A Dog’s Big Day at the Daschund Derby
| By Rod Thorell |
This is a story about a dog race. Well, more about a particular dog. So first things first.
We own dachshunds.
Perhaps “own” is far too strong a word. We share a home with them. That is to say, they live in our house, we feed them, bathe them, clean up after they go to the bathroom and they, in turn, will allow us to have a corner of a king-sized bed on which to sleep.
Part of the services they provide in exchange are to wildly bark whenever they sense that someone, somewhere within a 16-mile radius has made a noise and to swiftly and completely clean up any food that may be dropped on the floor.
At the risk of getting technical, although he is a purebred, Gusgus is not a “standard” doxie (this is what people who love dachshunds call the breed). This proud breed was developed in Germany for the purpose of hunting badgers and killing them in their underground lairs, so says the American Kennel Club. Their short paws and long bodies are suited for digging and chasing animals through burrows.
Gusgus is a mini (meaning anything under 11 pounds), but instead of the stubby little legs of his ancestors, his legs are long for his size. He would not be allowed in any doxie beauty pageant. And certainly if he were to enter a badger den, I am sure any badgers present would make short work of him.
But his legs give him the ability to run. Fast.
Which is why we felt confident when we entered him in his first-ever race, the Dachshund Derby, sponsored by the Pink Bow Foundation — which supplies hygiene kits to homeless teenagers — held as part of the Spring Flower Festival downtown.
Nothing about these furry little tubes says “dash” and many Florida doxies have big bellies that rub the ground.
Gusgus is a sleek and wiry little dog, perfect for racing.
The dogs were placed in heats of four, with the top two moving on through the brackets until eventually a winner would be crowned.
How happy we would be for Gusgus! Well, and us. Here he would represent our family to the world, showing them what we were really about.
The racetrack was set, a 50-foot ring of dark plastic sheeting, with a box at one end that held four separate containers for dogs, the front made of steel mesh gates. When the start of the race was called, a wooden bar was pulled and all the gates at the front opened, with the dogs careening toward their excited owners at the finish line.
Finally, we got the call for dog No. 10 to participate in his first race. My job was to have Gusgus all excited to get his heart pumping before going in the cage.
“You can do it buddy!” “Who’s a good boy!” “Who’s a good boy!” “Go run and see us!”
By the time I placed him in the starting box, he was so worked up we were sure that he would rocket straight to the finish.
All the dogs were in. They announced the start of the race. They threw open the gate…
And they’re off!
Well, not so much.
One wanted his dad, so he turned around and jumped up on a bale of hay.
Another looked through the crowd, trying desperately to find mom, while mom was at the other end screaming her name.
A third decided that life inside the starting gates wasn’t so bad. He was just gonna cuddle up in there for a bit.
Gusgus stared out from the box like a nervous toddler on his first day at the playground.
You see, more than most dogs, dachshunds are funny little animals. Bred with the killer instinct, yet longing to cuddle into bed with someone. They are social animals. If they had opposable thumbs and speech, they would have their own fraternities (with an auxiliary for the lady dogs), complete with funny hats and a constant zeal for community service (which would probably involve licking up spilled food all around the city and, presumably, protecting against badger attacks).
Every human or dog they meet is greeted with exuberance — jumping, licking, sniffing and the like. They bombard you like a horde of bees when you enter our home, all flickering tongues and wiggly butts, their tails moving faster than can be detected by the human eye. What they don’t do is cope with crowds of people shouting instructions.
Eventually, Gusgus and the dog who wanted his dad finally realized that their owners were at the other end screaming for them. They jogged, then sorta ran to the end. Gusgus came in second. His day was not over.
A second heat went in similar fashion and then a third, although each time the running portion began a little sooner. And Gusgus was winning! Finally, some vindication! We had a fast dog here! We were confident and giddy as they announced the lineup for the finals. The finals! Our little Gusgus was going to race for victory!
All the finalists were in the starting gates.
They announced the start of the race.
The gate was thrown open and they began sprinting and Gusgus, OUR Gusgus was ahead of the other three dogs!
Finally, a victory for our family in a year that has often felt like a string of defeats!
As I said, dachshunds are extremely social animals. Although they seem silly and capricious, there is a strong sense of social order and norms. One of the first things a doxie will do upon a new person or dog entering the home is to greet the person or dog vigorously. Doesn’t matter if they are brand new or have known them all their life, they are greeted with sniffs and licks, fluttering around the new arrival like hummingbirds.
This explains why, about 3 feet from the finish line, something struck Gusgus. Gusgus committed the dachshund social faux paw — err, pas — of not properly greeting this dog beside him, so he decided that he must now turn to sniff a butt. On the cusp of what would have been our family’s greatest victory in the new millennium, he realized there were unfamiliar back ends within schnoz distance. And he needed to rectify that. Right away.
Gusgus followed the dog over the finish line. They became friends. And our family dreams of victory were gone in an instant.
Mind you, it was not so much the loss of a victory that hurt, but the way it transpired. If he had tripped or was bumped away or even soundly beaten by a dog of such superior speed and skill that he had no chance, that would be easier to accept. Our chance for a shining moment in the sun, a sterling triumph in our new adopted hometown, taken down by a fragrant backside. As he trotted back to us, I made sure he knew the old saying; “second place is the first loser.”
Gusgus has recovered his place of honor in the family and immensely enjoys the large rawhide bone and water bowl he won as second prize, sharing it with his adopted brother, Foster. You can follow Gusgus on Instagram @CallMeGusgus or find him in a pile of clean laundry still warm from the dryer.
And surely he’ll be training for next year’s race — no ifs, ands or butts about it.