'She just loves to run': Story City wiener dog Millie Jo is three-time race champ
Wiener dog Millie Jo is ready to run before the race even starts. Her little legs scurry in place, digging at the ground in an effort to take off.
She’s held in place by Shannon Doise, her human “dad,” at the starting line of Prairie Meadows Racetrack’s annual wiener dog race.
She’s been here before. Three times, in fact. And she’s won it every time —a threepeat champ.
Millie Jo has her eyes on her human “brother,” Braylen Loots, a 14-year-old freshman at Roland-Story High School.
And she just can’t wait to get to him.
When the race official calls for the start of the race, Doise lets go. His job as “handler” in this race is done. Now it’s all up to Millie Jo.
She makes a beeline to Loots, whose job as “catcher” is to wait 30 yards away at the finish line and encourage his 15-pound dog to come to him.
Some dogs have stopped to look at other dogs, some have run into the crowd, some are still at their handlers’ feet and some are running toward their catchers.
Millie Jo is off like a rocket and crosses the finish line first.
That’s why she’s thrice been crowned the Prairie Meadows Wiener Dog Racing Champion — in 2018, 2019 and 2021. There was no race in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Millie Jo knows what she’s there for,” Doise says. “Even when we pulled into the parking lot this year, she knew where she was and what she was there to do.”
The fourth annual race was held June 20 at the Prairie Meadows Racetrack. Forty-eight wiener dogs showed up to compete, randomly selected from those who registered.
As the reigning champion, Millie Jo is automatically invited back each year.
Four heats of a dozen dogs each run to determine who will be in the final race. The first-, second- and third-place wiener dogs in each preliminary race move on to the final.
“Millie Jo is 4 years old, and we’ve had her since she was a baby,” says the pooch’s human “mom,” Alyssa Loots.
Alyssa and Shannon live in Story City and have three human kids, Braylen, Adaline Doise, 5, and Korbin Doise, 4. They’re all involved with taking care of Millie Jo, but she has a special bond with Braylen.
“We don’t do any special training to get her to run,” Braylen Loots says. “She just loves to run. And she always runs in a straight line — right to me.”
The winner of the final race gets a trophy and a $500 prize. There’s no racetrack betting on the wiener dog race.
“We need to go get her some new toys,” Alyssa Loots says. “We have told her she’s going to get some new toys.”
Millie Jo loves to cuddle with her family members and has her own pillow and blanket on Braylen’s bed. She loves to run in the snow and play on the family’s trampoline.
“She’s a little spoiled,” Alyssa Loots says. “During the school year, I work at the elementary school. And every day she goes to my mom’s — her grandma’s — to doggy daycare.”
“Grandma” Cheryl Eddy bakes chicken breasts for Millie Jo. Her family keeps the chicken in little bags and feeds her some with each meal.
Millie Jo is a schweenie, which is a dachshund-shih tzu mix.
“Her mom was a teddy bear, which is a shih tzu-bichon mix. And her dad was a red miniature dachshund,” Alyssa Loots says.
Millie Jo’s wins at Prairie Meadows caused her to be selected to participate in a similar race in Minnesota, but her family decided to pass on that opportunity this time.