'He loves swimming': Eckert's hosts dock-diving event for dogs

News-DemocratJune 13, 2013 

Three generations in a Freeburg family share an unlikely hobby.

Stacy Hughes, her 14-year-old daughter, Haley, and her mother, Dolly Mueller, travel to competitions where their dogs jump off docks into big pools of water.

It's known as "dock diving."

Hughes, 37, enters her black Labrador retriever, Coby, and occasionally her Australian cattle dog, K.C. Coby's farthest jump measured 18.6 feet.

"He absolutely adores (dock diving)," said Hughes, a dog groomer. "He loves to jump in the water. He loves swimming. He loves going after his toys."

Haley enters her chocolate Lab, Cayenne Pepper, and Mueller enters her chocolate Lab, Lindy.

"She's named after (pilot Charles) Lindbergh because we hoped she would fly," Hughes said.

Hughes, Mueller and Haley are three of nearly 100 people expected to enter dogs in Splash for Rescues, a dock-diving competition Friday through Sunday at Eckert's Country Store in Belleville.

It's being sponsored by Camp Bow Wow, a doggie day care and boarding kennel in Swansea, to raise money for Belleville Area Humane Society and other rescue organizations.

"It's to help them save more dogs and cats," said Camp Bow Wow owner Paul Stroh, 57, of O'Fallon. "But it's also a fun activity for the whole family."

People can register dogs for competition for $30 or just come and watch for free. Donations are welcome.

Gateway DockDogs will bring a 20-foot-long pool, as well as a 40-foot-long dock that allows dogs to get a running start before jumping.

"It's not just for big dogs," Stroh said. "Some of the little dogs can go quite a ways, too. We have a Boston terrier that can jump more than 18 feet. It's amazing."

Stroh also is expecting a Belgian malinois from St. Louis named Baxter, one of the top dock-diving dogs in the world. His 1-year-old son also will compete.

The distance event in dock diving is called Big Air. Other events measure how high dogs jump (Extreme Vertical) or how fast they fetch (Speed Retrieve).

Toys are used to motivate dogs to jump.

"They can be anything that's throwable, but not edible, not alive and not previously alive," Hughes said. "My dogs have a toy box that goes along with them, so they have a choice of what they want to play with, everything from tennis balls to bumpers."

Last year, Splash for Rescues raised more than $6,000 and helped eight dogs get adopted.

Gateway DockDogs is part of an organization called DockDogs Worldwide. Competitions are all across the world, including several in the St. Louis area.

"It's a big attraction," said Becky Androff, a Camp Bow Wow employee. "People love to watch it. It's fun. The dogs look like they're having a blast, and people like to see how far they can jump and how high they can jump."

Androff's Australian shepherds Castle and Violet have participated in competitions for about a year. Castle will jump this weekend. Violet is on maternity leave.

"I got a new toy this year," said Androff, of Belleville. "It's orange and shaped like a bowling pin. Sometimes I use a rubber chicken. (Castle) loves squeaky things. The squeakier, the better."

Beyond competition, Splash for Rescues will include vendor booths and spay and neutering information. Rescue organizations will have dogs available for adoption.

The weekend's main goal is helping to save animals from neglect, abuse or euthanization, but Stroh wants people to have fun. That's why spectators are admitted free.

"We don't want to nickel and dime people," he said. "If they want to donate to a good cause and help rescue some animals, that's great. There's too many dogs and cats put down every year. There's thousands, just in Belleville alone."

At a glance

What: Splash for Rescues

Where: Eckert's Country Store, 951 S. Green Mount Road in Belleville

When: 5:30 p.m. Friday (training at 3 and registration at 4:30); 10 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday (registration at 9)

Events: Big Air, Extreme Vertical, Speed Retrieve and Iron Dog

Entry fee: $30

Spectator admission: Free (donations welcome)

Information: 618-803-9247 or dockdogs.com

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