EASTON — It was cold and blustery for the first day of North American Diving Dogs at the Waterfowl Festival, but the enthusiastic barking of early contestants wasn’t chilled on Friday, Nov. 8, at the Sportsman’s Pavilion on Dutchmans Lane.
Warm pool water, followed by after-dive dry towels provided by the human team members braced the canines for another round as they finished their practice dives. Dive teams from as far away as New Jersey, Virginia and South Carolina, as well as some local teams, practiced and competed in the 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. splashes.
Teams consist of one human and one dog. By the rules, the dog “dives” into the 40-foot-long pool to retrieve a favorite toy thrown by the two-legged team member, and the dive is measured for distance. Dogs and human team members could compete in Distance Jumping or Air Retrieve
Depending on the breed, size and experience of the dog and handler, the dive can be anywhere from 1 foot to over 20 feet.
More than happy to be the ones getting wet, the dogs performed multiple retrieves in the chilly wind. Most of Friday’s competitors were first-timers.
However, second-year veteran “Louie,” a black and white smooth fox terrier from Virginia with his handler Sharon, loudly and repeatedly let his team members understand he was ready to dive in.
Other dogs were “accidental contestants” whose owners had come into town for the Waterfowl Festival and happened upon the North American Diving Dogs pool.
Once the dogs figured out that there was a body of water they could jump into with their favorite toy, there was no staying dry. No dog is compelled or forced to go in the water — a strict rule of the Diving Dogs competition.
If the dog fails to enter the water on his or her own after four minutes, the team has to make way for the next competitor. There was no hesitation by any dog to dive in multiple times.
Pete and Alice from Charlotte, N.C., were in town visiting friends and brought their three dogs: Chesapeake Bay retriever “Abbey Road,” and golden retrievers “Lucy in the Sky” and “Duke of Earl.” Abbey, the tomboy of the trio, was the only one who took a dive in the pool and seemed to thoroughly enjoy herself, while her siblings decided to stay dry and well groomed.
Easton resident Mike Dietz brought his yellow Labrador retriever “Wilson” for a round of practice retrieves, with Wilson relishing his first time trying out the pool. With the height and distance he achieved, Wilson proved himself a competitor and ready to take on big air in subsequent rounds.
Andrew and Susie Scherl of Charleston, S.C., formerly of Kent Island, were in town for a birthday party and brought their black Lab “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” to try the pool and possibly compete. Leroy seemed to love every minute of it and got good height and distance with his dives, which all came to an end too soon for Leroy’s taste.
Unlike his namesake, who was “meaner than a junkyard dog” in Jim Croce’s song, Leroy’s jumping, barking and hugs let his owners know he wanted to make a big splash again and again.
The Distance Jumping competition continues at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, at the Sportsman’s Pavilion, on the campus of the Elks Club on Dutchmans Lane.