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Dog competition and shelter benefit continues all weekend
Marlowe, a 4-year-old golden retriever, jumps into a pool Friday during the Dixie Dock Dogs big air competition. Marlowe jumped 16 feet 1 inch. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Lake Lanier Pet Fest

What: Contests, demonstrations and Dixie Dock Dogs regional competition; benefits the Hall County Animal Shelter

When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Laurel Park, 3100 Old Cleveland Highway, Gainesville

How much: $5 parking



The Dixie Dock Dogs started off its weekend-long competition with a splash Friday at noon.

Dogs of all breeds and sizes came out to participate in the first two waves of the sanctioned regional dock diving competition at Laurel Park that continues today and Sunday as part of Lake Lanier Pet Fest.

Dock diving is a sport in which people throw a toy into the water and dogs get a running start and leap off of a dock to retrieve it.

In the big air event, the length of the dogs' jump is measured on the side of a special pool set up for the event.

Many of the dogs competing Friday were serious jumpers, reaching lengths of more than 20 feet.

Megan Underwood of Gainesville and her corgi mix, Jack, have been competing in dock diving since 2008.

Though Jack competes in the lap dog division for dogs shorter than 17 inches, he has reached jumps as long as 15 feet 11 inches.

"He absolutely loves it more than anything else in the world," Underwood said.

Jack competes not only in the big air event but in the other two dock diving events - speed retrieve and extreme vertical.

"He's called an iron lap dog," Underwood said. "He's the only U.S. lap dog that does (all three). Period."

Steve Mize, announcer for the competition, said he fell in love with dock diving after seeing it in North Carolina about two years ago. Mize's dog Willow, a chocolate Labrador, is competing in the events all weekend.

"I thought, ‘My dog can do that,'" Mize said. "She took to it like a duck in water."

Brian LaFlure of Roswell and his Australian shepherd, Shelby, have big goals for the regional competition this weekend. If Shelby performs well, they will travel to a national competition in Pennsylvania.

Shelby won the first wave of the competition with a jump of 21 feet 5 inches.

"We're working on getting her master title," LaFlure said, referring to the title bestowed on dogs who complete five jumps of 20 to 23 feet in a competition. "This is her first competition."

The diving will feature various waves of competition each day this weekend. All of the competitions will culminate with the finals on Sunday.