What started as a bit of a recreational adventure back in June turned into a national championship earlier this month for Johnson Lane resident Heather Paterson-Lewis and her dog, Oreo.
Oreo, a Blue Heeler-Australian Shepherd mix, won the Splash Dogs Dock Jumping Pro Division championship in Folsom, Calif., earlier this month with a broad jump of 22 feet, 6 inches.
"A friend and I were watching the news and they were showing the dock jumping with the Reno River Festival," Paterson-Lewis said. "My friend said 'Oreo would be so good at this.' They were saying all you need is a dog that can swim and is toy-obsessed."
So Paterson-Lewis and her friend, Inger Hotho, loaded up their dogs and made the trip to Tamarack Junction in South Reno to give it a try.
"They had a baby pool with a ramp to show the dogs how it works," Paterson-Lewis said. "They graduate from the ramp and you gradually work up to where they can sit and stay while you move to the edge of the dock and throw the toy."
The quartet began making trips to the Sparks Marina several times a week to practice with the High Desert Dive Dogs.
"It was just a process of learning and listening," Paterson-Lewis said. "The jumps are marked from where the dog's tail hits the water. There's a camera out there, and you can watch in slow motion what is happening.
"After a few times, Oreo knew where we were going, she and Bella (Hotho's dog) would go up together and they'd get real excited."
The jumping season is done for the year, but Paterson-Lewis said competitions would likely resume in Northern Nevada and Northern California in June.
"It's a great family sport," she said. "Dogs of every size can compete. Kids like to sit right at the side of the pool and get splashed. It is really so much fun, and we've met a lot of really great people."
"You just show up at the marina the first Saturday of every month once the dock opens, maybe in April," Paterson-Lewis said. "It's $50 a year. The dock is about 3 feet above the water. If the dog can swim and if it'll jump after a toy, then it is a diving dog.
"It's a very positive experience."
Paterson-Lewis said she is working with Roxanne Stangle in the hopes of having a jumping competition in conjunction with the Minden Street Fair next Fall.
"It's very popular at every competition we've been to," Paterson-Lewis said. "I think it would be popular down here too."
At the national championships, Oreo was the top qualifier in the pro division coming out of the semifinals.
She was the last dog to jump in the finals and slipped off the edge of the dock to start the championship round.
The final outcome came down to the last jump. Oreo needed a jump of 21 feet, 9 inches or better and turned in a second jump of 22-6.
Other local competitors at the national championships included Brandan Harris and Mally, a labrador retreiver; Todd Bobula and border collies Greed and Blu; Inger Hotho and Bella, a labrador retriever and Leslie Morefield with retrievers Cholla and Sandy.