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Dock Dogs ready to 'fly' in Statesboro
Annual event returns to Anderson's Fri.-Sun.
Deek the English cocker spaniel takes a leap during the 2012 Dock Dogs competition at Anderson's General Store.

        Friday will be devoted to Big Air exclusively. It begins with on-site registration and practice at 9 a.m., followed by the first "wave," or competition bracket, at 10 a.m. and a new wave every two hours. With the final wave starting at 6 p.m., the action should last for about two hours after that.
        Saturday, on-site registration and practice starts at 8:30 a.m., followed by Big Air waves at 9:30, 11:30 and 1:30 and Extreme Vertical at 4 p.m. The Collegiate wave is slated for 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
        Sunday, registration and practice open at 11 a.m. Then the day's first Big Air wave starts at noon. Speed Retrieve is a 4:30 p.m. Big Air Finals start at 6 p.m.

        See for more details.

        More high leaping, long jumping, fast swimming DockDogs dogs than ever before are traveling to Statesboro for the third annual Anderson's Summer Splash, a three-day event beginning Friday morning at Anderson's General Store.
        When Anderson's hosted its first DockDogs meet two years ago, perhaps 30 dogs competed. Last year, there were about 45. But as of last week, 100 dogs and their trainers had pre-registered, and on-site registrations will be possible, said John Flanders, a manager at Anderson's General Store.
        The Summer Splash on Memorial Day weekend is one of two festival-type, family fun events Anderson's hosts each year. The other is Old Farm Days in October.
        "It's a great event because it ties right in to our customer base, and as a local retailer we like to be able to give something back to the community because people shop with us," Flanders said.
        The general store has a pet supply department and also a horse department. A majority of horse owners also own dogs, so Anderson's is simply "a pet people kind of business," he observed.
        DockDogs handlers pay an entry fee to compete, but watching is free to everyone. Children's attractions such as a squirt gun station, bean bag toss and barrel train add to the festival atmosphere. Besides, kids get to see dogs of various shapes and sizes leaping off a dock and landing in the water.
        "It's a great family event," Flanders said. "It's a great thing to bring kids to. It's just fun to watch."

        DockDogs is the trademarked name of an Ohio-based organization with affiliate clubs around the United States, plus some members and events in Canada, Great Britain and Australia.
        The 2013 Summer Splash attracted dogs and handlers from seven states: Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia and Ohio.
        Dogs compete in three different events, each with a trademarked name: Big Air, Extreme Vertical and Speed Retrieve.
        Big Air, which usually draws the most competitors, is a canine version of the long jump. Dogs run down a 40-foot dock and jump into the water after an object. They are electronically judged for distance over the pool.
        Extreme Vertical is analogous to the high jump. A bumper, somewhat like a chew toy, is suspended from a pole over the pool. The bumper is attached magnetically so it can detach. Dogs jump up to grab the toy, and after each successful retrieve the distance is recorded. The height is increased until only one dog successfully grabs the toy.
        Speed Retrieve is a newer event, so far with fewer competitors. Dogs jump off the dock, swim to the end of the pool and retrieve a bumper that stops a clock.
        For dogs that compete in all three events, there is also an Iron Dog ranking. Points are awarded for longest leaps, highest jumps and fastest times to determine an overall Iron Dog.

Any breed or none
        One might expect hunting dogs bred for retrieving ducks to be masters in these sports. Several Labrador and Chesapeake Bay retrievers did, in fact, place high at the 2013 Anderson's Summer Splash, but the rankings also included a boxer, a Belgian Malinois, a border collie, dogs described as "mixed" and, emerging fourth in the Iron Dog, one high-energy American pit bull terrier named Duke.
        Duke's handler is Charles "Chuck" Grove, whose wife, Rebecca, is president of Dixie DockDogs, the Atlanta-area club. She now has another pit bull, named Jazz, that competes, and the Groves plan to be here with both dogs.
        "What's great about DockDogs is you can be a purebred dog or you can be a mixed breed dog from the shelter, it doesn't matter," said Rebecca Grove. "All dogs are welcome, all sizes. We've got small dogs that are what they call lapdogs ... all the way up to Great Dane mixes."
        However, there is a minimum age, 6 months, for dogs to compete. Similarly, any person, 7 years or older, can serve as a handler. There's a Junior Handler class for ages 7-14. Especially for the Statesboro event there is also one Collegiate Division wave, for which registration will be exclusively on-site.

        Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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