Geri Eigenberger, the volunteer dachshund race coordinator, greets me with her two dachshunds. Dot has retired from racing, but Peewee is still in the game. “We often have the same winners, so we would love new competitors,” Eigenberger says as we wade through an ankle-height sea of small dogs.
“Are you looking forward to the race today?” I ask Peewee, who is distracted by an approaching Chihuahua. Obviously he’s pissed. “Why don’t you like little dogs? You are a little dog,” Eigenberger says.
Foxy and Porky, dogs of co-owner Sharon McElvain, are the shoo-ins. They keep up a strict training regimen year-round. “I see [Sharon] at home,” says Hannah Patterman, who works on the McElvain’s ranch, is engaged to Sharon and Guy’s son and also owns a wiener dog. “She lets them out and they go crazy, and she starts the [four-wheeler] and she drives after them as fast as she can until she’s in front of ’em, and then she does a big loop around the ranch, just to keep them fit. They’re athletes.”
“No one else does that,” says Pattermann.
This is the first of four weekends of racing, part of the HIPICO Summer Series and sometimes referred to as the Chorizo Wiener Race. I ask Pam McGroarty, McElvain’s sister, about the name’s origins. “You can’t call them bratwursts, because we live in America, for God’s sake,” she says.
Are there any surprising but adorable horse-dog friendships? Unfortunately not. “The dogs are fine with the horses,” Pattermann says. “Sometimes they sniff them. Other times they look at them like ‘Holy crap, you’re huge,’ and then walk away.”
The dachshund was originally bred in 16th-century Germany to hunt badgers. The breed’s popularity as a US household pet dropped severely during World War II due to its use as a German symbol in Allied propaganda. At the mid-century, however, the dachshund re-entered American hearts and homes, and today it’s one of the most popular breeds. The standard, according to Dachshund Club of America, is “clever, lively and courageous to the point of rashness. … Any display of shyness is a serious fault.” Shy dachshunds be damned!
Organized dachshund racing started in the 1970s, and the 2007 dogumentary Wiener Takes All revealed the sport’s national circuit to be cutthroat. Doping, match-fixing and dog abuse pervaded; at HIPICO, the races are more easygoing.
Spectator Amelia, who is six and no bandwagoner, says Porky is still her favorite dog. “Maybe when I’m older I can buy a wiener dog, because our Chihuahua isn’t … she could blend in, but she won’t come after … she’ll come after a squirrel …” she considers.
Dachshunds, dachshund mixes and all other small dogs are invited to participate in the Chorizo Wiener Dog races.
HIPICO Santa Fe Summer Series: After 2 pm Saturdays through Aug. 11. Free. HIPICO Santa Fe, 100 S Polo Drive, 474-0999; hipicosantafe.com.