If there is a more hilarious and fun-filled way of spending a nice summer day than watching eager dogs leap from a platform into a giant above-ground pool to retrieve a toy, I have yet to come across it.
Participants in this weekend’s Western Cup Challenge at Eromit AIRcademy in Quesnel would probably agree.
The three-day event (held Aug. 9-11) saw 50 teams from Kamloops, Kelowna, the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Alberta, Saskatchewan and even a team from Idaho compete in a series of events that test the dog’s agility, speed, leaping ability and partner co-ordination.
Erin Lynes, who hosted the event, fell in love with the sport and kept getting deeper into it to the point where she now hosts one of the biggest events in Western Canada.
“We breed Labrador retrievers, and we’re always looking for fun ways to tire them out in the summer and of course they love swimming and retrieving,” she said. “We heard about dock diving from one of our puppy owners who had attended a world championship event and done really well, so we thought ‘hey, maybe our dogs would like this too,’ and that spiralled into ‘maybe we should get our own pool,’ which turned into ‘maybe we should host some events,’ and it went from there.”
Friday afternoon’s event was the Fast Fetch. Dog owners would toss a toy into an above-ground pool from a runway/ platform a couple feet high. Once the toy hits the water, the dog is free to leap after it, retrieve it and bring it back to it’s partner. A ramp to the right of the platform is set up for the dog to climb.
The toy is tossed twice more, and the score is determined upon how much distance the dog covers and the speed in which they are able to do it.
Teams also competed in the hydrodash, which is like a swimming race; the air retrieve, which involves a toy suspended on an apparatus which the dog will try and knock off; and the big event, which is a distance jump competition.
While a few different breeds are present, the Labrador retrievers were the predominant breed.
“Labs love the water, they love retrieving, they’re pretty much enthusiastic about life and eager to play whatever sport they can, so it’s definitely a perfect fit for that breed,” said Lynes.
People in the crowd were cheering themselves hoarse for all the competitors. Camaraderie was high, and everyone was rooting for their friends.
Occasionally, a dog just wasn’t interested in retrieving, or would end up in the pool with two toys and couldn’t decide which one to bring back, and the laughs would peel out from everyone.
Leanne Dixon came to the competition from Kamloops and was competing with her super enthusiastic young black Lab pup, Vino.
“We really enjoy the sport, the atmosphere and the people that participate in it, and we’ve been competing for the last four years,” she said.
She added the dog’s enthusiasm for the sport and the drive for the toy is what makes great diving dogs. Her Vino was a great jumper with a wet but definitely bright future.