Dogs wander, wonder in inaugural dashAugust 4, 2014
By CANDY NEAL
Herald Staff Writer
JASPER — Five little doggies squirmed and wagged their tails in one of their owner’s arms Saturday afternoon, anxious to get into the open stretch of grass in front of them at the Schroeder Soccer Complex.
At the other end of the grass, the dogs’ other owner flailed arms, clapped hands, squeezed squeak toys — anything to get the dog excited enough to scramble the across the grass and through the finish line.
On the sides, people cooed at the cute brown and black dachshunds. Children pointed them out to their parents. Adults made predictions on which dog would win.
A horn honked and the dogs were let loose. A brown one took off, only to be distracted by a lagging peer that ran up to play. Two others stopped near the starting line to play as well.
The owners at the end of the race tried to coax the dogs to focus.
“Buddy! Here Buddy!”
The brown one off to the great start seemed to re-energize and took off, crossing the finish line.
Another black one never left the starting line.
See, the miniature dachshunds were in a race, though they couldn’t have known it. The more than 100 people that gathered to watch knew. The first dachshund dash at the Strassenfest brought out 18 doggie racers and lots of spectators who brought their other breeds of dogs along for the fun.
Four qualifying races were held. The top two winners in the miniature and standard categories each had a final heat to determine the winner of the category.
The doggie antics continued throughout the hourlong event.
In a third qualifying race, three of the four dogs played together at the starting line while the fourth one wandered. The owners were squeaking and waving and hollering at the dogs.
Finally, one dog that laying on his side enjoying his new friends heard his name over the ruckus.
“Oliver!” Sherry Faulkner screamed. “Here Oliver!”
Oliver leapt onto his little legs and sped into Sherry’s arms to the crowd’s delight.
Sherry met up with her human cohort, 13-year-old granddaughter Mena Brassard, in the middle of the grass. “Practice paid off, girlfriend,” Faulkner said, high-fiving her granddaughter.
Faulkner said they’ve been training with Oliver ever since they learned of the race.
“We said, ‘We are so doing this,’” she said.
“We practiced 15 to 20 minutes every night for the past week. We marked off 70 feet of grass in the back yard and had him run between us, calling his name and giving him a treat at the end. He ran that 70 feet in five seconds.”
Mena, who lives in North Carolina, has been visiting this summer. That helped since Oliver’s true owner, Faulkner’s daughter Emily Faulkner, is working a civilian job with the military in Bagram, Afghanistan.
“Mena was the holder and releaser,” Faulkner said. “I couldn’t have done this without her.”
In the upset race of the event, four dogs were competing. The horn sounded and the dogs ran, with one sprinting, clearly destined to be the winner. People cheered.
Maybe that was the problem, because just before crossing the finish line, the brown doggie stopped cold. The crowd reacted. “Oh!”
The dog pranced around and sniffed the grass, pretty much ignoring its owner’s pleas to cross the line. A black-haired dog crossed the finish line, followed closely by a second one. The original frontrunner then decided to trot across the line.
The winner of that race, Rocket, qualified for the race-off. His owners, the Buechler family — Kent, Kristy, 8-year-old Aiden and 6-year-old Elijah — said they didn’t train specifically for the race.
“Last night we ran him around as practice,” Kristy said. “He’s always been a good runner. He runs with the boys and passes them up.”
In the final heat for standard dogs, Rocket ran against Molly, a rescue dog owned by Stephen and Anna Goins. The two lined up, barking and squirming, anxious to hit the grass. The horn sounded and Molly took off straight ahead. Rocket also took off — in a big U-turn to run to her daddy, Kent.
The Buechlers weren’t surprised. “He saw Kent and went there,” Kristy said. “But he did great today. We’re proud of him.”
Molly’s owners cheered as she crossed the line. They gave her what she was after, a red squeak ball.
“We got the ball today and she saw it,” Anna said. “She had her eye on that ball. That was all the motivation she needed.”
After the contest, Molly was just as energetic as she was before she started. Stephen kept tossing the red ball out across a grassy field and Molly fetched it, dropping it at Stephen’s feet and panting heavily.
Her brother, another dachshund named Mackey, was not as enthused. Every time the ball flew into the field, Mackey watched Molly take off, never once interested in fetching the ball.
“She’s kind of a nutcase,” Anna said, “and he’s just laid back.”
Anna wasn’t sure if they’d celebrate or not.
“Maybe they’ll get some doggie ice cream,” she said, referring to a concoction of frozen yogurt, peanut butter and bananas the dogs love. “But with all this excitement, I’m sure Molly is going to sleep soon.”
Oliver, incidentally, won his race-off as well. The winners earned a plaque, a dachshunds calendar and six months of dog food.
Sherry said she would talk to her daughter in Afghanistan that evening.
“She’s so excited to hear if he won,” Sherry said. “We were all so excited about this.”
Contact Candy Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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