Dogs fly at Dawg Waterpark in Murrieta

Cody Joe takes a flying jump off the dock at Country Kennels’ Dawg Waterpark in Murrieta as handlers Janet and Jeff Greene look on during Pacific Coast Air Dogs’ Country Splash competition Saturday, Feb. 20. Valley News/Diane A. Rhodes photo

Dawg Waterpark at Country Kennels in Murrieta hosted the first jump of the season for members of the Pacific Coast Air Dogs club, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 20-21. About 20 dogs and their handlers competed in nine different divisions from Novice to Ultimate Elite and a Featherweight Division for dogs under 16 inches. Competitors in the sport received either a ribbon or a medal according to where they finished in Sunday’s finals.

“All of the dogs jump in what we call splashes with the objective to be in the top five of their division to make finals,” club founder Tyler Weinstein said. “They are put into divisions according to the distance they jumped in their splashes on both days.”

A full description of all the divisions and rules can be found on the Ultimate Air Dogs website at PCAD is an affiliate of UAD, which is based in Florida. During games called Fetch-It, Catch-It and Chase-It, dogs are judged for the distance of a jump from the dock to where the base of their tail breaks the water.

Several dogs who participated in Saturday’s Country Splash Fetch-It competition were so focused on the bumper they must “fetch” as it is suspended 4 feet above the water at a distance of more than 10 feet from the dock, they could hardly wait for the command from their handlers to jump. Fetch-It can only be found at Ultimate Air Dogs events and takes endurance and skill but also helps train a dog’s muscle memory and improve their speed on the dock.

Many of the four-legged athletes participate in other water sports. Jessi is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever who has claimed several surfing titles. Her handler, April Pasko of Encinitas, took the 10-year-old to PCAD’s weekend event to practice her agility.

Reese, a German Shorthaired Pointer, got great heights and distances on her jumps that exceeded 17 feet Saturday. Her handler, Tammy Strassenberg, said the farthest she has ever jumped is 25 feet and that there are only 10 dogs in the nation that have achieved that distance or more.

“Fetch-It is her game,” Strassenberg, of Arizona, said. “She held five national titles in 2016.”

Reese, who is now 7 years old, loved to play in the family’s swimming pool, and one of Strassenberg’s friends suggested she would be good at dock diving. Now she participates at various competitions throughout the country on a regular basis.

Weinstein created Pacific Coast Air Dogs in 2019 because there were not many opportunities on the West Coast for those that have dogs who love to jump in the water. But Weinstein’s journey to start the local club started about 10 years ago.

“My son and I were at the Pet Expo in Orange County, and my son saw the dogs jumping into a pool and said he wanted a dog to do this and I told him ‘someday.’ When he was eight, he brought it up again, and the search began. I found a Fox Red Labrador while at a friend’s house in Pismo Beach, sent my son a picture and asked if he liked her, and of course, he did. He picked the name ‘Pismo,’ and the journey had begun. He has been jumping with her ever since, and her likeness is featured on PCAD’s logo,” he said.

Weinstein lives in Orange but said he found Murrieta’s Country Kennels to be an amazing home facility for his club. He said he plans to offer monthly events there with participants from different UAD clubs across the country and to have the Western Regionals competition there in October.

Dawg Waterpark opened in the summer in 2013 as part of Country Kennels’ family-owned, full-service boarding and grooming facility. Open to the public during specified hours, the water park is a place where dogs can have fun swimming, playing fetch, dock diving and playing with other dogs. It can also be reserved for special events and private parties.

“It’s like a Disneyland for dogs,” facility manager Monica McHorney said. “Patty Bruesch opened Country Kennels 40 years ago and is still a very big part of it. This is her baby.”

Weinstein said one of his favorite parts of the sport of dock diving is watching the handlers with their dogs because the bond and trust between them is incredible. His dog, Zuma, participated in the weekend’s Country Splash and had the longest jump of the competition at 26 feet, 8 inches.

“When thinking about trying this crazy sport all you need is a dog with a strong toy drive – it also helps if they like the water,” Weinstein said. “When it comes to training your dog, there are several ways to accomplish this and you can work with your dog at home if you have a pool. We recommend Vit Kruml with ‘Learning To Fly.’ When it comes to what breeds are best suited for this, it varies; we have anything from Maltipoos to Great Danes and even a few English Bulldogs that love to jump. A Whippet is the current record holder jumping over 30 feet.”

He said Gloria Anderson from Go Dog Photo comes from Arizona to shoot photos of PCAD’s competitions and Jan Robinson with Fit Woof keeps all the dogs safe and healthy with her expertise in cold laser and chiropractic adjustments. A new sponsor for PCAD this year is Clint Lien with Natural Pet Oils that has helped many of their dogs with his products.

The top dogs in each division who received medals after Sunday’s finals, with hometowns and handlers listed, are:

Junior Elite: Rhett, Arizona, Tammy Strassenberg; Senior: Molly Mae, Murrieta, Brittany Anderson; Senior Elite: Cody Joe, Jamul, Janet and Jeff Greene; Master: Reese, Arizona, Tammy Strassenberg; Ultimate: Scout, Sylmar, John and Lisa Colorado; Ultimate Elite: Zuma, Orange, Tyler Weinstein; Fetch-It: Bullitt, Arizona, Donna and Ray Mobillia; Catch-It: Scout, Sylmar, John and Lisa Colorado; Chase-It: Wizard, Pomona, Linda Lascano.

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