On Saturday, when the wiener dogs take to the track at Los Alamitos Race Course for the 25th running of the Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals, local Seal Beach Dachshund, Wheezy, will be competing for the championship, and much more.
Wheezy, who will be 11 in September has come a long way in his own personal journey to even get a chance to compete. And while he’d like to win, his main goal is to help raise awareness of the need for older dog adoptions. Just eight months ago Wheezy was lucky enough to find a new home in Surfside with Ted Hiatt’s family, after being surrendered by his previous family as the result of a divorce.
Ted Hiatt, along with his wife, Cori Day and their son, Calvin, 12 and daughter Lane, 10, went to the shelter where Wheezy lived, looking to adopt a dog for the children. Calvin, a student at McAuliffe Middle School and Lane, a student at McGaugh Elementary, took a liking to young puppy named Linus. Linus had taken a shine to Wheezy and despite Wheezy’s attempts to be left alone by the young dog, Linus won him over and they had become best friends. When Ted submitted Wheezy’s application for the race, he detailed the story in an essay written in Wheezy’s voice.
“I was hoping they wouldn’t adopt Linus since he was by now the best buddy I ever had,” Ted wrote, imagining what Wheezy would have said. “I could tell they really liked Linus and he had fun playing with the kids. The bald guy walked over and gave me a nice pat on the head.”
Wheezy decided to follow Ted, who continued to give him attention. What Wheezy didn’t know was that when Ted was a boy, he had a Dachshund dog and Ted took a liking to the elder dog. Wheezy must have felt like he was blessed with a miracle when the family decided to take he and Linus home together.
While at the shelter, Wheezy had rubbed a large German Shepherd the wrong way and the dog bit him on the hind quarters, requiring surgery to repair the wound. His journey had taken a trip through surgery and rehab. He was also finally fixed while they were at it.
The next step in the journey was to get Wheezy down to a healthier weight. At the time of his surrender, Wheezy was severely overweight. His belly dragged on the ground. His short legs simply could not provide enough clearance for his sagging belly. A nice lady named Ally took care of him and began feeding him carrots.
The diet began to work and soon his belly wasn’t dragging and he had more energy to play fetch and tug-o-war with Linus. Now at home with the Hiatts’ Wheezy was told by the vet that he still needed to lose four pounds. At his size, that was almost equivalent to an adult human losing 80 pounds. But with a continued diet of mostly vegetables, Wheezy eventually dropped the four pounds.
One day at the dog park, Wheezy was running with a French canine and they wondered if he’d ever run in the Wiener Nationals. Wheezy and the Hiatts checked the website for requirements and decided to send in an entry request. Ted said he was hoping there was some kind of senior division, but no such luck.
However, Wheezy’s story was intriguing enough to get him an entry. Since he’s only lived with his new family for eight months, they don’t know much about his history. But at a practice session on Monday, Ted said the old dog was looking pretty spry.
“He did pretty well in his practice, maybe he’s done it before,” Ted said.
After a two-year hiatus, the Weiner Nationals are returning to Los Alamitos Race Course. The wildy popular event mixes the dog races in between running of the regular Quarter Horse races. There are several heats, with the winners of each preliminary 50-yard race moving on to the winner take all championship. The overall champion will be crowned, “Fastest Wiener in the West.” First place prize is $1,000, and the champion wiener will also receive a doghouse in the shape of a Wienerschnitzel restaurant, as well as a “Fastest Wiener in the West” trophy.
Win or lose, Ted said their biggest goal is to raise more awareness that senior dogs make for great rescue family members just like young puppies. And they might have some added experience to share. As the oldest dog in this year’s field, Wheezy is likely to be a sentimental fan favorite.
“He’s already the people’s champion in my book,” Ted said.
The event raises money to support the Seal Beach Animal Care Center. To date, the event has raised more than $300,000 for the local animal care organization.
VIP seating to enjoy the event is available by calling 714-820-2681. General Admission tickets on the day of the event at Los Alamitos are $3 per person. Children 17 and under are admitted free. Los Alamitos Race Course has free general parking.
For more information on the 25th annual Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals please visit losalamitos.com or call 714-820-2690.