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Dive, dogs, dive

photoPhotos Courtesy/Tamra Spink Rachel competes in a recent Big Air competition. The 6-year-old chocolate lab is the 2012 regional champion in the novice Big Air competition, which earned her a spot in the world competition.

Rachel is a 6-year-old chocolate lab ... and a diva. She loves attention, so much that if she doesn’t get the proper crowd reaction she may not properly preform.

Cash, a 3-year-old black lab, is full of energy. His owners pushed him into competitive diving as an outlet for his vivacious personality.

Both are rescue dogs from the Loudoun County Animal Shelter.

And more than a year into their adventure in competitive diving,  owner Tamra Spink of Hamilton is on the road to the 2012 DockDogs World Championships in Dubuque, Iowa.

When Spink adopted the dogs, Rachel in 2008 and Cash in 2011, she had no idea she and her newly-acquired pooches would be on their way to world fame.

Spink got into the world of dive dog competitions through Chesapeake Dock Dogs, a regional affiliate club dedicated to bringing regional, quality events to the area, in September 2011.

“I just looked it up online and went to an event. I was hooked,” Spink said.

Members of the club include people and dogs from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Dogs compete in four categories: Big Air, Extreme Vertical, Speed Retrieve and Iron Dog.

Rachel is the 2012 regional champion in the novice Big Air competition, which earned her a spot in the world competition.

Big Air is a long jump for dogs. The dog, which is placed anywhere on a 40-foot dock, runs and jumps into the water after a throw toy.

For the novice division, the dog must be able to jump at least 10 feet.

Given Rachel’s “diva attitude” Spink said she’s not sure how the chocolate lab will perform this weekend.

“She’s kind of sassy and funny and sometimes she’ll jump and sometimes she won’t,” Spink said. “It’s really important that people are watching her and cheering for her.”

Of the two, Cash, is the most competitive. He competes in the experienced Big Air category and generally jumps up to 19 feet 11 inches high. His record is over 20 feet, Spink said, making him a contender for this year’s world competition.

The world record is over 30 feet, a feat that continues to improve, as more and more dogs get into the competition.

“In fact the dogs are getting so much better, they’ve had to get bigger pools to accommodate,” Spink said.

At the world competition, Cash will compete in Turbo Speed Retrieve and Warrior Iron Dog.

Cash earned his Speed Retrieve invitation at the Dock Dogs Eastern Regional Championships and his Iron Dog invite by being the top ranked Warrior competitor in the Dock Dogs Sanctioned Facilities rankings.

In the Speed Retrieve competition, dogs, in a timed event, are placed on a 20-foot dock. They’re released from the handlers at the sign of a green light and must pull a bumper toy suspended 2 feet from the far end of the pool. The Warrior Iron Dog competition is similar to a triathlon. Dogs registered in the Iron Dog competition will have their best scores in the Big Air, Speed Retrieve and Vertical Air categories calculated.

While Cash is in the Iron Division, world record holders are all in the Titan Division. Still the black lab has placed in the Titan Division in previous competitions.

“It’s kind of a rarity that a dog can do all three, which is why Cash has a good chance of being up on the podium,” Spink said. 

Spink and her family train the dogs by letting them get lots of exercise. During the summer, they used a neighbor’s pool to practice. They also play lots of keep away games with toys. The Chesapeake Dock Dogs club also has a facility where the dogs have practiced.

Still, Spink credits the dogs’ natural abilities for securing them a place in the world championships.

“Cash would go through fire for a toy and wouldn’t even notice,” she said.

To learn more about the Chesapeake Dock Dogs, visit http://www.chesapeakedockdogs.com. To learn about the 2012 Dock Dogs Worlds Championships, visit http://www.dockdogs.com/home-page.html.


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