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Last updated: Sun. Jun. 15, 2014 - 12:01 pm EDT

Wiener dogs rule day at Headwaters as first-timer wins annual race

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FORT WAYNE — It was wiener dogs of all sizes, colors and demeanors as far as the eye could see. There was wiener dog-themed clothing, dog leashes and even a wiener dog mascot.

Such was the scene at Headwaters Park on Saturday as dachshunds competed in the annual Wiener Dog Nationals, held in conjunction with Germanfest.

Hundreds of spectators turned out to watch more than 100 dogs compete in the “nearly” 8-meter race sponsored for the past several years by Federated Media.

Grand champion was Chelsea, owned by Erica Smith of Fort Wayne and her boyfriend, Austin Biefness of Denver, Colorado.

It was the first race for 2-year-old Chelsea, but she had trained with the family’s golden retriever, Smith said.

“Chelsea can outrun the retriever,” she said.

Smith and Biefness also trained themselves – watching wiener dog races on YouTube, Smith said.

In addition to a large trophy, Chelsea took home a $250 gift certificate from Uncle Bill’s Pet Center and one month’s free service from Poop Happens.

A deaf dachshund made it through two rounds before losing in the third, said Kristin Craft, promotion director at Federated Media. And a family traveled from Detroit specifically to race their dog Cookie.

“People love to come and participate or just watch,” Craft said. “It’s a very family-fun event.”

In the heat of the races, in which two dogs at a time competed, some ran to their owners with ears flying in the air and what seemed to be grins on their faces, and some lost because they stopped to sniff around.

It was the first time Josh and Alyx Lemcke had raced their miniature, short-haired dachshund, Layla, in Fort Wayne.

The couple recently moved back to the Fort Wayne area after living in Chicago for the past four years, Josh Lemcke said.

Layla competed in three races in Chicago and finished in several heats, Alyx Lemcke said.

“It’s better here because they have their own lanes,” she said. “In Chicago, it was in a big, open field, and Layla would get confused and want to play with the other dogs.”

It was the same story in Fort Wayne as the dappled silver and black Layla – who “mommy” Alyx Lemcke said was a “daddy’s girl” – finished first in her heat but did not go on to finals.

Looking very chic with a pink, flower-accented kerchief around her neck to complement her one blue eye and one brown eye, Layla did not seem bothered in the least.

Laura Grabowski of Fort Wayne sat under a shade tree with her sister and watched the races with Grabowski’s baby dachsy, Strudel.

After attending the Wiener Dog Nationals two years ago, Grabowski decided she wanted a dachshund.

Strudel, only 4 months old, is too young to race.

“We’re here to observe and for Strudel to meet with her own kind. All she has at home are stupid cats,” Grabowski said, laughing.

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