Dogs dive right in at competition |

Dogs dive right in at competition

Cassie Pence
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Bling of Vail jumps off the platform during the Diving Dog championships at the Teva Mountain Games Saturday in Vail. (Shane Macomber/Vail Daily)

VAIL ” It’s always a risk inviting local dogs to compete in a pro-dog challenge. But this year at the Teva Mountain Games, a contingent of local pooches were there to challenge the top dogs.

Out of 37 dogs who qualified for the Diving Dog Challenge Saturday at Teva Mountain Games, the top eight were mostly local and never before competed in any sort of doggy contest. It was the first time at Teva that local dogs were allowed to qualify.

“You have some really good dogs up here,” Kathy Carson said, president of Carson International, the event production company that organizes the dog challenge for Purina.

The Diving Dog Challenge is basically a doggy long jump. Pooches run down a platform and huck their furry carcasses 20 to 30 feet in the air after a toy and land in a pool. The jump is measured for distance based on where the dog’s nose is when its chest enters the water.

Dogs in the high country, where most of the water is in the form of snow, don’t have much opportunity to practice. Not like Little Gunnar, Bart Richardson’s yellow lab, who won the challenge with a world-class jump of 28 feet 10 inches. He trains an hour and half six days a week.

“We do a lot of conditioning,” said Richardson, who hails from Ripon Calif. “We do a lot of pool work, a lot of swimming, a lot of training with the Frisbee and a lot of jumping in the pool.

“We compete in as many events as we can get in to,” Robinson said.

And Nevada has developed a show-biz style all her own. Before taking the leap, Nevada runs to the pool and stops, hanging her little paws off the edge. She stares into the water, stoking herself up, planning her attack, and the crowd goes wild. Then she sprints back to Robinson at the far end of the platform, spins in circles, and Robinson holds Nevada up for one last peek at the toy she’s about to fetch before releasing her.

The local dogs frolicked with each other in the grassy area behind the stage while the pros sat underneath the VID tent being toweled off by their owners.

“Fischer will chase a tennis ball off a cliff if you’ll let him. He’s obsessed,” said the co-owner of a local golden retriever, Sadie Riddleberger.

Riddleberger and Fischer’s dad, Chandler Jones, who live in Simba Run, tried building a practice dock over the East Vail pond in Big Horn Park, but it wasn’t long enough, they said. Fischer learned to jump off a dock in Maine.

Troy Dixon’s black lab Sammy, both who were born and raised in the Vail Valley, prefers launching into the pond after ducks.

“She’s not used to water in a tank,” Dixon said. “The first time she tried it, she just fell in.”

But the smartest dog at the Diving Dog Challenge was without a doubt Duncan, Drew Greer’s golden retriever, of Summit County. Instead of jumping in at the furthest point away from his ball, like all the other dogs did, Duncan ran around the pool’s edge, calculated the shortest distance from him to his toy, and then dove in.

“He dried off from the practice round and didn’t want to get wet again,” Greer said.

Smart dog.

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