OK, I'm a little late in posting about this, but a couple of weekends ago I attended a weenie dog race. I'm told that it was the national championship weenie dog race, but I'm a little dubious on this point, and not just because roughly half of the 80 or so contestants failed to even start the race, preferring instead to turn around and lick their owners' faces.
The excitement actually began before the race (I got there about 45 minutes early so as not to miss any of the weenie fun) when Wienerschnitzel, who was sponsoring the race, sent their mascot, a giant dog dressed in a red jumpsuit with a yellow cape, walked past the constestants and they started barking like the devil himself was walking past. Or a cat. They're essentially the same thing. He walked all along the constestant area, and it was like a doggie version of the wave. (Most of them stopped barking after he passed, but a few of the particularly vigilant dogs barked until they forgot what they were barking at, and then I guess they figured they must have been barking at each other, perhaps at some witty weenie insult that had been tossed out as they came in, because they continued barking until the races started.)
Then the races started. There were 12 heats of 6 dogs each. Each dog was led onto the track by a pair of owners, one of whom held the dog while the other walked down to the other end of the track, squeaking the dog's favorite toy. (There were a lot of squeaking hot dogs, and a disturbing number of long rubber dachshunds.) Each dog was marked with a different colored scruchie so it could be identified after the race. You'd think it might be easy to identify your own pet, especially if you love it enough to take it to a breed-specific race, but even with the scrunchies, a couple of owners did pick up the wrong dog. To start the race, a man in a cowboy hat lowered his hand, which signalled to the owners that they could drop their dog. About half of the dogs figured out what was going on, or were at least really fond of their squeaky toy, and managed to run down the track. (Or, skittle down the track, a description that I decided was a little more suited to what weenie dogs actually do. I'm not sure that legs as short as theirs can acurately be said to run, although the length of their ears does create the impression of speed, as they flap out behind them, kind of like sails or one of those antena flags that you sometimes see.) The other half of the dogs engaged in a variety of behaviors, all of which were more entertaining than the actual race. A couple of the dogs broke ranks and chased each other around the arena. One of the dogs, obviously a male dog, was apparently concerned with which dog got to claim the arena, because he skittled up and down the track marking his territory on the barriers. Later, a like-minded dog came along and invalidated all of this dog's laborious efforts, but I'm not sure the first dog ever found out. (Due to the rather time-consuming nature of his efforts, he did not win the race and was not invited back for the final rounds.) Another dog, scared out of his mind by the noise and the many dogs shaped just like him, hopped the barriers, ran into the middle of the arena and took a long, nervous dump. The proceedings had to be halted until the poor little guy finished, which took a while because I think once he knew that everyone was looking at him a got a touch of stage fright.
One thing that surprised me were some of the weenie names. There were several Tootsie Rolls, which is kind of cute in a weenie way, and way too many Peanuts, which is not as cute as the Peanut-owners must think. There was one Rambo, who was easily the fattest weenie dog there and and his owners carried him like he was a newborn baby, kind of cradling him and being careful to support his head. There was one named Low Rider, which would probably be humiliation bordering on animal abuse if the dog knew how embarrassing his name really was, but since he's a dog and will answer to just about anything, I thought it was a great choice. There was only one Oscar, not as many as I would have predicted, seeing as Oscar Meyer is the most famous wiener company in the world. On a related note, while there were several dogs in outfits, and several people in weenie-dog themed apparel, I didn't see a single dog in that little hot dog costume with a bun on either side. I guess that's not what this event was about.
Now, one might ask exactly how someone hears about an event like the Weenie Dog Race "Nationals". I can't speak for everyone who attended, but I heard about this event the night before it was to take place and latched onto the idea like the universe had just given me a gift with my name on it, wrapped in weenie dog paper. I had big plans for that weekend, that involved finishing all the work that I needed to do before Monday, but the moment I heard about the race, I was graced with the most entertaining vision of weenie dogs, skittering in rows, tails wagging, ears flapping in the breeze. I was compelled to go. And, while the rational part of my brain realizes that a weenie dog race really is not a momentous life-changing experience, I felt very strongly that if I did not go to see the weenie dogs for myself, I would always wonder if a weenie dog race was as funny a sight as I imagined.
I am quite sure that weenie dog races are not what the cavalier poets had in mind when they wrote about the notion of carpe diem. I chose to ignore this fact, though, as I used their poetry to justify my attendance. I told myself that it would really be a shame if, as I lay on my deathbed, my one regret was not going to the weenie dog race. Again, the rational part of my brain, with a loud and snobby clearing of its throat, reminds me that it is highly unlikely that such an event would be my big regret in life. However, I think this event is intimately related to the types of things that I will regret, or at least the things that I regret at this point in my life. I take life pretty seriously (which I know come as a shock to the people who have read this far along, only to find me treating the subject of a weenie dog race as something of import) and there are a lot of weenie dog type experiences that I've missed because I was doing some assignment that I really should finish, or going to some work thing that I really shouldn't miss. And while missing this race would not have made my life empty and meaningless, if I never give into any impulse, I won't have a lot to talk about when I'm sitting around in the nursing home telling stories about my life. Although, if weenie dog races continue to be the highlight of my year, I'll be wanting to make those stories up anyway, so I guess what I actually do or don't do, doesn't matter so much after all.