April 19, 2018
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International jumping contest draws canines, owners to Rockland

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — After a few weeks of planning, a group of volunteers managed to raise enough money to bring an international dog jumping competition to the midcoast. People from across the Northeast traveled to Buoy Park to compete in Dock Dogs, a competition where the dog that can jump the farthest over a pool of water wins.

The three-day event brought about 600 people, who watched dog owners climb stairs onto a dock, then persuade their dogs to leap off the platform into chilly water.

Some were less successful than others.

Despite loud cheering from the audience, Bear, 5, of Owls Head, could not muster the courage to take the leap.

The yellow Lab crouched at the edge of the dock and barked at the tennis ball that owner Holly Merrow, also of Owls Head, had plopped there. The 90-second time limit was exceeded, and Bear had to leave the dock, sans tennis ball.

“It was entertaining,” Merrow said. “Poor Bear.”

Other local dogs took to the water just fine.

Allagash, 3, of Palermo soared about 12 feet over the blue pool before hitting water. It was the black Lab’s first time at a Dock Dogs event.

“All I have to say is, ‘Are you ready?’ and she starts jumping and drools all over herself,” said her owner, Kevin Ostrowski. “It’s allowing her to do what she does. We’re loving it. She’s loving it.”

Ostrowski and Allagash loved it so much, he plans to attend next year.

“How can you not have fun in a place like this? You’d have to be a cat person,” he said.

Competing alongside local residents were people who attended the event to boost their national Dock Dogs rankings.

Steve Sozio of Baltimore has traveled to South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Indiana and Maine to compete with his family’s 3-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever, Twister.

“Her best this weekend has been 20 [feet] 10 [inches],” Sozio said. “She usually does a little better.”

Sozio, who traveled with his wife and 8-year-old son, said Twister usually competes in the master or elite division. Each division is based on how far the dog can jump. The elite division is for dogs that can jump farther than 23 feet. According to the Dock Dogs website, Twister ranks 19th overall in total points.

“All of us have fun doing it as a family,” Sozio said.

Kim Vaillancourt traveled from Keene, N.H., to compete with Simon, her golden retriever, who jumped 10 feet 2 inches over the weekend. For Vaillancourt, the coastal location made the weekend.

“The setting, you can’t beat. This is un-freaking-believable,” she said. “We’ll come visit again — without the dogs. It’s beautiful.”

Before leaving the seaside city, Vaillancourt was planning her next Rockland vacation and already had selected a kennel for Simon and his baby brother, Storm.

Mary Bumiller of Rockland helped organize the local Dock Dogs event with tourism in mind.

“It brings people to our area,” Bumiller said Sunday. “Tourism is still our biggest industry.”

Bumiller is one of the volunteers who make up Rock Dogs, the Rockland Dock Dogs group.

She and other volunteers, along with vendors, helped raise the $15,000 it took to bring the international competition to Rockland.

Bumiller plans to bring the event back next year.

“It would be a waste not to,” she said at the event. “We have so much momentum.”

This was Rockland’s first time as host of the event, but some Mainers have been hooked for a while, including Louis Dubois.

Dubois is the president of Seacoast Dock Dogs. His dog Bailey hit the 22-feet-7-inches mark Sunday, a jump that qualified Bailey for the World Competition, according to the Rock Dogs website, which posted the result.

Dubois said that Bailey, his 2-year-old black Lab mix, started jumping off docks last year at an event in Scarborough. Soon after, he formed the Seacoast Dock Dogs group.

Over the winter, he began building his own dog dock and a regulation-size enclosed pool at a pond in Berwick.

“That means you’re hooked pretty bad,” said his friend Wayne Gile, who helped him build the dock.

For more information on Seacoast Dock Dogs, visit www.seacoastdockdogs.com. To help with next year’s event, contact Heidi Vanorse at Loyal Biscuit at 594-5269.

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