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Frances Thomason 7-14 Frances Thomason, left, from Nashville watches as her golden retriever Hank dives into the water.
Frances Thomason, left, from Nashville watches as her golden retriever Hank dives into the water.
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Published: Monday, 7/15/2013 - Updated: 9 months ago

Canines compete for air dog title

Fur flies as more than 100 make a splash

BY DANIELLE TRUBOW
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Editor's note: This version reports the correct winning jump length of 26 feet, 2 inches.

When Daisy runs, she glides, her light blonde, almost white, hair ruffling in the wind.

It was just over a year ago that the golden retriever’s hind right leg was broken and the pound wanted to put her to sleep. Now about 3 years old, the rescued dog sprints, jumps, and swims with ease.

Daisy was rescued by the Golden Retriever Rescue Resource in March, 2012, and “loves to swim” in her home pool, said her proud mom, Dianne Paul. But Sunday afternoon, Mrs. Paul, a Perrysburg resident, watched her own dog act like the golden retriever from Air Bud, plunging into a 30,000-gallon tub outside The Andersons in Maumee.

CJ Campbell, 4, of Holland came prepared to do super-hero work Sunday at the Air Dogs competition. CJ Campbell, 4, of Holland came prepared to do super-hero work Sunday at the Air Dogs competition.
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PHOTO GALLERY: Ultimate Air Dogs at The Andersons

She was one of more than a hundred dogs competing in “splash” rounds at this weekend’s sixth annual air dog jumping competition.

To compete, dogs run down a 40-foot dock and leap into a pool. The distance of a dog’s horizontal jump is visually measured from the end of the dock to the base of its tail. Each competitor gets two jumps per splash round, with the longer jump counting as its score.

“This is all about fun for the dogs,” announced Milt Wilcox, former Detroit Tigers pitcher and founder of the Ultimate Air Dogs. “It doesn’t matter if your dog jumps one foot or 25 feet.”

After Daisy came Checkers, a 9-year-old black Labrador who is a companion dog to Natasha Snyder, 29, of Fountain City, Ind., who suffers from seizures.

Swapping her service harness for an orange bathing suit, Checkers ran down the dock and dove 21 feet, 1 inch across the pool.

Mr. Wilcox, who knew Checkers from previous competitions, described the dog as a “ball-crazy, seizure alert buddy.” He also told the crowd that she is one of his personal favorites.

Natasha’s mother, Jeannette Snyder, said, “When Checkers is in her harness, she is calm. But when we pull the harness off and she sees the pool, she pulls and barks.”

J.D. McKnight of West Milton, Ohio, watches as his black lab Stori launches from the platform. Storie went the farthest Sunday, soaring 26 feet, 2 inches. J.D. McKnight of West Milton, Ohio, watches as his black lab Stori launches from the platform. Storie went the farthest Sunday, soaring 26 feet, 2 inches.
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With the Huntermark family of six cheering her on, Coco the chocolate-colored Lab competed for the first time. Lexi, 8, and Christian Huntermark, 12, said they liked to watch her jump and thought she was pretty good.

Their mother, Liz Huntermark, said the Oregon novice loves to jump in pools and mud puddles, adding that on hot summer days, she has been known to jump inside coolers to cool off.

And, in front of 200 cheering spectators, Storie went the greatest distance. The two-year-old black field lab has been chasing thrown objects into 40-foot swimming pools for only a year, but she dominated the jumps as she soared a whopping 26 feet, 2 inches.

Although she did not break her personal best of 27 feet, the 2012 national champion from West Milton, Ohio, used her strong hind legs and lean 52-pound body to build her lead.

Her trainers, J.D. and Ronnalee McKnight, said Storie loves to compete. Before she jumps, she becomes all business.

“Our dogs are our children,” Mrs. McKnight said. “This organization is a real family. We all cheer for each other’s dogs.”

Contact Danielle Trubow at: dtrubow@theblade.com, 419-724-6050, or on Twitter @danielletrubow.



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