by karen solomon
IT'S ONE THING to own a dachshund and love it and take it to the park. It's an entirely different bowl of kibble to suddenly find yourself standing over 50 dachshunds in the brutal spring heat, encouraging the four-inch-legged love of your life to get in there and "bob for weenies" (i.e., cut-up pieces of hot dog floating around in a baby pool) in the hopes of winning a prize.
And yet, on a recent April weekend, I somehow managed to convince my partner, Matthew, to cart myself and Mabel, our four-year-old smooth, red barking machine, up to the first-ever Dachshund Festival held at Guerneville's Inn at the Willows. It seemed like a tremendously good event idea: Frolicking, ridiculously shaped dogs chasing one another for my amusement. Ice cream-eating contests. Swimming in the river. Digging for bones. Good-natured and comical dachshund races, naturally. And of course, where there are doxies, there is also the pursuit of Mabel's favorite sport: begging for food.
After quickly booking a cheap room at the B&B, there was little to do but look forward to the innocent canine pleasures to come. What didn't don on me, however, was that all of these canines would bring their human companions, and that, gulp, Matthew and I would have to talk to them. What was the profile of a dachshund owner? We wondered if we'd be the youngest people there (we weren't). Or the only ones with a shred of sanity (to the contrary).
Certainly there were a few stage mothers in the group – the occasional snobby comment regarding rescues, like Mabel, who obviously weren't from "good breeders"; dachshund-themed jewelry and T-shirts, proudly worn like Christmas sweaters; and doxies sporting handmade skirts and waistcoats. But for the most part it was a suburban crowd of people who are just crazy about their dogs. There's a certain comfort, and I think we all felt it, of sharing a common bond. And more important, we also shared the comfort of being at a cook-out with a bunch of dachshunds and not having to listen to a single joke about how we should throw the dogs on the grill, yuck, yuck.
But other than these commonalities, I wondered why dachshund owners would seek out the company of their own kind exclusively. For answers I turned to Caroline Chau, event organizer, initiator of the Mid-Peninsula Dachshund Group, instigator of the Contra Costa Dachshund Group, and the continuing motor behind the San Francisco Dachshund Group. Chau is trying to find someone to lead the East Bay leg of the doxie monopoly.
"I've not met a single jerk yet!," says Chau of her fellow dachshund enthusiasts. When pressed for a reason for the doxie-only club, she explains, "I grew up with doxies, and they're such lovable little dogs. At these events we don't just meet and have fun; we talk, and we try to help the owners understand their dogs better." Chau also likes to take her dog, Bailey, with her wherever possible, including the Stanford Mall and outdoor restaurants, so organizing events around her four-legged friend seemed like a natural progression. And, she adds proudly, "it's the shortest dog, and they just play better with each other."
Chau's mid-Peninsula group started with a flyer posted in the Foster City dog park last June. While the first gathering drew about 15 dogs, later events attracted closer to 150. (Chau doesn't keep track of how many people attend, just the dogs.)
Bay Area doxie owners out there who missed the big gathering in April have little reason to fear. We seem to be in the midst of a dachshund-event renaissance, and opportunities abound this summer. The first annual Wiener Roast (BYO weenies) in Carmel-by-the-Sea has come and gone (it took place last Sunday on Carmel Beach). But the Dachshund Rescue of Northern California is having its second annual Dachshund Rendezvous in the Sacramento area June 12 (11 a.m. to 3 p.m., exact location TBA), and the San Francisco group has a picnic in the works for sometime this summer (details to come). Plus, the Dachshund Festival, seemingly a success, is likely to happen again next year.
Weekly events include S.F. gatherings on Saturdays (10 a.m.) in San Francisco's Buena Vista Park by a group that also has occasional outings to Fort Funston, Crissy Field, and elsewhere and might add a later Saturday meeting time at a different S.F. location. And on Saturdays in Foster City (3 to 5 p.m.), a big crowd gathers at the dog park on the corner of Foster City Boulevard and Bounty Drive. Here, the weenies will always roam free.
If you go
To have your finger on the tiny pulse of the Bay Area dachshund scene, join the discussion and events list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SF_Bay_Dachshunds/.
May 19, 2004