From the time Dan Wehunt wanted a dog, he wanted a German shorthaired pointer. A track and field teammate at the University of Florida had one, and whether it was the breed’s fashionable coat, eagerness to please or irresistibly friendly eyes and smile, Wehunt knew he had to have one.
After graduation, he found Odessa, the quietest in her litter, but the sweetest, too. He took her home and trained her with his twin brother. He didn’t know she’d grow up to be a world champion.
Odessa and Wehunt, 28, won the State Street Mile and Dog Mile World Championship in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Sunday. Their time, 4:06.2, is the fastest recorded canine and human mile ever run.
“Honestly there’s not many opportunities to run with your dog,” Wehunt said in a phone interview.
Well, at least not competitively.
German shorthaired pointers are “gun dogs,” bred over centuries to accompany sportsmen on hunts for water fowl, possum, rabbit, raccoon and deer, according to the American Kennel Club.
“GSPs have a very high energy level and a strong prey drive,” according to the AKC’s breed profile, “and they need an owner with an active lifestyle to guide the dog’s exuberance and intensity into positive outlets.”
For Odessa, who is now 4½ years old, that manifests into a love of sticks and tennis balls.
“I can throw a ball with the Chuckit [a ball-throwing wand] back and forth without stopping, if it’s a cool day, for an almost unlimited time,” Wehunt said. “It just ends up being time to go. Like, it’s been 30 minutes, and you don’t look tired — or at least as much as I thought you would.”
One solution to burn up all that energy: Just run.
By the time Odessa was a couple years old, Wehunt had moved to Bozeman, Mont., to design and build shoes for hiking company Oboz. He was a few years removed from his competitive track and field career in college, and ready to take up the sport again. The temperate climate made training easier than back home in Florida, and Odessa (“Dess,” for short) could be a good running buddy, he thought.
He trained her to run beside him off leash, then purchased a harness that attaches to her collar and wraps around his waist. Now, they run 40 miles together a week.
“She just had a knack for it,” Wehunt said. “She just ends up just jogging next to me. She could just go for hours and hours and hours . . . Most friends, when they meet her, they’re very impressed. They say, ‘How does your dog just keep going?’ ”
He found the State Street race two years ago and planned a vacation road trip this year around the it, with a visit to his brother in Portland, Ore., and camping in Zion National Park in Utah also on the agenda.
And when the race began, Wehunt and Odessa broke to the front and left the pack behind.
“She could have ran three [minutes] flat the other day,” Wehunt said. “I was holding her back, to be honest.”
Their world record result was seven seconds better than the previous mark, set by a Weimaraner named Kaydom and his human Brian Duff in 2016.
Race organizers rewarded Wehunt with a plaque and Odessa with lots of pets and ear scratches. But after a while, all the attention got to be a little too much for the dog. To calm down, she and Wehunt jogged away.