I attended my first Chihuahua race over the weekend, my flock. I arose early Saturday morning, eager to see the spectacle of 300 pint-sized canines competing for the regional championship and a shot at the world title. As I pulled into the Petco parking lot in North Dallas, I didn't know what to expect. Would pugs be welcome? Would parimutuel wagering be involved? Would there be a tiny jockey on each Chihuahua? These and many more questions would soon be answered.
The crowd was a diverse mix. Though Chihuahuas were naturally most prevalent, many other breeds turned out to show their support. Camera crews were filming the scene, and a purported celebrity was interviewing the winners of each heat. Competitors came from as far away as St. Joseph, Mo., and San Antonio. I neglected to take my camera to properly document the spectacle, but it looked much like the photo above (from a different race locale).
The races began with the Chihuahuas taking their spots behind the starting gates. Each dog had a two-person team, one to hold the dog until the starting gun, and another to wait at the finish line and cheer the competitor on. Before going to the finish line, the human would often show the Chihuahua something to focus on -- a ball, bone or other trinket to motivate the racer. Most of the dogs zeroed in on the finish line with razor-like focus, eager to sprint toward their human. Unfortunately, that focus waned during the lengthy introduction that preceded each race. The emcee went over each dog's name and shared some key biographical information. And by the time the starting gate was finally raised, roughly two dogs per heat remembered that the finish line was their urgent destination. Others ambled about, sniffing one another, walking sideways and usually eventually finding their way to the finish line. Any dog who could gingerly trot in a straight line was likely to finish in the top 3.
None of the Chihuahuas displayed the lightning speed of my younger brother Wendell. But then again, even human sprinter Usain Bolt couldn't hang with the pup in last summer's Olympics. He is one fast dog. I'm convinced that if Wendell had been allowed to run, he would either finish first or dead last -- he does appear to suffer from attention-deficit disorder. But Wendell is a pug, the elite athlete of the animal kingdom, so obviously it would not be a fair competition.
Some have asked whether the infamous Sister Bella took part in the races. I did encourage her to compete, but she was a no-show on race day. It is probably just as well -- sadly, Bella will probably never outrun her demons.