Cantigny Park goes to the dogs with canine celebration
Disc-catching dogs get a lot of the glory at Cantigny Park's annual celebration of man's best friend.
Their agility demonstrations are an impressive display of canine athleticism. But don't underestimate the spectator sport of racing wiener dogs.
Sure, dachshunds do not represent the sporting group. But when these short-legged pooches take their places at the starting line, even cat ladies will find a reason to cheer.
You also can count on a Cinderella storyline when West Burb Wieners host the races at Cantigny's Dog Days event Saturday.
Debbie Doherty's 11-year dachshund, Fran, will race in the category called "Tootsie Roll," along with other doxies with special needs.
"Sometimes she runs," Doherty said. "Sometimes she doesn't."
Fran has chronic dry eye that has led to tunnel vision. But her proud owner will try to coach Fran through the race, guiding her running from start to finish from the sidelines.
"Yes, they have a stubborn streak if they want to," Doherty said.
Fran's owner adopted her as a rescue dog and participates in the races as a dachshund ambassador at Cantigny's Dog Days to showcase an affectionate and protective breed.
"They're just all cuddly," said Doherty, who lives in Crystal Lake. "I get greeted every time I walk in the door, and it just feels good."
Doherty serves as a board member of West Burb Wieners, a volunteer-run nonprofit group that raises money to pay for the medical bills of animals in shelter and rescue care. Doherty and other group members will man one of more than 50 vendor booths installed Saturday at Cantigny's Parade Field.
Dog Days is marking a decadelong run this year as a Cantigny tradition that typically draws roughly 1,200 dogs and 4,000 to 5,000 of their human companions.
But the wiener races deserve top billing at the event simply because of the aptly named age categories: "Little Smokies" (up to 18 months old); "Frankfurter" (18 months to 4 years old); "Bratwurst" (5 to 7 years old); "Senior Sausage" (8 to 12 years old); and "Tootsie Roll" (13 and older). Registration is $5.
"It's funny if they even go in the right direction," said Magan Ascher, Cantigny's director of visitor services.
OK, so we'll stop hounding you about the wiener races. All breeds of dogs will have a field day at Cantigny's Wheaton campus -- normally off-limits to pets.
"He has a blast," said Ascher of her yellow Lab, who has been to the event several times. "He loves playing with the other dogs."
Humans, too, will have a blast treating themselves to an assortment of food trucks rolling up to Cantigny for Dog Days. On the menu are Gnarly Knots Pretzel Company, Big Mama's Kitchen, Perfect Pop Kettle Corn, Grumpy Gaucho, Chicago Pizza Boss Mobile Pizzeria, Golden Eagle Hot Dogs and Cupcakes for Courage.
And for Fido? With temperatures expected to climb to 90 degrees, water will be available in the major tented areas and outside the Visitors Center. Dogs also can cool off in plastic swimming pools inside an off-leash pool area.
In the peanut butter licking contest, things can get a little more slobbery: Dog owners will be holding spoons of peanut butter in their mouths for their pooches.
"Make sure your dog actually likes peanut butter," Ascher advised. "We've had quite a few lick that, and they're like, 'What? I'm not eating that.'"
The racing wiener dogs are just as "funny to watch," Doherty said.
"They're just lovable," she said.
10th annual Dog DaysWhen: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Cantigny Park, 1 S 151 Winfield Road, Wheaton
Cost: Free with $10 parking
Highlights: Skydogz agility demonstrations; pet play area; on-site adoption services; stuff-a-dog kids craft ($6); Hula-Hoop contest; Lucky Dogs Lure Coursing; peanut butter licking contest; story time with "Rags the Dog and his Soldier"
Details: Dogs must have current vaccination tags and be sociable with other canines. No retractable leashes.
Info: (630) 668-5161 or cantigny.org