Saturday, April 24, 2010

First AKC Jr. Hunt Test. The Tale of Two Misfits.

My mom has been saying for a year that she wants me to get an AKC Junior Hunt Title. That’s fine with me. It means I get to go run out in the fields retrieving ducks, and it just doesn’t get any better than that.

We’ve been working for a year on these special skills. As far as I’m concerned, you shoot a bird, and I retrieve the bird. Simple as that.

But for this Hunt Test thingy, you have to go through all this special protocol. You can’t talk to your dog here, but you can here. You can’t touch your dog. The old dead duck has to be delivered to the handler’s hand. You can’t say this or that. Pretty complicated if you ask me.

So, we’ve been practicing, and my mom felt like we were ready. She registered us to run today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday) at the Atlanta Retriever Club test down below Newnan, Georgia.

Well, first off, it was raining. No, not raining. Thunderstorming, which meant everything was a muddy mess. And when you have a muddy mess in Georgia, you have a muddy mess to end all muddy messes. Red clay muddy mess!

You would have to understand my mom to see the irony in this. She can’t stand to have a spot on anything…not her clothes, her car, anything. She is a spot freak. So you can imagine how freaked out she was when her car looked like this:

IMG_0529 And this:

IMG_0528But I didn’t mind. I just sat right down in it. Ahhhh…

IMG_0525Now, let me explain about hunt test people. They are very outdoorsey people. My mom is not. She likes the water and boats, but the fields and woods and mud are not her thing…at all!

So all these people were in their camo and rain gear and rain boots.



And my mom? Well, she was in blue jeans, a DockDogs t-shirt, her Nu Balance tennis shoes, and her North Oconee High School windbreaker. Oh yeah, and her UGA visor. She stood out like a soar thumb!



And me? Well, all of those dogs has bright orange collars or camo collars or something very “field doggish” looking. What did I have on? My collar with the pretty flowers on it.

IMG_0520I know all those dogs were talking about me behind my back.

What else did my mom do that was embarrassing? Well, all of the dogs were in special, really cool field dog kennels. Most looked like this:

IMG_0513 Where was I kenneled? Luxuriously in the back of our Trail Blazer.

IMG_0509And see that multi-colored towel? Well, that was what my mom used to wipe all the mud off my feet every time I got in the car. Soooo embarrassing!

All the other dogs drank water out of their little metal pails. What did I drink out of? My blue plastic water bowl. I could hear those dogs laughing with each lap I took.

IMG_0516And then there were these little orange buildings. A couple of times my mom would drive up there, stop the car, and go inside for a few minutes.


Each time she came out, got in the car, and said, “Totally disgusting. I’d just as soon go out in the field and pee with you, Sally.” Well, Mom, what’s stopping you? Works for me.

The embarrassment only got worse as the day progressed. Later in the afternoon, we were walking down to the pond with three other ladies and this was how the conversation went:

Lady #1: Wow, will this rain ever end!

Lady #2: Maybe tomorrow?

My mom: Yeah, it’s pretty uncomfortable. I’m not a very outdoorsey type person.

Lady #2: (sarcastically) You don’t say. I think that’s pretty obvious from the way you’re dressed.

Lady #3: Yeah, you’re the only person out her in Nu Balance tennis shoes.

(All four laugh. At what, I have no idea.)

If I hadn’t have been on a leash, I would have ducked my head, turned and slinked away in total embarrassment.

To make a long story short, I didn’t pass today. I passed the two land retrieves. I passed the first water retrieve. But on the second water retrieve, I swam over to where you duck fell, but for some reason, I lost the scent and couldn’t find it.

But my mom was very proud of me. A lot of people said I looked good and showed plenty of field dog talent. They were impressed.

So I guess my mom in her Nu Balance and me in my flowered collar did okay for ourselves. We’re happy.

See you on the dock,

Sally, the Captain of Team 4 Dawg Flite

Proud members of Dixie Dock Dogs

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Correcting Dock Diving Problems That Might Develop

Often, people ask me about certain problems their dogs have developed on the dock. There are a few simple strategies you can use to get your dog back to their usual jumping status. Some are general strategies, such as:

1. Just give them time. All athletes, in all sports, have their slumps. Dock diving is no exception. The 20 ft. jumpers might jump flat for a while, then go back to 20 ft jumps or better.

2. Give the dog a break from the dock. Hold off on practice for a while. I know, I know, the temptation is to work them and practice even harder. But often taking a break will renew their spirit and passion for the sport. When they return, you'll see a different dog. How long to hold off? That all depends on you and your dog. With Sally, I'd need to hold off for at at least a few weeks. With other dogs, it might be a month or two. Keep working out with them and training on land (to keep up their condition), but no dock diving.

The above are general suggestions, but say you want to work on just one certain problem. Here are some strategies that might help:

Let's say your dog has always jumped just fine, but for some reason, he's beginning to seem uninterested and stops at the end of the dock. Try any of these strategies:

1. Change your throw toy

2. Has the water temperature changed? Did your dog have a bad experience such as slipping at the end of the dock?

3. Move him up to about the 20 ft. mark or even closer. This will help keep him focused and interested in you. If this works, keep jumping him from this spot until he's jumping well and then move him back little by little.

4. After you set your dog, walk backwards talking to your dog, keeping eye contact, shaking the toy. One word of caution: Be careful as you're getting near the end of the dock!

5. If you're doing the chase technique, switch to the place and send for a little while.

6. At practices, let him jump with some of his best buddies.
Most of all, keep it fun and playful. If you start stressing, your dog will sense this and it will only make his problem worse!!

If your dog has always had good pop to his jump and suddenly starts to jump flat, this can be very frustrating. It can take feet off of his jumps. Here are some suggestions to try:

1. Again, change throw toys or start him closer to help focus him on the toy.

2. Hold the toy at a different higher angle. Rather then holding it low and in front of him, hold it up higher and release it higher.

3. Throw the toy very short so he can catch it. This will make him jump shorter, but that's okay. Let him catch it several times. This gets him refocused on the toy and, hopefully, chasing it. Then start throwing it a little farther each time.

4. Use a hurdle for practice. Hold the toy up over and just behind the hurdle and have the dog run, jump up and over the hurdle and snag the toy from your hand.

Another reason some dogs begin to jump flat is that they have been introduced to Speed Retrieve. Some dogs cannot do both and distinguish between the two types of jumps required. This is not to say you should stop Speed Retrieve, but that you might need to work some with the Big Air jumps to get the pop back.

This problem plagues many very good dock dogs. It is extremely frustrating to watch your dog give up 2-3 feet with each jump. To make matters worse, it is probably the most difficult to correct.

First, try finding his best starting spot. This might take quite a bit of practice, moving him up and back until you find the place where he will hit on or at least closer to the end of the dock.
Another technique is change your standing position at the end of the dock. Most handlers stand facing the opposite side of the dock with feet open. The photo below shows what I mean.

10Another reason a dog might take off early is that he equates the “take-off line” with your back foot, or the foot he sees first. He will take off every time exactly where your back foot is planted.

The way to correct this requires some practice on your part. You need to change your stance so you are facing the pool, with both feet right on the edge and your back to the dog. That means you have to turn your head to look back and release your dog. That also means you might have to hold on to the pole on the side of the dock to steady yourself. Again, this will take a lot of practice on your part (to get used to throwing like that) and on your dog’s part (to get used to having your stand and throw from that position).

Please remember, no matter what the problem or what strategy you use for correct it, you must keep it fun for the dog. Dogs can easily read our affect and dispositions. If you’re having fun, he’ll have fun. Six foot jump or 26 foot jump…good pop or flat jump…let the dog have fun while you are working on the problem.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

3 years ago yesterday….

As you know, I like to listen to my mom and dad talk. Boy, can you ever learn some cool stuff doing that!

Well, they occasionally mention a dog named Annie. My mom especially talks to me about Annie and says things like, “Sally, you and Annie would have been best friends,” or “Sally, I want you to jump at this event for Annie. She would have loved dock diving.”

As it turns out, Annie was the lab they had before me. Here is a picture of her. She was a big lab and very light yellow, almost white.

142According to my mom, Annie was a super swimmer, even better than me or Spud. We like to retrieve in the water, but we don’t always like to swim just to swim. Annie, on the other hand, could have lived in the water. My mom says that when they took her out on the boat, they couldn’t keep her out of the water. She would swim and swim…all around the boat…all around my mom out in the water.

anniestick2But poor Annie had a problem. My mom and dad bought her from a breeder who was not a very good man. But they didn’t know that at the time. They didn’t know there was such a thing as a bad breeder or a good breeder. So they bought this cute little lab puppy and named her Annie.

But as she developed, my mom said she would never really retrieve much. Even though she always acted interested and like she wanted to, she would only do maybe one little retrieve and then lie down. She wouldn’t climb stairs or jump up into their truck. And after an active day at the doggie daycare, she would lie on her bed all evening and whine, like she was in pain.

I’ve seen video of her running, and she ran funny, especially her back legs. They looked more like a bunny hopping along. And my mom said that when she would get up from her bed, she really struggled at times to stand up.

So, when she was 10 months old, they talked to the vet, and he x-rayed Annie. She had something called hip dysplasia…very severe hip dysplasia. And to compound the problem, she had immunity problems.

To make a long story short, when Annie was only 11 months old, they had the orthopedic surgeon do major reconstructive surgery on both hips. While the surgery went okay, her recovery didn’t. Because of her immunity problems, infections and complications set in.

After 3 weeks of Annie struggling, they finally let her go on October 19, 2006. RIP Annie, my big sister.

If you would like to read a more detailed account of Annie and her illness, here is the link: Annie’s Story.

And here is Annie’s Tribute Video:

You know, it would have been nice to have an older sister. Sometimes it gets a little frustrating living with all these boys! I agree with my mom. Annie and I would have been best friends.

The next time I go dock diving, I’m going to think of Annie when I jump.

Annie, this next one’s for you, sister!

See you on the dock,

Sally, the Captain of Team 4 Dawg Flite

Proud member of Dixie Dock Dogs

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

T minus 5 hours and counting

Well, this weekend is the DockDogs National Championships in Cincinnati, Ohio. Team 4 Dawg Flite is almost ready to go. Our dad will be home around 2:00, and we leave then!

I am so excited. Spud is excited. My mom and dad are excited. Even Hoppy is excited. He has no idea why, but he’s still excited.

Badger, on the other hand, has no idea what’s going on. He really doesn’t get excited about anything very much anyway, but I can’t wait to see his face when he sees a dock diving event for the first time.

And speaking of Badger, my poor mom and dad have had their hands full. You see, Badger was a kennel dog, so they had to train him to be an indoor dog. WOW! I had no idea that would be so tough.

I kept telling him, “Daddy B (that’s that I call him), you don’t poop in the house. You poop outside! You are going to make Mom M-A-D if you keep pooping in the house.” But he didn’t listen to me.

He is getting better with the potty stuff.

Then there was the chewing and pacing and panting. My mom finally realized Daddy B was an OCD dog, especially with the chewing. They got him some medicine, and now he takes this big pill every morning. He is a lot better.

Now, back to our trip to the National Championships. We have something new…something really, really cool. You see, after we got Daddy B, I told my dad, “ We just aren’t going to have room back there in the truck for everybody and everything now. Believe me, I am the one in charge of the back, and I know there just won’t be room.”

So my dad went out and bought an equipment trailer. I thought, “Cool, now we dogs will have the entire back to ourselves. No crates to get in our way. No equipment cases. No ice chests. No tents. No chairs.”

But it was even better. My mom and dad had it wrapped with pictures of us. It looks AWESOME!

There is one side with photos of me:


There is one side with photos of Spud:


And then all four of us, plus our logo, are on the back:

trailer3Don’t you just love it!!

Now, it’s all packed with our equipment and stuff, and we are ready to roll. Keep your fingers crossed for Spud and me to jump BIG!

My mom wanted to let y’all know that she will update our results on Facebook, and if you would like to keep up with us in Cincinnati, you can “friend” her: Nancy Tillis Akin.

See you on the dock…or all FOUR DOCKS!

Sally, the Captain of Team 4 Dawg Flites

Proud member of Dixie Dock Dogs

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Can you say Team F-O-U-R Dawg Flite!!!

Yep. You’re reading it correctly. I would have posted earlier, but it’s been raining night and day here (My dad said to call him Noah, ‘cause he’s going to build an ark…whatever that means.), and my mom couldn’t get any good photos outside.

Now, this addition isn’t just any dog. You’ll never believe in a million years who has joined our pack and our Team. I’m still in shock.

It’s Badger. My dad!! And Hoppy’s dad!

badger2There he is…dear old dad. And when I say old, I mean old. He’s nine years old. Do you have any idea how old that is in dog years. Something like 70 or 80.

I thought I heard my mom talking on the phone to our breeder the other day. Of course, I only heard my mom’s side of the conversation.

“Patty (that’s our breeder), are you sure?” <pause>

“Well, of course we would. We would love to.” <pause>

“No, of course it would be better for him to come live here rather than make that big move with you to Colorado.”

Now, I’m thinking, what in the world are they talking about. I’ve heard my mom and dad say absolutely no more dogs. We don’t have the room!

So I knew they couldn’t be talking about us getting another dog. My little chocolate mind was whirring. Then I heard…

“Sure Badger would fit in here. After all, this is where his son and daughter live.”


I didn’t know what to think. On one hand, I was glad. After all, he’s my father. But on the other hand, that would mean one more dog for me to whip into shape around here.

And now, Badger is here with us. He’s okay. It was tough those first couple of days. He was really nervous and stressed…panting constantly and pacing continually, like a caged tiger. Spud and Hoppy and I tried to talk to him and calm him down. “Settle down, old man,” we told him.

But finally, after a couple of days, he’s calming down. After all, he’s nine years old and moving into a new home is a big adjustment. And what’s really good is that he and Hoppy are getting to be pals.

Here is the family photo. Dad, Son, Daughter.

dad and kidsAnd, of course, here’s is the new Team 4 Dawg Flite.

4 dogs2 We’re going to try and get him to jump, but he probably will only be a little jumper. He’s old and FAT! My mom said he needs to lose about 15 lbs.  So it might be a while. He also might have a little arthritis in his front legs.

Now, for the question of the day. What do I call him? I can’t call him Dad. I already have a dad. I’m sure it would hurt my dad’s feelings if I all of a sudden started calling someone else Dad.

Should I call him Badger? I’m going to talk this over with Hoppy and see what he thinks. (Personally, I like “Old Man.”)

See you on the dock,

Sally, the Captain of Team 4 Dawg Flite

Proud member of Dixie Dock Dogs

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Never in a million years will you guess what's happened.

I'm in such shock, I can't even write about it. All I can say right now is....remember my blog post a while back about my bio dad. The title was "Pedigrees and parents. My emotional trauma."

For those of you who missed it, you need to read it to understand what has just happened in the home of Team 3 Dawg Flite. Here is the link to that post. I'll put up another post and tell y'all what happened as soon as I recover.

Pedigrees and parents. My emotional trauma.

Now, where are those nerve pills!

See you on the dock,

Sally, the Captain of Team 3 Dawg Flite
Proud member of Dixie Dock Dogs

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Do you think this dock makes my face look funny?

I can’t remember if I’ve posted these photos before or not. I was looking back through some old practice photos and came across this sequence from a practice back in January.

I remember after this particular practice my mom and dad were looking at these photos on my dad’s computer. Man, were they ever laughing!

“Look at her face,” my mom laughed. “Oh my god, that’s hilarious.”

“Look at that Stinky,” my dad squeezed out between chuckles. (His pet name for me is Stinky. Why? I have no idea. I do NOT stink!)

After maneuvering through their legs and the chairs, I managed to peer up onto the monitor to see what was so all-fired funny. And this was the sequence they were having so much fun with.

072074075076077078079082083084Okay. You can call it funny looking. I call it intense. I call it a game face. I call it Iron Dog!

And Dad, as far as calling me Stinky…maybe you should order me one of these:


I wear a medium.

See you on the dock,

Sally, the Captain of Team 3 Dawg Flite

Proud member of Dixie Dock Dogs

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Iron Dog. That’s ME!

I’m going to be an Iron Dog! I’m going to be an Iron Dog!

No, not this kind of iron dog.

irondog Nor this kind of iron dog.

100024_dogcrackerAnd I certainly don’t mean this kind of iron dog!

Iron Dog Logo 2

I have qualified myself to enter the Iron Dog competition at our DockDogs Nationals in October. What does that mean? Good question.

In order to qualify to even compete at the Nationals, you must be titled. Well, Spud and I are both titled, so we are going. (We were going last year, but my granddaddy got very, very sick, and we had to stay home.)

Spud has his Master Title in Big Air.


I have my Senior Title in Big Air.(And 3 out of 5 legs for a Master.)

050 Well, I also have my Turbo Title in Speed Retrieve.



614 And just this summer I got my Cadet Title in Extreme Vertical.


287 Soooooo…I am now both titled and ranked in all three DockDogs disciplines.

And *that* qualifies me to enter the Iron Dog competition at the Nationals. It’s a real honor, but it is also going to be very, very strenuous.

My mom talked with me. “Sally,” she said, “did you know you are qualified to enter the Iron Dog competition at the Nationals.”

“Yes, Mom, I know,” I politely replied.

“Well, do you think you can handle it, Chocolate Dawg? “

“Handle it? You want to know if I can handle it? Mom, I can’t believe you asked me that.”

“Now, Sally, calm down. You’re starting to stress pant.”

“Stress pant, my little chocolate patootie!”

“Sally, do you know what all is involved with entering Iron Dog at the Nationals?”

“Well, not exactly, but whatever it is, I can definitely handle it!”

“You have to do the regular three disciplines. Then, on top of all that, you have to do the disciplines all over again in the Iron Dog category. Sally, hon, you’re going to be jumping continually the entire weekend.”

“And your point is…………”

“Okay, Sally, you’re in Iron Dog. I just completed the registration. You better start consuming your vitamins and Power Bones right now!”

<Gulp. BIG Gulp.> “Okay, mom. Thanks.”

Would someone please check my pulse. I feel a little faint.

See you on the dock,

Sally, the Captain of Team 3 Dawg Flite

Proud member of Dixie Dock Dogs

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Throwdown is over. Photos included!

Our dock diving club’s first event is over. Dixie Dock Dogs did a great job presenting The Fishing Creek Outfitters Throwdown. I was very proud of all the dogs…well, and humans too…who work so hard to make it so successful.

We had 186 registrations and probably over 200 people who attended to watch. But you want to know the very, very best part of the weekend?

We raised over $1400.00 for our charity,

Chase Away Canine Cancer!!

It was awesome!!

The first day, Friday, it rained. Okay, let’s not call it rain. Let’s call it a little hurricane! My mom had our crates set up in the admin tent because that’s where she spent most of her time. (You know, bossing people around and answering all kinds of questions.) That’s where they had all kinds of cool stuff like the computer, printer, stacks of papers, and best of all…the boxes of RIBBONS!

Well, it started to rain a little, so everyone put a couple of sides up on the admin tent to keep everything dry. Good idea, wouldn’t you think. Not exactly.

All of a sudden, it came up a big gusty wind. I yelled and barked, “Spud reach your big long leg out there and hold down our stuff.” He tried, but those tent sides just acted like sails. I barked and barked for everyone to grab something. GRAB ME and my crate!! Don’t let me blow away!

The rain was blowing right in through the sides, but the humans couldn’t cover up our stuff. They were all wrapped around the tent poles holding down the tent.


“Let me out,” I barked. “I’ll cover the stuff while you hold down the tent. Let me out.” But they never heard me. By the time it was over, everything was drenched…the computer, printer, ribbons, papers. It was a mess.

Everyone pulled together, however, and dried everything out and, well…on with the show!

See what big crowds we had. (Well, big crowds on Saturday and Sunday. The rain on Friday hurt the crowd that day.)

crowd 06crowd 02crowd 03crowd 01

Doesn’t it look like FUN!!

Here are some photos of me and Spud. I’ll have more when we get the photo CD from the photographer. (My dad didn’t take pictures because he was so busy working at the event.) I’ll also have a video soon.


But here’s the best picture of all. Our ribbons! Spud took 1st place in the Finals for his division. Believe it or not, that is the very first 1st place either of has ever gotten in the Finals.

I got 2nd place in my division. And see Hoppy’s ribbon? That’s his “Good Sport” ribbon because, once again, he didn’t jump. But he got a ribbon anyway.


We really had a blast, both participating in the Throwdown and also being the host for it. I loved seeing all the new dogs come out and participate. I’ve got a lot of competition down in Middle Georgia!

I heard my mom and dad talking last night and guess what! They are already planning the next event. YEE-HAW!!!!

See you on the dock,

Sally, the Captain of Team 3 Dawg Flite

Proud member of Dixie Dock Dogs