ABQ Free Press spoke with event organizer Micaela Brown about the second annual Running of the Chihuahuas, and how New Mexicans celebrate these little dogs with big racing dreams.
BY M. BRIANNA STALLINGS
She was found on the West Mesa in 2014. Full-grown but still tiny at under four pounds, two friends saved her from the talons of a Harris’ hawk. She needed a home.
The second I saw those ears that took up half of her head, I knew she was my dog. Holly, my rescue Chihuahua, has been one of my most faithful pets – running circles around me in the yard, burrowing under blankets to cuddle by my side, giddy every time I return home.
Chihuahuas are a beloved breed among many New Mexicans, so much so that when Micaela Brown of Inspire People Media relocated to Albuquerque in 2015, she launched The Running of the Chihuahuas. The event was such a success that Brown is bringing it back this year.
The Second Annual Running of the Chihuahuas runs from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 20 at Balloon Fiesta Park (5000 Balloon Fiesta Pkwy NE). The event features a doggie/owner lookalike costume contest with $500 in prizes, a beer garden from Rio Bravo Brewing Company, food trucks and vendors, inflatable jumpers for the kids and a few surprises.
Tickets range from $10 to $35, and are available from eventbrite.com. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Paws and Stripes, a local nonprofit that trains shelter dogs to be service animals, then pairs them with veterans suffering from PTSD or traumatic brain injuries.
ABQ Free Press spoke with Brown about The Running of the Chihuahuas and how New Mexicans celebrate these little dogs with big racing dreams.
ABQ Free Press: You hosted the inaugural Running of the Chihuahuas in 2015, which turned out to be a hit. What inspired you to create it?
Brown: I’d just arrived in New Mexico. Within my first week, I saw at least five guys walking Chihuahuas. In any other state, men are not so excited to walk Chihuahuas. Here, it’s a badge of honor. Sure enough, I soon discovered that Chihuahuas are like the unsung heroes of New Mexico culture.
When I launched The Running of the Chihuahuas, I thought I’d get around 500 people. I just went on social media and started marketing it. We had 2,000 people show up, with 143 racing Chihuahuas. I knew I needed to do this again.
Why do you think New Mexicans have a soft spot for Chihuahuas?
New Mexico in general has a significant dog culture. PetSmart and Petco stores have the largest volume of sales in this market out of anywhere in the U.S. With Chihuahuas specifically, I think people just love the breed.
Tell me about this year’s event. How many races will there be?
I have three different categories. One is for Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes from five to fifteen pounds. Then I have The Race of the Littles, the dogs from one to four pounds. They don’t really run. They mostly just look cute. (laughs)
This year I’m also launching a new category. A number of people have asked for a tripod race [for Chihuahuas with three legs]. So I’ve got some tripods, and a couple of Chihuahuas with only two legs.
That’s a logical tie-in, since a portion of this year’s proceeds will benefit Paws and Stripes, which pairs service animals with veterans.
Yes, they’re the beneficiary this year. All of their dogs come from shelters. My whole family are military folks. If there is any way, shape or form that I can tie rescue dogs with veterans, I will. They are the organization that does both.
M. Brianna Stallings is a staff writer for ABQ Free Press.
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