'Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do.' This quote by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. most accurately describes how our pack, bred to carry out specific tasks, found a path to a quite different kind of 'job', says dog owner Jenny Beadling, as she explains how alongside her husband Brian, their new home led them to find an unexpected path to follow into the dog world.
I wish I could say that Brian and I are credited with finding such a rewarding, bond-building sport, for our dock diving dogs, but all the acknowledgement belongs to Cello.
Let me start at the beginning.
When my husband, Brian, and I bought our dream home in Medford Lakes, New Jersey, we had no idea how much it would change our lives. Our dream home is a log cabin on a lake…only it didn’t quite 'look' like a log cabin – and, it wasn’t quite in 'dream-home' state when we bought it.
Our goal was to restore this historic log cabin to its original state and to fill it with decorations and mementos of the great town we live in, as well as items that would be relevant to the cabin and its history. Brian works in the mortgage industry, and was able to research back to the original deed of our home. He found out that the log home was built in 1927, and also discovered the name of the original owner. Out of curiosity, Brian Google-searched the man’s name. Low and behold, he came up in the search!
The search result that came up was linked to the English Setters Club, a local and nationally known club that conducts field trials that are open to all pointing breeds. The original owner of our home owned a German Shorthaired Pointer, named 'Windy Spot', who won many awards at the club for field trials. I called the club to see if I could get more information on this dog and his owner, or a picture of them that we could hang in our cabin.
When the man from the club called me back, and I explained my story, the other end of the phone fell silent. When I asked if he was 'still there,' he asked me to repeat where I lived – what street, house, and so on. It turned out that the man I was speaking to was a direct family member of the man who built our log cabin back in 1927, needless to say, it was quite an interesting conversation!
Brian and I knew immediately that we needed to research German Shorthaired Pointers and we fell in love with the breed and all of their characteristics. We knew a GSP would be the perfect addition to our lifestyle, our family, and our lake home and we named our log cabin 'Windy Spot,' after the first dog that ever lived in our home.
In 2011 on Memorial Day, we met Limoncello, our now 5 year old GSP. Why 'Cello'? Cello’s full name is 'Tommy D’s Limoncello.'
Tommy D was my Italian grandfather, who was quite the character, to say the least and was famous among his family and friends for his homemade Limoncello, with his secret recipe. Before he passed, 'Pop Pop Tommy,' revealed his secret recipe to the family and Brian, as well as other family members, have been carried on the tradition of making homemade Limoncello ever since. When we saw Cello had yellow 'bird dog' eyes, we couldn’t think of a better name.
We found out rather quickly that Cello was gun-shy, not a usual characteristic of the breed. We knew GSPs need a 'job' to be content, but we were at a loss as to what job that would be since we knew that GSPs were bred to hunt birds. Brian found that Cello had a very strong toy drive, and began to incorporate games of fetch by throwing a tennis ball into our lake. Before we knew it, without any ball being launched, Cello began 'flying' off our dock over and over again, on her own. Neighbours began to notice and comment on how far she was jumping.
We happened to see an ad for a local dog festival that included dock diving. Knowing nothing about this sport, we were hesitant but decided to sign up anyway. We entered Cello in the contest, and she came in 2nd Place! Brian was hooked, and Cello found her 'job'!
As we signed Cello up for more contests, she quickly became a crowd favourite, and continued to soar her way into Finals, placing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in every event. Cello was the number one ranked GSP in Warrior Iron Dog table in the world, and earned herself an invitation to the World Championship in each of the 5 possible disciplines!
I very much enjoyed traveling to events, taking pictures and video of Brian and Cello, and cheering them on.
However, I wanted to get more involved, which led us to add a second GSP, 'Hooch,' to our family in July of 2014. We came to find out that like his big sister, Hooch, too, was gun shy and at first, water-shy!
Hooch participated in his first official DockDogs competition in January 2015. Despite the fact that our goal was to get Hooch to run and jump his longest into the pool, he won the crowd over with his hesitation on the dock. He quickly became a crowd favourite as he hung over the edge of the dock 'teetering' back and forth, deciding if he should jump… or not! The crowd loved the anticipation!
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Hooch began to decide to jump more times than not, but would come to the edge of the dock, look around at the crowd cheering 'HOOOOOOOOOOOOOCH!' and at the last minute, pop into the pool, as if he had springs attached to his back paws. The crowds went wild, as his 'pop' had amazing height! Even though this pop only got him to about 6-8 feet into the pool, he quickly became well-known for his 'Hoochie Hop.'
With each competition, Hooch increased his distance, earning a spot in finals, and placing in the top 3 of his division, all while keeping the crowd entertained. In just a short 6 months, he stopped his hesitation on the dock, and soared to an amazing 24’2' in Big Air, stunning the spectators who once knew him as the dog who branded the 'Hoochie Hop.'
Hooch now holds a prestigious National Elite Big Air title and has begun participating in Extreme Vertical competition, and has a personal best grab of 6’2.' Hooch remains a fan-favourite, and receives some of the biggest cheers from the crowd with his signature springboard 'pop,' and his ability to 'fly' through the air.
Hooch earned himself an invitation to the World Championships in both Extreme Vertical and Big Air. He made finals in both and placed within the top 6 dogs in the world in his division. Hooch and I even won the 2015 DockDogs 'Most Improved Team' award! Hooch also was ranked the number one GSP in the United States for Big Air.
Hooch has become the talk of 'Dog Town,' as spectators and fellow competitors alike have said he is the dog to watch in 2016.
With Cello and Hooch in tow, we were not planning on having more than two dogs, however, in late August of 2015, we received a call about a retired Explosives Detection Canine who needed a home.
The reason we were sought out as a possible candidate for Lager (known then by his war zone name, Nayt) was because Lager decided that after serving his country for 18 months in Iraq, that he would much rather jump in the water. Upon his arrival back in the United States, Lager began to show distraction during training and would often dive into water, refusing to come out.
A search began to find a home that would have access to water, have knowledge of the GSP breed, and get Lager involved in dock diving…and we were the perfect match!
Lager began his dock diving career in August, just a week after joining our family, and was immediately a crowd favourite, receiving a standing ovation while he is on the dock, due to his service for our country.
Lager has also been involved in leading the spectators through the National Anthem at events. Within two months and just 2 National events, Lager soared to 20’3' in Big Air, and a grabbed the bumper at a whopping 6’4' in Extreme Vertical earning his invitation to the World Championship for Big Air, and placing within the top 6 dogs of the world within his division! We cannot wait to see what 2016 brings for him.
We enjoyed this sport and the joy it has brought our dogs so much, that we wanted to find a way to make dock diving a part of helping other less fortunate dogs and so to give something back, we donate all cash prizes won at their competitions to the German Shorthair Rescue of New Jersey, and all food, treats and toy prizes are donated to a local no-kill shelter.
We are fortunate to live on a lake, where all three pups swim daily and practice for competitions where our lakeside yard has officially 'gone to the dogs'.
We have installed a 40-foot turf runway and an Extreme Vertical rig so that all of our dogs can practice their Big Air jumps, and Extreme Vertical grabs. Our trio's exercise regimen also includes strength and stability training, cardio, agility, hiking, swimming, treadmill, and running hills.
We never imagined being involved in a sport with our dogs but now we can’t imagine life without dock diving and its rewards.
Dock diving has brought much joy to all members of our pack.
This sport not only became the 'job' our dogs needed, it has also helped make a strong bond between two and four-legged family members even stronger. It has prompted us to increase our dogs’ exercise and training even outside the sport.
We have travelled to and competed in over 10 states, and have encountered some of the coolest dogs, and nicest people we ever met.
Through our travels, and the dogs social media accounts, they have been recognised and approached in public by their followers up and down the East Coast. Their social media accounts have also promoted enquiries about the sport of dock diving and have motivated over 30 people and their dogs last year to join in on this fun activity.
Dock Diving may not be what our German Shorthaired Pointers were 'meant' to do, but they didn’t let that stop them from following their hearts, and beating the odds…all while helping less fortunate dogs, and inspiring others to try this amazing sport.