Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tuffy at the Fair

My recent column on Childhood memories of the Topsfield Fair included a description of the Mutt race that was almost won by Tuffy.

Tuffy, a loveable mixture of French Poodle and German Shepherd, belonged to my cousin Janet Nichols Derouin and her family. They lived next door to us in Granddaddy's house. Tuffy was a good companion to the young Derouin boys, Chad and Monty.

The Derouins entered Tuffy into the Mutt Derby at the Topsfield Fair.  He had long legs and ran well, easily outpacing most of the other dogs.  He was likely to be the winner, Janet says, but another dog attacked him from the rear, nipping Tuffy's back legs repeatedly. To escape this problem, Tuffy jumped over the inner fence and ran across the center of the race ring. The crowd went wild cheering for Tuffy, but Tuffy was of course disqualified from that race. I clearly remember the crowd cheering as Tuffy jumped the fence and crossed the middle section, but I hadn't seen the attack on Tuffy's legs, so I thought he was just taking a clever shortcut to reach the mechanical rabbit. Not so, says my cousin. Tuffy was simply escaping a dog fight.  Anyway, the crowd loved the excitement of the Mutt Derby.

Dog fights and unpredictable behavior were common at the Mutt Derby. I just found (via Google Books) a 1953 Life magazine article, "Life goes to a Mutt Derby":
 At the Annual Mutt Derby, part of the Topsfield fair, 34 mongrels gathered on the track where greyhounds ran weekday nights. ...
Look at the photos!  Life magazine October 5, 1953, page 156.   Tuffy wasn't there that year, but you'll get a good idea of the scene and the chaos that can ensue when family pets are entered in a race.

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