“Where’s your ball?”
Cheryl Johnson is face to face with Sync, talking into her dog’s ears as the whippet/terrier’s eyes lock onto a red sphere bobbing in the waters of Langford Lake. “Go get your ball,” Johnson says, as she lowers her dog onto the dock.
Moments later, without so much as a sound, Sync is in the air, legs fully extended as she sails towards her target.
“Her furthest jump ever was 22 feet, 11 inches. Right now she is second in the world … Number one in Canada, number two in the world,” Johnson says.
The five-year-old dog is practicing for DockDogs, a canine aquatic sport requiring a dog to jump off a 40-foot dock into a pool. A laser camera records where the dog’s “tailset” lands to measure the distance jumped. Another aspect of this canine sport sees one or more dogs run down the dock to retrieve a bumper suspended at the end of the pool as fast as possible. After two years of competition, Sync is already one of the world’s best in her size category.
“Her and I started this together two years ago and she never lets me down. I know how to get her revved up and if I whisper to her ‘jump 20 feet’ I know she can’t understand, but she will jump 20 feet,” Johnson says. “We have a good relationship. I know when she’s not feeling well and tired, but she is still so happy to make me happy. She is my little DockDog partner in crime.”
Johnson discovered the sport after watching a demonstration at Pet-A-Palooza, a local pet festival. It was there that they randomly discovered Sync’s passion for jumping. Three weeks later, there happened to be a competition in Comox. Johnson decided to enter Sync and the pair promptly won.
They qualified for the world championships later that year, but almost didn’t go because of the cost. Johnson found the money to go and it paid off when Sync won her category.
“Truthfully, I work for my dog sport,” says Johnson, a hair stylist. “I work hard, make the money and pay for my way. It’s the same as paying for your kids to play hockey. Parents don’t get a monetary reward for putting the time and money into their kids, but at the end they have the pleasure of having the kids have fun, work hard and succeed and that is why I do this.”
Sync clearly loves the sport, practising on Langford Lake often in preparation for national and international championships, where she has taken home numerous titles.
To help navigate the costs, Johnson now has pet food company Petcurean sponsoring Sync, which helps cover the cost of food for all four of her dogs. Sync now even has her own blog and the “partners in crime” will attend their third world championship in Dubuque, Iowa in November, when they will be gunning for gold again.
“(Sync) is very driven and very athletic. She has a lot of energy, so she adapted to it really well. When she gets into the arena and sees the pool, she barks nonstop until she gets into the water,” Johnson says. “To me, I’m not going to have (my) dogs in my life forever, it’s a short blip of time. It’s worth it to me to make the most of it and have as much fun with them as I can.”
For more information you can visit Sync’s blog at teamsync.ca.