Calgary group celebrates dachshunds at Sept. 23 event

As small squeals of excitement fill the air, Smudge, a four-year-old dachshund, lurches forward from her ‘dad,’ eager to run across the backyard to greet her ‘mom’ at the pretend finish line. The pure joy and excitement this dog shows as her short legs extend as far as her body will possibly allow, make clear why dachshund races are so popular with audiences. 

Smudge’s ‘mom’ Darlene Tosczak has been racing dachshunds for four years, including her slower ‘sister’ Pickle, a seven-year-old dachshund who isn’t afraid to pose for a camera.

Smudge is preparing to run one of her races this Sunday, Sept. 23, at the annual Wiener-PawLooza, a dachshund festival celebrating this very unique breed of dog.

Taking place between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Rosemont Community Hall, Wiener-PawLooza was created by the Calgary Lowriders Dachshund Club in 2009 as a fun way to bring together dachshund owners and dogs.

Raising money for rescue efforts

Founder of the club, Dian Stafford-Gilmour, said the event is also a fundraiser to support the Alberta Dachshund Rescue.

Sheri Rose, president and founder of the rescue, has been saving dogs and other animals for 13 years. She said the rescue is a non-profit organization run by volunteers. Every penny made from events like Wiener-PawLooza goes “right back into the dogs,” for vetting and care to help save them.

Taking in dogs from the shelter, owner surrenders and strays, Rose said, “Usually we are the last chance for these dogs. We rehabilitate, do all their vetting, and then we re-home.”

According to the rescue’s Facebook page, in her 13 years of rescuing animals Rose has saved over 800 dogs.

This year’s event

The Alberta Dachshund Rescue website said that short long bodies, deep chests and with “hound” directly in the name, these dogs were originally bred to hunt. In a salute to the breed’s history, Wiener-PawLooza is giving a simulated hunting demonstration.

Other things to look forward to at this year’s Wiener-PawLooza include a caricature artist, great local vendors selling custom beds, coats and sweaters, and the ever popular dachshund races.

Stafford-Gilmour said 60 dogs are allowed to compete in the races; with six groups of 10, until the dogs are paired down in the final. Smudge will most certainly be one of these 60 competitors.Smudge stretches her legs just days before Wiener-PawLooza.

Photo by Angela Wither

Tosczak said racing tracks are built with one line at one side of the course, and two lines – the first as the finishing line, and the second as a catching area – at the other side. To win, the dog simply needs to pass the first finishing line. This year’s course is estimated to be about 70 ft., with the dogs running about 55 ft.

Tosczak said: “They just run. They love it because they know the person on the other end. They just love their people so much, they’ll do anything, so I just stand at the end and Smudge [and Pickle] come like crazy.”

However, with this love of people comes distraction. Some dogs may get a little sidetracked by someone they “like more,” and will go the wrong way.

One year Tosczak saw a small puppy run right into the crowd and “that was it.”

Another problem arises when the “notion of territory” has been disturbed, leading to small butt nips between dogs.

The event has grown from around 70 dogs in their first year, to approximately 200 people and 150 dogs last year. While the public is invited, organizers discourage bringing other breeds to the event.

Unlike other larger breeds who seem to be fine with one another, dachshunds seem to like being on the same level with each other, with no one “looking down on them.”

Even if you don’t have a dachshund, this festival is a great way to spend the afternoon. Stafford-Gilmour said it’s fun for the family to watch these renowned funny runners race, but it’s also a great opportunity to meet and shop with local vendors, and more importantly, it’s a way to educate owners, or future owners about dachshunds.

Admission is free for owners, and $5 per dog.

Awither@cjournal.ca