DockDogs leap into action in Richland

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldJune 22, 2013 

Some dogs were so eager to chase a toy into the Columbia River on Saturday morning, they could hardly wait for their owners to give the command.

Others were more tentative. One dog leaned out from a dock at Columbia Point Marina Park so far, its nose almost touched the water.

But it refused to stick even one part of its body into the water to go after the toy.

More than 30 people brought their canines to enjoy the second annual Strut Your Mutt fun run and walk, sponsored by DockDogs of the Tri-Cities.

Afterward, about 50 people and more than 20 dogs gathered to watch a demonstration by some of the local club's 20 members. Then they got a chance to let their dogs try their paws at leaping after a toy.

"You have to love water," Suzanne Morrell, the club's vice president, told spectators.

Events included big air, long jump, speed retrieval, timed swim and extreme vertical -- the high jump.

Club members showed the place and send technique, where the owner places the toy in the water, walks with the dog back up the dock, and then lets the dog run down the dock and leap into the water.

More difficult is the chase technique, Morrell said, where the dog sits at the starting point and stays while its owner walks to the end of the dock, calls for the dog to start running, and throws a toy out to the water.

Dogs jumped to the accompaniment of whines and tale wagging from waiting dogs and some human applause.

As they exited the water -- some helped by their owners -- they shared their aquatic experience by shaking off water on owners and bystanders alike.

Sadie, a 2-year-old Labradoodle, was so eager to get into the water, she tried to convince her owner, Jeri Sullivan of Richland, to let her get in even before they started the fun run and walk.

"She loves the water," Sullivan said.

It was Sadie's first time trying to jump from the dock after toys. Sullivan started her off by throwing a ball a few feet from the dock, as club members recommended.

Sadie was a little unsure about leaping off the dock at first, but then she went after her bobbing orange ball.

Charlie, a 1-year-old chocolate Lab, enjoys retrieving toys from the water so much, Don Woolery of Pasco said his dog will try to pull him along the dock.

"It's really hard to control him," he said. "He's so excited to do it."

It's Woolery's first year with DockDogs, after learning about the club from a friend and seeing a competition at last year's Benton Franklin Fair.

Charlie is the only one of his two chocolate Labs to compete, but Woolery said Zoe, age 9, also loves water.

Both hesitated at first about jumping off, but quickly caught on, Woolery said. Now, they would jump all day long if he let them.

Morrell of Kennewick said DockDogs has become a hobby for her and Chaps, her 2-year-old Border Collie mix. They go to up to five competitions a year, where Chaps competes in the big air and speed retrieval events.

Chaps placed first in a masters division big air event at a Puyallup competition this year. His jump measured 21 feet, 6 inches, Morrell said.

"It's fun to see your dog having fun," she said.

There will not be a DockDogs competition at the Benton Franklin Fair this year. Morrell said the worldwide DockDogs organization made a decision not to hold it.

But dog owners who think their canines might enjoy DockDogs are welcome to check out the local chapter. For more information, go to www.dockdogsofthetri-cities.org.

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