Diving into SEWE – Tips for Getting Ready

(Written from the viewpoint of Hope, my 1 1/2 year old rescued black Lab mix dock diving addict!)

The other day I heard mommy talking about SEWE (Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, February 16-18) – apparently it’s a big deal here in Charleston … at first all I heard was blah, blah, blah … but then my little ears perked up when I heard DOCK DIVING!  What???  They have a dock diving competition?!?  I started getting excited at the very thought of running down that long dock and jumping into the water!  Mommy told me that it’s one of the biggest DockDogs events in the Southeast and people come with their pups from all over to compete.  There are two pools set up, one just for practicing.  Oh yippie, I’m doing my happy wiggle dance, this is going to be so much fun!

Of course, as a pup, all I care about is the fun stuff.  But mommy has to take care of all the ‘details’ or as I call it, the boring stuff!  Mommy called Auntie Deb (Feller), the president of Palmetto DockDogs to get the scoop on what we’ll need to be ready for SEWE.  As you might know, although there’s a slight chance in might be warm here in Charleston for SEWE, it could also be really cold.  So it’s best to be prepared!  If you’ve never participated in SEWE, here are some good tips from Auntie Deb to help you and your pup get ready:

Condition Yourself and Your Pup to the Cold Weather

As with any other sport, ease into it.  It’s like training for a marathon and you don’t want to do it all at once.  BUT, the more time you can spend with your pup outside in the cold, the better acclimated you’ll both be for SEWE.  My mommy hates the cold, but like most Labbies, I love it, so she bundles up and we go walkies and I have play dates with my friends in the frigid temps!  Take your pup swimming – we love the polar bear plunge (just make sure to wear water proof clothes so you don’t get wet and freeze!).

Dry Your Pup Off After Leaving the Pool

This may sound like a no-brainer but many pups have a thick undercoat and it’s not so easy to get completely dry.  Auntie Deb tells her champion Dock Diver, Doni (my idol!), to shake after getting out of the water.  I haven’t quite mastered that one! I do just normally shake when I jump out of the pool – but usually I do it all over mommy, oops!  When there’s no visible water coming from your pup’s fur, here’s a great dock dog hack – use a car shammy (like the infomercial Shamwow).  Make sure and dry your pup very well with the shammy and then use a big fluffy absorbent terry cloth towel like a beach blanket.  Pay a lot of attention to get your pup’s hind legs, hips and base of tail making sure those areas are completely dry.  While you’re drying off your pup, massage the areas to increase blood flow and keep those muscles warm. Remember cold stiff muscles are an enemy of any sport, and your pup is an athlete!

Don’t Kennel Your Pup Yet

Go for walkies first to keep moving around.  It’s a good idea to have a coat to put on your pup once they’re mostly dry.  Walk around the event grounds, this will help you both stay warm!  The main reason for drying your pup off really well and then walking around is to avoid the dreaded (and painful, ouch!) “cold tail” which is simply a cramp in the muscles at the base of the tail. Pups who use their tail vigorously while swimming sometimes over use these muscles.  If they don’t get dried off really well and then warmed up properly they’ll get a painful cramp.  It usually doesn’t last long, a few days at most, but it’s treated with rest.  Which unfortunately would mean you’d have to stop dock diving and drop out of the competition for the rest of the weekend – no fun!

Setting Up in Dog Town (where the competitors stay in between events)

Bring a canopy/easy-up/pop-up tent.  It’s nearly essential to have ‘walls’ to keep the wind out – the dock dogs competition is on the water and it can get chilly!   If you don’t have walls for your tent, bring a tarp and heavy duty clips to fasten.  It’s a good idea to have a propane heater or a generator with an electric space heater, too.  You’ll also want to have chairs, a crate for your pup so they can relax – I wasn’t too thrilled with this initially, but after a few jumps at my first competition, it was really nice to have a place that I could take a nap.  Bring a blankie for the crate and also one to cover it so your pup can snooze in peace.

Things to Bring to Keep Your Pup in Tip Top Condition and Ready to Compete

In cold weather both pups and their peeps often forget to drink enough water.  Auntie Deb brings a thermos of sodium free chicken broth and then adds in some warm water for Doni to drink when it’s cold, that sounds delish!  High fat snacks.  Yes pleeeeze!  Fat is the most calorie dense food and us pups need extra calories to stay warm.  Auntie Deb learned about this cool hack from the ‘mushers’ – sled dogs are fed chunks of lard at bedtime to stay warm.  Now this doesn’t mean that we pups get to gorge on fat – but freezing some bacon grease in ice cube trays is a great idea for a bite sized snack.  You can also make coconut oil cubes and add in some blueberries, yummy!

Human Comforts to Stay Warm and Dry

Most important thing is to keep the feet warm and dry – mommy would agree with this, her tootsies get cold easily!  So waterproof boots are a necessity.  You’ll also need water proof/resistant pants – even though you won’t be going swimming, your pup will most likely be shaking water all over your legs and feet.  Ski pants are a good option or check out water resistant golf pants, too.  Jeans are not a good option as they’ll get wet and then you’ll get cold!  Layering on top is best.  Long sleeve t-shirts, a sweater and then a fleece or down vest or pullover works well.  It’s a good idea to bring a couple of extra pieces with you so you can switch out if your tops get wet.  And finally, several pairs of warm gloves.  You won’t want to wear these on the dock, but you do want to keep your hands warm up until then!  And as with the pups, don’t forget to bring lots of water for yourself – and some snacks!

A Few Things to Keep in Your Dock Diving Competition Bag

Mommy always has a ‘go bag’ for events – she brings some extra trash bags, zip ties (you never know when you might need one!), a pair of scissors, small first aid kit (sometimes I get overly excited and accidentally scratch mommy), small packs of tissues (just in case the portalettes run out of toilet paper or paper towels), hand sanitizer, hand lotion, and of course, you don’t want to forget poop bags!

If you’ve never competed in a dock diving event, the first thing to remember is to have FUN!  But there are also some basic rules that you’ll want to get acquainted with, so check out the official DockDogs Rules and Policies . Dock Diving is like any other sport and there are rules to ensure that it’s a good experience for everyone!

If you’re traveling from out-of-state, make sure and book your hotel rooms early.  SEWE draws tens of thousands of visitors to Charleston and accommodations book up quickly.  Palmetto DockDogs has posted pup-friendly hotels on their FB page

I’m so excited to be participating in my first SEWE – I can’t wait to see you there!

Play, Swim, Dive, Hope

Labby Heaven

NOTE: This post is written from the viewpoint of Hope, my one year old rescued black Lab.

When I woke up Saturday morning I knew it was gonna be another great day!  Sometimes you just know that something pawesome is about to happen even if you don’t know what it is.  When mommy was packing up the fun bag, I started getting excited.  Water, dish, towel and my new red bumper for retrieving – maybe we were going to my friend Gracie’s house to swim in her pool!  After breakfast mommy and I headed out, but we didn’t go over the big bridge so I knew we weren’t going to Gracie’s house or to the beach.  Where could we be going?  As we got further outside the city and I started seeing all the big trees I was pretty sure we were going to the fun place to go dock diving!  I sat next to mommy, riding shotgun with my seat belt securely fastened and I started my excited little humming as we drove along the country roads.  Then we slowed down and turned onto the dirt road … YES, I was right, we were going dock diving!

Are we going dock diving???

I was so excited I could barely wait for mommy to open the car door.  I could smell the pond and then I started hearing all the happy barks and splashing!  I was practically dragging mommy toward the gate so we could get to the pond – and there it was, one of the best places in the world.  A beautiful pond with a dock, I’m pretty sure this is what Labby heaven looks like! And there were lots of Labbies (and other dogs, too – any dog who loves the water can join in the fun) at the pond Saturday – some of them were hanging out and others were diving off the dock.  I was so ready to go flying off that dock!  The first time I went dock diving I was a little nervous but this time I wasn’t afraid at all, I knew I could do it.

We stood around for a while, mommy was talking to some people … blahblahblah … I was straining on my leash as I watched the other dogs diving off the dock.  When was it going to be my turn???  And then finally I heard, “does Hope want to jump next?”  I started squealing, YES YES YES!!!  And I was off, heading toward the dock with mommy in tow.  Oh the pure bliss of that first jump!  I was quivering with excitement – mommy made me sit as she threw the bumper into the water and then she released me and I went running and then I was flying … it felt like forever, I must have jumped like 100’ (ok, probably less than 10’ but I’m getting better!).  And then splash into the water!  I retrieved my bumper and swam like crazy to get back to the dock so I could dive again.  Could there be anything better than this?  I could have dived and swam for hours, but there were lots of dogs at dock diving practice Saturday so I got a few more jumps in and then I had to take a break.

I have to say, this is the not-so-much-fun part of dock diving.  It’s hard for an exuberant young pup like me to sit still when there’s so much going on.  All I wanted to do was get back on that dock and into the water – and if I couldn’t do that, then I wanted to play with the other dogs.  But mommy said not all dogs like it when I jump in their face – she said that at dock diving practice us pups have to stay with our pawrents and it’s not a free-for-all play time.

I was so excited when my friend Gracie showed up along with her sis, Annie, and her mommy AND my foster mommy Nancy and her pups, Rufus and Holly.  Wow, it was like a big party!  I was so happy to see everyone, but again, mommy said I had to calm down … ugh … boring.   Gracie got to do a few dives and I couldn’t believe she’d actually go without me – but then it was time to try out “dueling dogs” – SO MUCH FUN!  It’s dock diving, but with two pups at one time … we’re each supposed to retriever our own bumper and then race to see who swims back to the dock first.  That was the best ever, I love diving with Gracie!

I just wished we could have spent all afternoon diving and swimming but it was time to go home much too soon.  I could tell mommy was ready to go, she seemed tired and hot … and well, kinda disheveled, she had my muddy pawprints all over her, oops guess that’s why I’m not supposed to jump up on people!

I’ll admit, perhaps I wasn’t at my very best Saturday … I wriggled out of my harness so that I could cut in line and get back on the dock!  And I chewed up my brand new leash waiting for my turn.  Oh, and I also had a little skirmish with Snow, the baby Lab – mommy said that was really bad … I didn’t hurt him, I just raced over and wanted to play and he told me to stop jumping on him and then I snarked like the big dogs always do to me.  I really did feel bad cuz he’s a sweet pup and I was kinda bitchy.

So in retrospect, yeah, I can understand why mommy was getting a little irritated with me. I noticed that many of the really experienced dock dogs, like my idol Gentleman Doni, were hanging out in crates and a really cool little gazebo thing while they waited for their turn.  I have a feeling that a crate is in my future and maybe it will be a good thing so that mommy doesn’t get so tired out trying to keep me from going bananas – and it will give me a little down time … although I’d rather be diving off that dock and into the water non-stop!

As we were driving home, I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open but I remember mommy stroking my ears and whispering how much she loves me – even when I’m not-so-good.  She said we’d be doing some more work on training basics like recall before the next dock dog practice.  All I could think was how lucky I am – what could be better than an afternoon spent diving into the water with my fur friends and then going home to the place where I’m loved and cherished?

Eat, Play, Luv,

Hope

Taking the Leap to Find Your Bliss

NOTE: This post is written from the viewpoint of Hope, my one year old rescued black Lab.

I woke up on Saturday and just knew it was gonna be a great day!   Mommy had my beach bag packed and ready to go with my favorite rubber sharky for retrieving, water bottles and my travel bowl along with a towel.  We were going to the beach, Saturday morning bliss!  But then when my pawrents left Daisy at home I wasn’t so sure, my big sis always comes to the beach with us.  Hmmmm … wonder what’s going on?  Mommy snapped my seatbelt in to secure me in the back seat – kinda bummed me out cuz I like to ride shot gun.  First stop, the yummy place cuz mommy says that daddy has some sort of addiction to something called a latte.  I think that’s a good thing cuz I got a puppuccino! I knew it was gonna be a great day!

And then we were off … but wait, this wasn’t the way to the beach.  Maybe mommy needed to tell daddy how to get there, he seemed lost!  I was trying to nudge mommy’s hand but the darn seat belt was a pain and I couldn’t reach her – why wasn’t she telling daddy that we were going the wrong way?  She’s usually good about pointing out when he makes a mistake!  I could see lots of trees out the window and then I realized I was smelling Lowcountry marsh.

We slowed down and made a turn onto a long curving road and I saw horsies!  They looked so happy, frolicking in the grass, not sad like the ones I see downtown pulling carriages with the lazy hoomans.   Finally, daddy stopped the car and I jumped out ready for an adventure!  As I looked around I saw a big field with lots of trees and a bunch of other dogs and their pawrents.  We walked in the gate and joined them – I was excited and a little anxious to figure out why we were all standing around.  Where was the fun stuff?  The hoomans kept talking, blahblahblah.  And then I spotted it, a big pond!  Woohoo, we were going swimming!

As I was straining on my leash trying to get a better view of the pond, we walked over a little closer and this super pawesome yellow Labby, named Donny, went running down the dock and he flew into the air and dove into the water!  Oh wow, way coooool!!!!  I was so excited I could barely stand still and I started making a high pitch squealing noise!  Mommy told me to settle down and be a good girl (like she had to tell me all the time at agility class), but the nice lady who was in charge told her, “that’s what you want in a dock dog, she’s excited and enthusiastic!”  Wait, what?  Really?  I’m gonna get to be a dock dog?  I got even more excited as I waited for my turn, I just knew I was gonna nail it on the first try!

There were two other ‘newbies’ like me – Annnie Jo and Beacon.  Annie Jo, a beautiful Golden Retriever, got to go first.  I think she might have been nervous cuz she kinda snarked at me when I was looking at her duckie, but that’s ok, I know I can win her over, everyone loves me!  She went down to the end of the dock and her daddy threw duckie in the water, everyone was cheering and clapping and shouting “Go Annie Jo!” … I was getting more excited by the minute!  Annie Jo was too scared to jump in the water, so she ran down the dock and waded into the pond to retrieve her duckie.  Next up was Beacon, a really cute Boykin Spaniel, and he did the same thing as Annie Jo.  I really couldn’t understand why they weren’t jumping in the water – it looked so fun!  Finally, it was my turn!  YES!  I got this!

I almost dragged mommy off her feet while I was trying to get down the dock!  Then mommy backed me up a little and threw my sharky into the water!  I was off running and then I came to a screeching halt … that’s a pretty big jump – it must be like 20 feet or something (mommy said it’s only 2 feet but daddy says she isn’t always good with measuring distances!), the water was so far down below.  I paced back and forth across the dock, leaning over and peering into the water as I screamed with excitement and frustration.  How was I gonna get in that water to retrieve sharky?

And then Donny came to my rescue!  He raced down the dock and whispered, “follow me kid, you’re gonna be fine, just jump” – and I did it!  I sailed off that dock – ok, more like plopped – and landed in the water!  I swam like crazy to get sharky and then I scrambled back up the bank of the pond, ready to do it again!  This was the coolest thing ever and I was hooked!  The next time I jumped off the dock all by myself and I raced back to the dock – mommy said we had to let the others have a turn, so I stood there watching, as I quivered and squealed with anticipation.

Annie Jo had another turn and she was still scared.  I knew what I had to do – she just needed a friend to help her take the leap!  Mommy was having a hard time holding onto my leash and all of a sudden, snap – I pulled so hard that I ripped the ring right off my harness and I was free!  I dashed down the dock to show Annie Jo how to jump in – and splash, I was in the water again!  Annie Jo didn’t follow so I brought her duckie back to her.

The next hour went by in a blur of pure bliss!  I had found my true calling, I was going to be a dock diving dog.  Although to start, I was more of a dock plopper than a dock diver, but at least I was jumping into the water!  This is what I was meant to do – I might not be a purebred Labby, nobody knows who my daddy is but my birth momma is a chocolate Lab and I definitely got her genes.  Mommy signed us up for a membership with Palmetto Dock Dogs and I got to stay and practice with Duchess and Donny.  They’re both super amazing dock divers and I wanna be just like them when I grow up.  I watched them sailing off the dock, they jumped so high!  Then we had play time, mommy threw sharky off the dock and we all jumped in after it – Donny always got it first, but that’s ok, I had fun playing and swimming with my new friends!

I wasn’t ready to go home but mommy promised we’d go dock diving again soon.  She and daddy were talking on the way home and I heard her say we needed a pool – my paws are crossed!  There’s nothing like finding your bliss.  I had fun going to agility class, most of all I loved racing through the tunnels and jumping over the bars, but I also got in trouble – as I didn’t always focus and I just wanted to run around and play.  With dock diving, my unbridled enthusiasm is a good thing and I was never even tempted to run off and do zoomies.  I was so focused on getting back on that dock!   All of us are unique, and we each have our own special gifts and talents.  Keep chasing your dreams – if you don’t take a leap of faith you might miss out on finding your bliss, the one thing that brings you the most joy and makes your heart sing!

Eat, Play, Luv, Hope