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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hot Dogs Take a Bite out of Westport

Hot Dogs Take a Bite 
out of Westport:
Reunion draws dachshund 
owners to Jesup Green
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – Chocolate smoothies. Black and tans. Reds. If you weren’t in the know, you’d think you were at a drink sampling event. But these were descriptions of dogs – dachshund breeds to be exact.

They could all be found at the annual Dachshund Reunion, held early afternoon Saturday at Jesup Green. The gathering attracted about three-dozen owners and their dogs, to participate in a silent auction, parade and dog-specific Olympic-style games. All proceeds benefited animal rescue organizations.

“This is the 13th annual reunion, and it’s always held on the Green, which is nice and shaded and good for the dogs,” said Sheila Weiss, the event coordinator and a member of the Connecticut Yankee Dachshund Club. “Besides visiting with fellow dog owners, attendees can look at photos of rescue dogs seeking homes,” she said. “It’s also an opportunity to meet breeders.”

Clawing her way from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Trudy Kawami, a long-time friend of Weiss’, said she has been finding homes for dachshunds for the past 20 years. Onsite with Raven and Driad, her own wire-haired dachshunds, Kawami described the breed. “They are handy because of their size – they fit under the furniture,” she said. “But they’re not just little foo-foo dogs. While they do like to sit on your lap, they like to hunt, too. Dachshunds are dwarf hounds, developed for specific hunting purposes and still have those instincts. They have high prey drive, and may go after the neighbor’s cat or squirrels. They’re small but serious, and not the dog for everyone all the time.”

Fairfielder Meredith Ganzak, attending with her smoothie dachshund Buttons, described her own dog. “Buttons digs a lot,” she said. “When she was a pup, she would love to escape and get into the marsh. Even though she’s small, she barks like crazy when someone’s at the door. However, once they’re inside, she attacks them with kisses. She’s a good dog, and as she’s gotten older, I still see the puppy in her.”

Manning a literature table, Debbie Ruderman, president of the CT Yankee Dachshund Club, described her organization. “We have about 20 members statewide, all dues-paying,” she said. “Their fees go to help fund our annual specialty shows. The main one occurs in Groton. We meet four times a year, with a summer picnic of club members and a Match and Fun Day, which will be in Trumbull’s Old Mine Park in August this year.”

Ruderman said she has owned four dachshunds over time. “They’ve got a great personality, and are exuberant and friendly,” she said. “They want to greet everyone they meet, but are also very stubborn. My husband always says they’re little dogs with big personalities.”

Kicking off the proceedings, Kawami, with a big personality herself, summoned dog owners to round up and march their pets around the Green, organizing the dogs into three main groups: smoothies (the classic wiener dog), long-hair and wire-hair.

A “Licky Kisses” challenge followed, wherein several dogs competed to give their owners the most kisses in 30 seconds. Debra Cuozzo’s dachshund Mocha took that honor, with 53 licks.

Taking honors in the tail wagging contest, with a matching 53 wags, was Ghia, a wire-haired dachshund owned my Amanda Nielsen, wearing a “My Wiener is Very Friendly” t-shirt.

“I saw the event notice and had to go,” said Nielsen. “Ghia’s a real tail wager.”

Due to a second place tie in the tail wagging contest, Kawami announced a Wag-Off between dachshunds Buttons and Peanut. “I think Buttons got tail fatigue,” joked Kawami as Peanut took the prize.

Another highlight was the Vintage Oldies But Goodies competition, designed to identify the most senior dog in attendance. That crown, or medal in this case, went to Pumpernickel, at 15 years and four months. Owner Anne Toombs, of Southport, said, “We got Pumpernickel as a rescue dog. She’s in great shape for her age and is friendly to everyone, very well-mannered.”   

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