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Published: Sunday, 7/19/2009

Pet pooches jump at title for top dog at West Toledo event

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
See Lance. See Lance fly to catch a toy as his master, Bridget Telencio, watches before he splashes down more than 23 feet away in a pool in the parking lot of The Andersons in West Toledo. See Lance. See Lance fly to catch a toy as his master, Bridget Telencio, watches before he splashes down more than 23 feet away in a pool in the parking lot of The Andersons in West Toledo.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Bridget Telencio took her place at the edge of the platform, wound up like a pitcher, and hurled the big, yellow chew toy into a 40-foot pool.

What followed was a quick blur of white with black spots that splashed down more than 23 feet away.

"Wow, what a jump!" yelled 7-year-old John Walters of West Toledo, one of more than 1,000 people crammed around the pool in the parking lot of The Andersons for the high-flying Ultimate Air Dogs competition.

Ms. Telencio's dog, a 6-year-old Dalmatian named Lance, is unlike some of the newcomer dogs. He is all business.

"At this point, he knows why we are here," Ms. Telencio of Painesville, Ohio, said. "His first time in 2006, he did 10 feet and by the end of the day, he was up to 18 feet."

The parking lot was filled with the smell of wet dog and the sound of splashing followed by cheers.

Bernie Parker of Oregon relaxed in the shade earlier as he waited for his turn to take 2-year-old Albert, a German Shorthaired Pointer, up to the pool platform.

How far will he jump?

"How far can you throw meat?" joked a friend of Mr. Parker's.

Mr. Parker rescued the dog from a private owner. Albert was going to be euthanized because of a hernia.

"Last year was his first time jumping in this," Mr. Parker said. "He will do about 20 feet."

The contest is to see which dog can jump the highest and farthest before splashing into the pool.

The 2009 Ohio champion dog will be determined by combining the scores of the finals from both events yesterday and today at The Andersons, 4701 Talmadge Rd. Top dogs and their owners receive gifts and prizes.

Former Detroit Tiger Milt Wilcox, founder and president of Ultimate Air Dogs, said it's usually difficult to tell who's enjoying it more: the dogs or the spectators.

"Most people have a soft spot in their hearts for animals," Mr. Wilcox said.

Based in Royal Oak, Mich., the organization holds "dock diving" competitions in several states.

Before he created Ultimate Air Dogs, Mr. Wilcox played professional baseball for 16 years. He retired in 1986 after pitching 10 years for the Tigers.

Mr. Wilcox founded Ultimate Air Dogs in 2006 after seeing the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge on television.

Pet owners can register for Ultimate Air Dogs online, and dogs merely interested in watching are welcome to attend the events, he said.

Yesterday's competition drew more than 1,000 onlookers for the first session.

The day started with practice jumps. But not every dog took the plunge.

In fact, some dogs cracked under the pressure.

A yellow Labrador strutted onto the platform with her master, started the run toward the edge, but slammed on the brakes and locked down at the edge - just close enough to sniff the water.

Moments later, it was Boomer's turn to get wet. The chocolate Labrador, who has jumped in Ultimate Air Dog competitions twice before, took some coaxing before making his splash about 10 feet past the edge.

"This is a lot of fun for people to see the dogs' reactions and their ability," Boomer's owner, Kyle Crump, a 23-year-old student at Bowling Green State University, said.

Many competitors were Labrador retrievers or other sporting group breeds.

"They are water dogs," said Derek Meyer, a Wauseon firefighter who owns a chocolate Labrador named Taz.

John Kowalski, manager of the West Toledo Andersons, gave the crowd a little treat before the official competition began: He jumped into the pool himself.

Today's event starts with check-in and practice jumps at 11 a.m. for the noon competition session. There will more practice jumps at 2:15 p.m. ahead of the 3 p.m. finals, which will be followed by Ultimate Verticals - how high the dogs jump - at 4 p.m.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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