along the edge of the tracktowards the gate, posing for photographs from his adoring fansmassed on the other side of the flowers.
At 5:02.15 p.m., when the gate went up, it was any dog’s race.
All eight dogs got away cleanly and furiously, hurdling theirminiature legs towards the distant finish line. Unlike many of thequalifiers, when befuddled wieners failed to finish (or even tostart), the eight finalists raced like their little lives dependedon it. As they neared the finish line, Henry, Amos and Maggie weretoo close to call in a photo finish.
Competing cheers of “Henry! Henry!” and “Amos!Amos!” arose from the crowd as the thousands on hand eagerlyawaited the results.
In the end, Henry, despite having already raced in two qualifiersthat day, set a new track record of 13.30 seconds and nosed outlongshot Maggie for the title of “Fastest Wiener in theNorthwest.” Commenting on Henry’s rapid ascension to fame, hisowner said, “He didn’t earn the nickname ‘Spicy’ fornothing.”
As Henry cherished his moment in the sun, odds-on favorite Buckycould be seen panting in disappointment in the shadows of thefinish-line control booth, likely bemoaning yet another wastedopportunity and pawing for a chance at redemption in next year’srace.
In addition to the title, Henry won a year’s supply of dog food anda goody bag containing various odds and ends including a baseballbat. Maggie and Amos also went home with an assortment of prizesand the respect of Northwest wiener watchers.
When asked if Maggie’s impressive performance and near victory hadearned her some special treatment, Courtemanche paused for a secondto think. “Tonight she’ll probably get some wet dog food. Sheusually gets only dry.”
In the 2004 Wiener Summer Nationals a few hot dogs finished therace on top. Below you will find the place and time of this year’sfastest wiener dogs.
Place Time Name Size/Color
1st 13.30 sec Henry 14 lbs/tri-dapple
2nd 13.31 sec Maggie 7 lbs/black and tan
3rd 13.31 sec Amos 11 lbs/silver dapple