J.D. McKnight of West Milton watches as his female 3-year-old Labrador retriever Storie grabs her toy midair during the Ultimate Air Dogs contest Sunday at The Andersons in Maumee.
Barking filled the air as Storie, a black field Labrador, launched off the edge of a 40-foot dock to catch an orange toy in midair. She landed close to the other side of the long pool, splashing children gathered near the edge.
“This is the dog that set the world record this weekend,” Brian Wilcox yelled into the microphone at the seventh annual Ultimate Air Dogs event.
PHOTO GALLERY: Ultimate Air Dogs
The flying dog went on to win the prize in the top division with a jump of 28 feet, 1 inch on Sunday at the end of the two-day competition.
Mr. Wilcox and his father, Milt, started the Ultimate Air Dogs organization in 2005, after years of driving their own dog thousands of miles on weekends for similar competitions. The senior Mr. Wilcox used to pitch for the Detroit Tigers, and their sporty pet, Sparky Anderson Wilcox, was named after the baseball team’s prematurely gray manager because of a partly gray-haired paw. However, since their Michigan-based club turned into a large company, the Wilcoxes have turned the stage over to other top dogs, hosting about 70 events across the country each year.
Polo, a male 6-year-old golden retriever, shakes off the water after taking his first of two jumps during the Ultimate Air Dogs contest.
Outside The Andersons store at 530 Illinois Ave., about 100 dogs came to seek glory. They were ranked based on the distance between the dock and the bases of their tails when they hit the water. The highest-scoring dogs from each of seven divisions, ranging from Novice to Ultimate, went on to compete for titles in the last round.
Certainty’s Love Storie of Kansas, the pink-collared star of the event, arrived from Traverse City, Mich., where she broke the world record of 29 feet, 1 inch by three inches on Friday, and then another two on Saturday. She is the reigning champion of the Ultimate Air Games, having won in both 2012 and 2013.
“You can teach a dog to jump but you can’t teach a dog speed,” said Mr. Wilcox, to explain how Storie’s powerful strides have made for repeated wins.
Wearing a turquoise T-shirt with his dog’s name emblazoned on the front, owner J.D. McKnight, of West Milton, Ohio, noted that much depends on the trainer‘s performance as well.
“If his throw is off just a little bit, too soon or too late, her jump can go down to three feet,” his wife, Ronalee Wilcox, said.
More than 100 people fill the stands to watch the second day of the Ultimate Air Dogs contest, which was started in 2005 by Milt Wilcox and his son Brian.
The numerous divisions ensured that even the less springy of the lot had a chance at getting a ribbon.
“They enjoy it all — the attention they get, the snacks they steal when we’re not looking,” said Gina Johnston, whose German Shepard, Shultz, won in the Novice division with a jump of 8 feet, 1 inch.
Matt Braun of Toledo followed tradition by jumping into the pool after his Hungarian hound beat her own personal record with a jump of 22 feet, 2 inches.
“She’s been getting better all weekend,” he said, noting it was his third time dunking himself during the back-to-back competition days.
Even old dogs had time to show off their tricks. The oldest canine competitor, a 13-year-old golden retriever named Roxxy, competed even though she has had both ACLs repaired.
Connor Seiple, 10, of Perrysburg reaches out to touch Kovu, a male 2-year-old Belgian malinois, after the dog retrieved a baton at The Andersons in Maumee.
“She has very good form, even though she doesn't jump very far,” said owner Barb Bumcrots of Maumee, who has named her pair of aging dogs Team Golden Girls.
Ms. Bumcrots attends the event at The Andersons annually because her animals love to swim, and she gets to reconvene with the dog-lovers she has met at local competitions.
“I do this strictly for fun,” she said, as she petted her wet dogs in the shade while others lined up for more leaps off the edge of the dock.
Contact Maya Averbuch at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6522, or on Twitter @mayaaverbuch.