Photo of Golden Retriever dog playing in the creek.

Splash Down!!!

by Kris Phillips

Dock DivingThere’s been all sorts of fun stuff in the media lately about Space travel, and high altitude orbit. I mean who didn’t watch SpaceX launch the first all civilian crew into space and live vicariously?! Ok, I’ll be totally honest, since we don’t let people go on safari without a guide I do wonder about the wisdom of sending them off the planet without a professional. But hey, that kind of thinking is probably why I’m just a lowly pet photographer and not a space travelling gazillionaire.

And by now you’re wondering if I’ve just totally gone off the rails, what does space travel have to do with dogs anyway?! Well, a few weeks ago I got the pawesome opportunity to photograph some dogs who may or may not have rocket fuel in their veins at the Colorado K9 Classic WCDH hosted by Jaspers Splash Zone.

While the sun was absolutely scorching that day the high flying canines had no trouble cooling off in style. And you know the funniest thing, it turns out the very best shots were caught while standing in the splash zone *wink, wink*. Though I had to keep a rag handy to dry my lens between launches.

In case you’re still wondering what the heck I’m talking about. You’re about to be in the know. Dock Diving is defined as a dog sport in which dogs compete in jumping for distance or height from a dock into a body of water. No doubt this sport started with a bunch of bored duck hunters arguing over who’s dog could jump the farthest, but it’s now one of the fastest growing dog sports in the country.

And what’s not to love?! You get to hang outside with your dog and chuck a toy into a pool in front of a cheering crowd. Strict guidelines are in place about the size of the pool and the dock to ensure the dogs are super safe. And really this is one of those sports that a dog either loves to do, or doesn’t participate. There’s no making a dog jump off a dock.

Some dogs catch the toy mid-air, and the still shots from their crazy mid-air acrobatics had me simultaneously awed and laughing. After a full 8 hours of photographing dozens of dogs make hundreds(?) of jumps I was left exhausted, sunburned, exhilarated and ready to try it! Though I was disappointed to find out people aren’t allowed in the pool. Which is probably best since I can’t jump very far anyway.

I just happen to know a little dog who absolutely LOVES water, and Fetch, and mostly water, and TOYS. May I introduce the youngest member of our household Freki! Unlike every husky I’ve ever shared my life with this little Shep-sky seemed to really dig the water. 

I’d briefly met Yvet, the owner of Jasper’s Splash Zone, the day of the event. But as anyone who’s ever hosted a large event knows, the host is always pulled in a hundred directions. So it wasn’t until I reached out to learn more about trying the sport myself that I got a real chance to chat with her. I was also treated to a tour of the almost ready facility. You see Jasper’s Splash Zone has just moved to Longmont from the Springs.

As the Mom of what’s often been described as a Tasmanian devil in wolves clothing, I was a bit nervous to introduce Freki to anyone in the dog biz. But Yvet was gentle and kind with him and me. We started our introduction with teaching him the ramp. This is how dogs get back out of the pool and super vital for them to understand. It’s also a less intimidating way to get into the pool for a dog who isn’t a pro yet. 

She strapped on waders and kept coaxing him with a variety of toys that Freki had already decided were super fun. And when he made the leap we cheered and called him back, and Yvette gently guided him by the lifejackets back to the dock. Really the only hard part was getting the toy back from my little tug-o-war master! But once the toy was free it was flying into the pool again with Freki right behind.

After many succesful retrieves off the ramp we gave him a try at the “training dock” which is a little lower than the regulation dock. Freki almost did it but ultimately decided he wasn’t quiet ready and we went back to the ramp to finish on a high note.

As Yvet and I chatted about things I needed to work on (mainly getting the toy back) Freki ran up and down the dock shaking and flinging the toy to himself. But I knew he was sold on the idea when he went running full speed, toy in mouth, and launched himself off the ramp into the pool for a victory lap, just because.

Dog tentatively jumping off dock

Taking the leap on something new can elicit anxiety if even the most adventure hardy of us and tossing in a wild card 9 month old hellion certainly upped the ante. But Yvet, Kathy and everyone I met at the original competition made me feel right at home among these avid dog enthusiasts!

With the cooler weather Jasper’s is moving indoors, if you want to keep up on the latest about their brand new facility, hit up their Facebook Page.


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