Some taunted with name calling or high-pitched noises. Others clapped incessantly and pursed their lips with kisses. Then there were those who whispered soft encouragements and maybe even promises.
Anything to get their wiener dog down the race path first.
"We came in third in his heat last year," Charlie Frey, 39, of Toledo said of his dachshund, Rico, failing at first to mention that there are only three dogs in a race.
"We're hoping he's faster because we bought this snazzy harness," added friend Carl Detzel, 45, of Toledo. The harness Rico donned was emblazoned with orange flames.
Whatever it takes - that's what the owners of the nearly 100 dachshunds involved in yesterday's local Wiener Dog Nationals did to elevate their pint-sized pets to the top.
Presented by Stautzenberger College and its Vet Tech program, the race is in its fourth year and still maintains its popularity among dog owners of every breed.
A one-day event held at the Lucas County Fairgrounds in Maumee, the Dog Days of September was at one time held in conjunction with the Toledo Area Metroparks.
Now on its own, the day focuses, obviously enough, on dogs. The money raised through race entries is donated to the Dachshund Rescue of North America.
"Wiener dog people are an interesting breed. They are really into their dogs," said Scott Hammer of Stautzenberger College and race commentator.
About 10,000 dog lovers were estimated to have attended yesterday. Debbie Gensler of Toledo and her two children, Courtney, 16, and Shaun, 14, came with a mission - to find a new member of the family, and not necessarily one that was long and low to the ground.
Instead, several rescue and adoption groups were on hand with rambunctious puppies and laid-back dogs. The Genslers walked happily away from the Planned Pethood booth with Paco, an Australian shepherd mix, who was only 10 weeks old.
"I made them look all around and they kept coming back to this one," Mrs. Gensler said of Paco. "I've never [adopted] a rescue animal before, but there are so many dogs out there that need a home."
That's the message Kim McGuire hopes resonates through the thousands of dog lovers at yesterday's event. The executive director of All Rover's Rescue Friends, or ARRF, Ms. McGuire said that not only are loving homes needed but so are volunteer foster homes.
With several pens of puppies, brought to the organization in the form of pregnant dogs or rescues from puppy mills, Toledo-based ARRF has adopted out about 1,400 dogs in its three years as an organization, Ms. McGuire said. By midafternoon yesterday, seven dogs had already found a good home, she added.
Diane Dombrosky, 62, walked among the small, ankle-sized dogs with her full-size Doberman, Genie. The Toledo woman said she seizes any opportunity to enjoy a day out with her dog and was glad to see more dog-oriented events taking place in the area.
She did express concern for the stubby legs of the runners though, a problem that Genie certainly wouldn't have.
"I'm glad the grass isn't taller," she said. "It might be hard for them to run."
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