gwen hunt is pictured with her racing dachshund named mocha at her home on wednesday, oct. 6, 2010. (phoot by jeff cooper/ salina journal) | buy journal photos


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and the wiener is …


by gordon d. fiedler jr. salina journal

when chris and gwen hunt were training their 6-month-old dasc- hund, mocha, little did they know they were

creating the shelly-ann fraser of wie- ner dogs.

the jamaican olympic gold medalist in the 100 meters is more famous than mocha — for now.

but mocha, the 21/2-year-old demi- tasse-size cupa joe is quickly creating a caffeinated canine buzz in the arcane sport of wiener dog racing.

except for some timing shenanigans at a race in oklahoma, mocha has won all her races. all two of them, so far.

“she’s never even lost a heat,” chris hunt said.

“the world record is 5.6 seconds for a 50-yard dash,” gwen hunt said. “mocha is at 5.8. (the world record) is what we’re going for.”

mocha made such an impression at a race in manhattan earlier this summer that she was invited back to the little apple for another race that was sched- uled for saturday. the hunts were confident mocha would top the podium once again.

she won her very first race, in abilene, a town more known for light- ening-fast leggy greyhounds, not sau- sage-shaped low-riders.

“she’s got two fingers between her chest and the ground,” chris said, dem- onstrating with two digits as mocha sat plastered in gwen’s lap.

“they’re very protective,” chris said. “they’re very concerned about right and wrong, and very orderly

about things.” mocha will lay down a withering

volley of barks at anything disorderly, say a neighbor looking out a window or a stranger in the livingroom who in mocha’s mind makes sudden moves toward gwen.

the dogs were bred as badger hunt- ers — “daschund” is “badger dog” in german. their long, slender bodies enable them to burrow through tunnels to flush out badgers.

racing was not supposed to be a featured trait. in fact, some daschund organizations frown on racing.

“they think these dogs shouldn’t be running because of their backs,” gwen said.

mocha obviously isn’t aware of those health warnings, which is just fine with chris.

“i think they should run because of their backs,” he said. “most of the veterinarians agree with me. part of the problem is they let them become heavy, and the weight is hard on their elongated spine.”

when in non-badger hunting mode, they are not particularly athletic and they don’t have good muscle tone.

“so their backs are more prone to being hurt,” chris said. “actually, back fusions and operations are very com- mon in these dogs because of their stature.”

chris believes running is preventive medicine.

“if she wants to run, she ought to run,” he said.

and run she does.

a champion sprinter, mocha is adept at long distances, as well.

“she’ll run six to eight miles with me,” said chris, a runner. “it’s stunning when she runs. she loves to pass people. if she sees somebody in front of her, mocha lives for it. she’s looking at them over her shoulder as she goes by — ‘you just got dusted off by a dog with no legs.’ ”

the two were out run- ning one night when they encountered — and smoked — a fellow jogger.

“the guy stops running, takes his cell phone out of his pocket and calls he wife or somebody. ‘you won’t believe what the (bleep) just happened. i got passed by a wiener dog.’ ”

mocha’s story started in the street in from of their south salina home.

“the second day we had her,” chris said, “we were standing out in the street, letting her go from one person to the other, taking further and further steps back.”

turns out, that’s how most races are run.

“there’s two handlers. one person would release to another. unknowingly, that’s how we trained her,” chris said.

the exception was the forgettable race in okla- homa.

“we got robbed,” chris said.

instead of racing head to head, in heats of four dogs each, two dogs at a time were released down wooden chutes. the ones with the

best times moved on. unfortunately for mocha,

operating the stopwatches were high school students who demonstrated a teen- age ennui of timekeeping, and mocha placed fourth. the winner was a local dog.

“i was mad because i know what she’s capable of,” chris said.

he tracked down the own- ers of the winning wiener and challenged them to a grudge match, with only bragging rights on the table.

“we lined them up and guess who won three times?” chris said. “i said, ‘how many times do you want to do this? how far do you want to go? fifty yards, quarter mile, six miles? let’s keep going.’ they got mad and left.”

mocha isn’t ‘roided out on performance-enhancing

kibble, but she does have a secret weapon, something other four-short-legged competitors lack: gwen.

mocha, bottom line, is a mama’s girl.

“she just wants to get to me,” gwen said. “she doesn’t care about anything else that’s going on.”

in one race, mocha thought one of the other dogs was headed for gwen. she veered into its lane to head it off.

“she had time to straighten that dog out and still won the race,” gwen said. “i’m her reason for being.”

said chris: “as long as gwen is at the finish line, we’re good.”

n gordon d. fiedler jr. can be reached at 822-1407 or by e-mail at gfiedler@salina. com.

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