Dachshunds stretch their legs to prep for Wiener Nationals at Los Alamitos Race Course
This weekend’s 23rd annual Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals at the Los Alamitos Race Course may not be the fastest two minutes in sports, but it’s arguably the cutest.
In preparation, dachshunds from across Southern California and their humans turned out Monday, July 16, for a practice day. They donned colored racing vests, tried out the starting box and ran increasing distances to their waiting owners on a patch of grass next to the track, where Saturday’s race will be held.
Most training regimens seemed to involve a favorite toy, treats and running laps across the yard. Some coaches made their own starting gate from a box, or, like David Riener of Irvine, a laundry hamper.
Riener’s dog, Kitty – “My son wanted a cat, but my wife is allergic” – is almost 3 and will compete for the second year this weekend. Relatives from Virginia, Atlanta, Houston and San Francisco are flying in for the race, and employees of Riener’s Cypress-based business also plan to attend.
“With the other dogs right now she’s a bit distracted, so we have some work to do this weekend,” Riener said.
Soleil Walstead’s dog, Lupita, a 1-year-old miniature dachshund, improved over several practice runs, using her beloved tennis ball as the goal.
When she runs on Saturday, she’ll fulfill the wishes of Walstead’s fiance, Matt Angier, whose aunt gave him Lupita as a therapy dog during his treatment for cancer. Man and dog had a special rapport, and Matt had wanted to see her race, Walstead said.
Even though Lupita would run amok at home in Orange, Walstead said when she smuggled the dog into the hospital to see Angier, not a bark was heard.
Taking care of Lupita has “been a complete godsend. Right after Matt died, in the weeks and months after, I was like, I didn’t want to get out of bed,” said Walstead, 26.
“She was the reason to get up in the morning.”
While most of the dogs are the same shape, the competitors vary in size and coat color.
If any dog has a physical advantage, it could be Khloe, a 4-year-old who belongs to Danielle Gundermann and her daughter, Brynn, of Corona.
It’s their first time at the Los Alamitos track, but they’ve taken her to the races at Old World in Huntington Beach, where Danielle said someone offered to buy the dog because her legs are unusually long for the breed.
Why race Khloe? “That’s what dachshunds do – they run,” Danielle Gundermann said.
Plus, she added, it’s a fun family event for a good cause. Proceeds go to the nonprofit Seal Beach Animal Care Center, which has raised $250,000 through the wiener races over the past two decades.
One of the younger coaches was Sara Evans, 10, of Long Beach. She and her dad, Jimmy, brought Bella, or “Scoopski,” who’s just over a year old, to practice for her first race at Los Alamitos.
After attending the event last year, Sara said she wanted a dachshund “just because you can race ’em.” Bella was a birthday gift.
They’ve been training for about two months, getting the dog to come to a family member holding her squeaky ball.
About 90 dachshunds will compete on Saturday, said Orlando Gutierrez, the race track’s marketing director.
Attendees can expect crowds of up to 10,000 spectators cheering as the dogs sprint 50 yards to the finish line, short legs pumping as fast as they can and long ears flapping in the wind.
“Obviously the excitement is there, the crowd loves it,” Gutierrez said, “and we have some great performances by some really fast doxies.”
If you go
What: The 23rd annual Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals will determine the fastest wiener dog in the west.
When: Saturday, July 21; gates open at 4:30 p.m., preliminary heats begin at 6:30 p.m. and the championship race is at 9:15 p.m.
Where: Los Alamitos Race Course, 4961 Katella Ave., Cypress.
Cost: Adult admission is $3; children under 17 and parking are free
Information: Call 714-820-2690