Maci Gary tried her hand at basketball and cheerleading. Neither one stuck.
The Indian Creek sophomore instead found her calling when she teamed up with her dog, a 3-year-old chocolate lab named Hudson.
The pair recently took third place among youth handlers in the Big Air competition at the DockDogs World Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Dock diving is a relatively new sport, having first popped up in the late 1990s. While there are several different governing bodies with slightly different rules, the general premise is the same across the board — get your dog to jump as high or as far as possible from the dock by having him or her chase a small toy, called a bumper, into the water.
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“I set him back all the way on the dock and I tell him to stay,” Gary explained, “and then when I’m ready I’ll hold the bumper down near the dock and I’ll just say, ‘Get it, get it, get it,’ and he knows what to do.”
DockDogs has three competitive disciplines: Big Air, Extreme Vertical and Speed Retrieve. Gary and Hudson competed in Big Air, which is basically a long jump for dogs. Hudson turned in a jump of 22 feet, 10 inches.
Getting him out to that distance took time. When Gary first started Hudson in diving classes almost two years ago, he was hesitant to jump into clear water (competitions take place in a pool) and needed to use a life jacket.
“He would barely even try to get in,” Gary recalled, “but after the third class or so, he started jumping off the puppy dock.”
Once Hudson got over his initial trepidation, he took to it well. Now, in addition to excelling in Big Air, he’s starting to compete in the other disciplines more frequently. The distance jump, though, remains his forte.
The two will be back in action next month when they travel to Orlando, Florida for the North American Diving Dogs/American Kennel Club National Championship.
That will be the last big event for Gary and Hudson in 2017, but there figure to be plenty more in their future.
“I plan on doing this for a while,” Gary said.