Hundreds of dogs and their owners gathered at the Tinsley Pavilion on the grounds of the Lee Civic Center on a blustery Saturday to take part in one of the biggest wiener dog races in the country.
The fifth-annual ASH Florida Wiener Dog Derby brought the fastest dogs in the state into town, with more than $10,000 in prizes on the line.
And as has been the case, we had another first-time overall winner in the masters division.
Karin Sliker of Orlando and Roxie after they won the Florida Wiener Dog Derby at the Lee Civic Center on Saturday. They won $5,000 in prizes and the coveted “wien jacket.”
The event, sponsored by Animal Specialty Hospital, brought more than 115 dogs that filled up the more than 200 entries into the race in the puppy, adult, wanna-be and masters divisions for the opportunity to win prizes and the coveted "Wien jacket."
"This is one of our biggest races yet. Our main sponsor has helped put this together for us and has given out more prize money than any other wiener dog race in the country," Wiener Dog Derby president Doug Dailey said. "Everyone is having a great time."
The event also featured numerous dog-related vendors, especially rescue organizations, a disc jockey, radio station 95.3 The River, and carnival food.
Dr. Michelle Carnes, a board certified veterinary neurologist with ASH, said her strong love for dachshunds was why her company got involved.
"We're trying to spread the word and educate the public about problems these dogs have," Carnes said, who has her own foundation that helps wiener-dog owners with low incomes treat fixable problems with their dog. "We want to let people know about our hospital. We're the only one to have in-house MRI and CT scanners."
Defending champion, Odie, was looking to repeat as champion, as was his owner, Megan Pfaff, who came from Key Largo to make it happen.
"It's something fun to do with your pet. If they enjoy it, you enjoy it," Pfaff said. "She didn't do too well in the adult division. She's resting up for the masters."
Odie was eliminated in the semi-finals.
While the dogs ran, their owners were at the finish line holding up their favorite lure to make the dogs run as fast as possible
When it came time for the finals, it was like a NASCAR race as most of the dogs raced to one side of the track, cutting each other off to get to the finish line, possibly because one of the owners held up a lure all the dogs wanted.
When the dogs sorted themselves out, Roxie, a 3-year-old owned by Karin Slifker from Orlando, was able to beat 2012 champion Jack and last year's third-place finisher, Coco.
"This means everything to this little girl. She's been training so hard," Slifker said as she put the "wien jacket" on her dog. "She has a couple championships, but this was the big one for her."
Slifker said they will go to nationals in the National Dachshund Racing Tour in Ohio in September.