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Park Pick: Speedy Wienies

Come to San Angelo for the dachshund races, stay for the scenery.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

On your mark – get set – go! And off they gallop, those speedy wienies down the grassy track. Some dash like the wind. Others stop. One goes sideways. At the finish line, owners wave and holler at their canines to hurry. Everyone cheers when a short-legged winner finally scrambles across the white chalk line and claims his reward – a doggie biscuit.

So go the wiener dog races at San Angelo State Park. Some contestants win, others lose. Casey, a black dachshund with three racing trophies to her name, has done both.

"At one of the races in 2005, she got so busy looking around that she forgot to run," chuckles owner Jeanne Jones of San Angelo. "Some people think you train dachshunds to race. But if there's a way, I haven't figured it out yet!"

This month, Casey will be among more than 50 dachshunds and other small-breed dogs that compete in the park's fourth annual wiener dog races, part of Dog's Day at the Park. The day-long festival will also feature costume contests, stupid pet tricks, and a "haunted" obstacle course, not to mention vendors and concessions. The fall event raises funds for Friends of San Angelo State Park.

Dogs on leash only, please, when exploring this 7,677-acre facility, which bounds O.C. Fisher Lake. Sixty miles of multi-use trails wind through the park's diverse habitat of grasslands, woodlands, pecan bottomlands and lake shoreline. The trail system features steep hills and rocky creekbeds that especially challenge mountain bikers. (This month, the park will host the Chaparral Challenge Mountain Bike Race, Sunday, October 19.)

Weekend tours take visitors to see the park's ancient Permian animal tracks, Indian petroglyphs, bison and longhorn herds, and the gravesite of an early pioneer killed by Indians. Overnight options include heated mini-cabins as well as tent and trailer sites.

As for dogs, San Angelo State Park has some of those, too. Well, sort of. Two barren, rocky areas in the park support healthy numbers of ... prairie dogs.

Dog's Day at the Park runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, October 25, at the park's Chaparral Pavilion. Enter through the South Shore gate. (Park entry fees waived for this event.) Proof of rabies vaccination required for all dogs. Some events require entry fees; winners will receive prizes. For more race information, call coordinator Gail Metcalfe at (325) 942-8096.

San Angelo State Park is located one mile north of San Angelo on FM 2288. From San Angelo, take U.S. 67 south to FM 2288 to the south shore entrance or U.S. 87 north to FM 2288 south to the north shore entrance. For more information, call (325) 949-4757 or visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/sanangelo.

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