MILLEDGEVILLE — Alan Collum had a young Labrador retriever and a problem.
The big black dog — named Charlie Bucket by Collum’s young daughter — was a bit too hyper.
“He had so much energy, we tried to find something to do with all that energy,” said Collum, who lives in McDonough. “So we looked on the Internet and found Dixie Dock Dogs.”
Collum was referring to a club that promotes the relatively new sport of dock jumping (aka dock diving), in which people compete to see whose dog can jump the farthest a into body of water.
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About two months ago, Collum started taking Charlie to the Dixie Dock Dogs’ regular practice sessions on Lake Oconee. The black lab took to the sport like a dog to water. By this past weekend, Collum and Charlie were ready to enter their first official competition, the Fishing Creek Outfitters Throwdown, held outside a sporting goods store in Milledgeville. Charlie won the Extreme Vertical competition, with an attained altitude of 6 feet.
Collum’s wife, his 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son came to the competition as well. They spent two days there.
“We love it,” Collum said. “The competition this weekend has been a lot of fun. A lot of good people, a lot of good dogs. It’s good for families.”
About 130 handler/dog teams participated in the Throwdown, held Friday through Sunday. The event was organized by the Dixie Dock Dogs, who rented a portable 12-by-30-foot pool and a 40-foot dock from a national sanctioning organization called DockDogs. Aluminum bleachers were set up around the pool for spectators.
People lounged under tents between rounds of competition with crates holding dogs of all breeds and sizes. Club members sold T-shirts and dog scarves. An announcer broke down every splash with the help of a microphone and a public address system.
The history of dock jumping can be traced to the year 2000, when ESPN’s “Great Outdoor Games” program featured the sport.
In 2002 DockDogs was founded to develop standards for competitions. Dixie Dock Dogs was organized two years ago by Bill and Nancy Akin, a Watkinsville couple. The club now has 38 members and organizes three competitions a year in Georgia. Dixie Dock Dogs also holds monthly practice sessions at Lake Oconee and Lake Lucerne near Stone Mountain.
“It’s a new sport in the South,” Bill Akin said. “Before this club, folks that knew about dock diving had to drive 10 or 12 hours to compete. It was mostly in the Northeast and the Midwest. So we said, ‘We’re going to start this club and build it, and we’re going to bring dock diving to the South,’ and we’ve done it.”
Nancy Akin said dock jumping is all about having a good time with your dog.
“It’s great watching your dogs have fun,” Nancy Akin said. “It’s like watching your kids have fun when they play ball.”
Bill and Jo Ann Josey of Dublin are regular participants in dock jumping events in Georgia and the Carolinas. They bring their chocolate lab, Peadie, and sometimes their grandchildren.
Their 9-year-old granddaughter, Emily Smith, is especially enthusiastic about dock jumping. She’s the one who normally serves as Peadie’s handler, making him wait for his cue to jump in the water to chase after his floating toy. She has little trouble, even though Peadie has 15 pounds on her.
“Emily does the handling, so we just sit back and enjoy,” said Bill Josey.
Emily said she loves dock jumping because “it’s fun for people and it’s fun for dogs.”
On Sunday, Emily wore a T-shirt that said “Event Staff.” She raised money for a charitable campaign called Chase Away K9 Cancer with the help of Hoppy, a particularly docile lab that belongs to the Akins. Hoppy wore a special vest with pockets for donations and Emily led him by a leash though the competition grounds.
“If you give him money he’ll give you a kiss,” Emily said. It was true.