May 28, 2024
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The Other Side: Canines make a splash in competition

Pharmacy professor travels to national events with her two Spanish water dogs

Sarah Spinler, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, gives Cali some encouragement during competition. Sarah Spinler, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, gives Cali some encouragement during competition.
Sarah Spinler, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, gives Cali some encouragement during competition. Image Credit: Contributed photo.

It’s one of the fastest growing sports around, doesn’t require much equipment, you’re not likely to work up a sweat — and timing is everything.

What does it require? A dog, a toy, a dock and water. It’s dock diving for dogs!

The sport is simple. Have your dog wait on a 40-foot dock. Use one of two methods — the place and send or the chase method — to entice the dog to run down the dock and jump into the water after the toy. The dog with the longest jump — measured by where the base of the dog’s tail hits the water by a judge at the side of the pool — wins!

Sarah Spinler, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice in Binghamton University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has “replaced her two children with dogs,” she says. Now that her children are grown and she no longer has to travel to lacrosse, ice hockey, all-star cheerleading and volleyball contests, dock diving with 18-month-old Indi and 8-year-old Cali, purebred Spanish water dogs, keeps her on the road.

“My first event was in 2013, with Cali,” Spinler says. “She’s my first dog and we were at a lake near my home practicing off the dock and someone said, ‘You know. That’s a dog sport.’”

Spinler has now put more miles on her car with her dogs than she did with her kids, and spends hours every week training her dogs, who compete in “Big Air.”

“There are all different ways to compete in dock diving, from jumping for height in the air to speed retrieve a bumper off the end of the pool, but we just do the one for distance,” Spinler says.

Spinler, Cali and Indi compete in two different dock diving organizations: Dockdogs, which started in 2010, and the American Kennel Club’s North America Diving Dogs (NADD), which started in 2014. Spinler is even in the original dock diving video for NADD.

“Indi has just started and jumps less than 10 feet right now, but Cali is a natural and has never really had to train,” Spinler says. She’s qualified every year for nationals.

There are several other dog sports that Spinler dabbles in — a coursing ability test called Fast CAT is a 100-yard dash for dogs —agility, and sheep herding among them.

But it’s not about winning for her.

“It’s about how much I see my dog enjoy it, and the bond you make with your dog,” she says. “It’s also about the camaraderie of the people and the friendships you make.”

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