We made our annual pilgrimage to Vancouver’s Hastings Park for the wiener dog races on Sunday, and perhaps that is part of the reason this whole Chuckwagons and Thoroughbred racing situation just won’t leave my head. A commenter to my anti-Chuckwagon rant of last week posted a link to Diane Francis’ article in Saturday’s Financial Post. Now Ms. Francis has a long and storied reputation as a crack journalist who won’t rest until her story is complete, but her article is full of assumptions based on misinformation she was no doubt hand fed by the Chuckwagon fascists. It’s kind of boring to just read a laundry list of all I find wrong in her article, so I’m going to roll a few of her faulty syllogisms into the body of my list of reasons we should all race Dachshunds and not Thoroughbreds.
Chorizo in fine, flying form. (Photo Credit Gerry Kahrmann, Postmedia News)
1. Wieners’ legs are too short to break – well, I suppose it’s possible but I’ve never heard of a wiener with a broken leg, and certainly not as a result of racing. It’s REALLY hard to break a wiener’s legs, especially compared to a Thoroughbred. Within five minutes of arriving at the 2010 wiener races, I witnessed a horse breaking a front leg in the very first race of the day at Hastings Park. I was very close to turning around with my unraced dog and heading home right then and there. I don’t really like crying on a sunny Saturday afternoon that was intended to be about the love of animals, not their destruction. So Diane Francis was told by a Chucker named Profit that “in chucks there are fewer injuries compared with jockey racing, about one-tenth as many. Wagon racing is way kinder than where these horses come from.” Appalling diction aside (Dear Ms. Francis: perhaps you should do your interviewees a favour and clean up their English at least a little – so they don’t sound quite so ignorant. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind that bit of journalistic license for the sake of their credibility), I’d really like to know from what hat he pulled that statistic. If by one-tenth he means total injuries, well that is easily explained by the fact that there are far more TB races in Canada in a year than Chuck races. I don’t want to be guilty of the same out-of-thin-air statistics that Mr. Profit has cited, but I’m pretty sure there are more than ten times as many TB races as Chuck races in a calendar year.
2. Wieners are never too old to race – one of the arguments put forth by the Chuckers in Francis’ article is that they are saving the lives of washed up race horses that are otherwise destined for the “glue factory” (yes, that term really is in the article). Here’s a little bit of logic-cum-ethics for you Chuckers: two wrongs don’t make a right. Justifying Chuckwagon racing by saying you are saving horses that have been discarded by their racing industry owners belongs in a slop bucket of crap arguments I wouldn’t use to fertilize mushrooms. Unlike TB racing, which is big business, or Chucker racing, which is smaller business but still about making money first and foremost, wiener racing is just for fun; and no dog is too old to waddle the 40 or so meters of the race track and put a silly smile of pure love on his owner’s face.
Yes, his name really is Oscar (photo credit as above)
While I’m poking holes in Ms. Francis’ logic, I have to mention that I think it was a poorly thought out idea to drag the oil sands into the story in an attempt to paint both Alberta traditions in unstained, cheerful colours. “Petroleum from the oil sands is no dirtier, in terms of emissions and other health hazards, than is California crude oil, many other imports to the US and certainly coal.” The oil sands are above reproach because they are no worse than coal. Brilliant.
3. Wieners are loved by their owners whether they win, lose or never leave the starting gate – the point of owning a race horse is to win money. The point of owning a wiener dog may be many-fold, but getting rich is never on the list. The obtainer of a wiener may be motivated by all kinds of incentives: the desire to have a dog you can name after mystery meat products, the need to receive unconditional love only a dog can give, the compulsion to bring into the family home a personality less submissive than one’s spouse, or the urge to have an animal so useless (who needs a badger hunting dog these days) that love could be the only motivating factor. Let’s compare wiener love to TB love. Mr. Profit proudly told Ms. Francis that he was in possession of two former race horses that had earned their owners a great deal of money – but they were still unceremoniously dumped into the Chucker industry. Here is what I have learned about Profit’s prize steeds, Prince and Grandy: Anglian Prince and Forever Grand finished second and third in the 2002 Queen’s Plate. Forever Grand won $1 million dollars for his owner Frank DiGiulio. After the Queen’s Plate he was demoted to claims races but was never claimed. A trainer named Bob Tiller apparently sold him to a man who is known to “come around the backstretch at the end of the year to get cheap horses to use in the chucks.” That man’s name was Grant Profit. A group called Prime Acres owned Anglian Prince, and reaped a tidy $600,000 off the horse’s race earnings. Prince also went the way of the claims, being picked up for 12 grand by a certain Sandy MacPherson, who kept him for a couple of races and then sold him to the Chuckers. Not to lump everyone into the same basket of bad eggdom, but I’m liking these people less and less. This kind of disloyalty to an innocent animal that does man’s bidding to its best ability is nowhere to be found in the world of wiener racing. Of the three siblings – Chorizo, Olive and Tinker, only Olive won any glory for her owner, Irene. She won her heat but as you can see from the video here of the final race, she used up all her speed on her first effort, finishing last in the final. Tinker, a racing debutante, fell victim to the fear and loathing caused by the atrocious banging of the gate. I was glad I didn’t bother trying to video Tink’s heat, since she never appeared from beneath the start gate. Not one ounce of love was in jeopardy because our dogs didn’t win.
4. Wiener racing doesn’t give gambling addicts one more place to ruin themselves – the only betting that goes on at wiener racing is the fun, informal kind among friends. It must be admitted, however, that the reason race tracks like Hastings Park bring on the wieners once a year is in an effort to get more people at the track and gambling. I’m not sure it’s a success in that regard. There are some pretty odd looking wiener dog people that turn up at the track once a year, but if I’m any indication of what most wiener racers do, a trip to the horse track remains a once a year event – though I must confess that after several ciders I did wager a fiver on Forceful Intention to place in the eightth Race. I came home five dollars poorer.
5. There’s no whipping in wiener racing – you can’t make a wiener run if he doesn’t want to run. You can’t actually make a wiener do much of anything if he doesn’t want to do it. As one dog expert famously said in the dogumentary about wiener racing, Wiener Takes All, if you are looking for a Yes man, a dachshund is not the breed for you. Chorizo raced in heat six this year. He must have watched too much Tour de France before the race this year, because he decided to let a little long hair named Ace be his windbreaker. He tucked in behind and followed him to second place – the bridesmaid yet again. But at least Chorizo ran toward the finish and to me. Several dogs never left the starting gate, either because they were terrified by the bang of the horse gates opening, or because their owners had unwisely chosen the one person their dog always goes to to be the one releasing the dog at the start. One dog in Chorizo’s heat ran the wrong way – all the way to the end of the race track, where he could be seen making overly optimistic attempts at leaping over the four foot high concrete wall. Yet another racer decided to take a bathroom break midway through the short trip from start to finish. In another heat, it was declared that there was no winner, since the only dogs to cross the finish line were escorted there by their handlers – and that’s not allowed. No, there is no forcing a wiener do do what he doesn’t want to do, or to try harder than he feels is prudent.
6. Wieners are not over-raced – or over-trained, for that matter. A friend who came to cheer on Chorizo and his sisters Olive and Tinker on the weekend suggested perhaps I should do interval training with Chorizo to improve his results next year. I responded that Chorizo already does interval training: he trains once right before the race, and then there is an interval of roughly 363 days. Ms. Francis quoted Chucker Profit as saying his horses race only 25 times each during the 50 day chucker season. She then regurgitated a bit more of the garbage Profit had fed her about the TB racing industry from which he had saved his horses: “these horses raced most days when they were younger back east.” Now might be a good time to reflect on Ms. Francis’ research approach, which was to interview a single Chucker for her article, and not to bother doing any fact checking or giving voice to the other side – the TB racing folks. I don’t know about anyone else, but 25 Chucker races sounds to me like a pretty rigorous schedule for a horse over a single summer.
In summing up, I am thoroughly unimpressed with Ms. Francis’ half assed approach to her topic. Oh yes, I also have my detractors, people who accuse me of not doing my research or of speaking about things of which I know little or nothing – in fact, someone who called him or herself ‘Kat’ accused me of that very thing in a comment on last week’s post. But today we are talking about someone else’s Fox News-style journalism. Perhaps Ms. Francis should spend more time covering things like wiener racing and less time drawing stupid parallels between environmental disasters and animal rights violations while lobbing half baked arguments in their defense.
What’s not to love? Olive (orange bandana), Chorizo (rear) and little Tinker with the long nose.