Virginia Beach American pit bull rescue gets big air at weekend water competition

OUTLET: Southside Daily

VIRGINIA BEACH — Dogs are capable of performing many roles in life aside from being a cuddle buddy.

Police train them to find suspects, they can be ring bearers at weddings and at Care-A-Lot’s Lovers’ Extravaganza last weekend, they competed as athletes in DockDogs, an international canine water sport organization.

The Virginia Beach-based pet store featured the organization during its weekend event, which kicked off Friday at noon and ran through Sunday. According to its website, DockDogs gives pets the chance to flex their jumping and swimming skills.

“Pets add so much more to your life,” Bobby Clarke, Care-A-Lot owner, said in an interview. “It makes life complete and it’s about unconditional love.”

Among the furry friends that frolicked in the grass at the store’s headquarters on Diamond Springs Road was Pixie, a 4-year-old brindle American pit bull terrier rescue.

Pixie likes eating string cheese, anything duck, cuddling and sleeping, according to owner and dog trainer Crystal Partain.

“I was volunteering at a shelter as their volunteer coordinator, and she was this poor pitiful puppy that nobody wanted,” Partain said. “Her time was up, the shelter was full and I couldn’t let the puppy die, so it went home with me.”

Partain said she had no intention on keeping Pixie shortly after adopting her.

“I needed a fourth dog like I needed a hole in my head,” Partain said. “But here she is, here we are and she’s brought all of this crazy world into my life. I think it was meant to be.”

The craziness Partain is talking about is the sporting world of DockDogs.

DockDogs, which made its debut on ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games competition in 2000, incorporates three different styles of competition — speed retrieve, extreme vertical and big air.

Pixie competed in the big air category Friday, where dogs jump from the edge of a platform into a 40-foot pool.

A trainer throws a toy in the pool, the dog jumps and where their tail hit the water is how a score is calculated. Dogs get two attempts to jump, and their final score comes from that average.

Pixie’s average jump was just over 12 feet.

“The sport itself is about 15 years old, and it kind of progressed from hunting dogs needing to do something in the off-season, then everybody else got involved,” Partain said. “We have dogs that jump, tiny ‘Yorkies’ that jump all the way up to Great Danes.”

Partain said getting involved with DockDogs wasn’t her decision.

“We came out here to Care-A-Lot a couple of years ago to see one of my friend’s compete, and Pixie was with me,” Partain said.

“She watched the toy go into the water, then she watched the dog go into the water and she lost her brain. She started screaming and yelling and pulling towards the pool.”

Pit bulls can be victims of a stereotype and are associated with an innate aggressive and violent attitude, but Partain said any dog can bite.

“It all depends on the individual dog and knowing a good amount of dog behavior,” Partain said. “There’s no correlation between the way a dog looks and how a dog can act.”

This isn’t Pixie’s first time jumping into water for sport. Partain said it’s her third year competing and that she’s gotten two invites to compete internationally.

“We’ve been to Iowa to compete, and this year we’re heading to Knoxville to compete,” Partain said. “This is totally her thing, and I’m just along for the ride.”

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