By Emmy Sandstedt, For the Mirror
After watching their dog, Stark, swim at Redondo Beach for the first time, Federal Way residents Kimberly Jenkins and Lorne Smith realized their canine companion would be a perfect competitor in DockDogs.
DockDogs is a water competition open to dogs of all breeds and sizes, in which they run and jump off a 40-foot dock into a pool beyond.
Jenkins and Smith got connected with Puget Sound DockDogs, the only club in the region. Despite the larger international base, with clubs as far away as Australia, there are limited options for pursuing this activity in the Pacific Northwest. Some members of the Puget Sound club come from as far away as Alaska.
Due to restrictions on dogs using pools and lakes, practice locations are limited.
Jenkins said she and Smith take the dogs to Brown Dog University in Gig Harbor about three times a month — once for practices with the Puget Sound club.
Since the dogs know what they’re doing, Jenkins said practicing two or three times a month is enough for them.
Jenkins said it’s a “happy, fun, funny thing when they jump.”
“They make people smile,” she said of the dogs.
The competitions are a way for people to have fun and just watch the dogs, she said.
DockDogs competitions consist of the three events: distance, height and speed.
Stark and Jenkins’ and Smith’s other dog, Echo — both yellow labs — participate in DockDogs’ most popular event, jumping distance.
Stark, who began competing in 2016, holds a senior title and participated with Smith as her handler in the 2017 DockDogs World Championship in Knoxville, Tennessee, last year.
More than thirty teams of dogs and handlers from Puget Sound DockDogs attended the World Championship, where more than a 1,000 dogs competed.
While Smith and Jenkins hadn’t initially planned on attending, after receiving the invitation they found a flight and made arrangements for Smith to take part in the event with Stark.
“We’re just dog people,” Jenkins said, adding they aren’t as competitive as some members of DockDogs.
Competitions are split up by division, which are broken down into waves and groups.
The DockDogs season runs from April through October, with various competitions taking place during those months. Anyone is allowed to participate, however, titles are only given to dogs involved in clubs. Competitions are generally hosted by clubs, who organize the set-up, volunteers, judges and anything else the event may require.
For more information, go to dockdogs.com. Follow Stark and Echo on Instagram at @starkandecho.