CLAYTON — Scout didn’t have a lot to say during his interview after he jumped 24 feet, 9 inches, 2 feet short of his personal best, at the Seaway Splash on Saturday, but when the topic turned to what a good dog he is, he responded with what any self-respecting dog lover would say was a smile, ears perked, tail wagging.
Scout is one of the more than 40 canines competing to be top dog in the annual jumping event held at Frink Park, Riverside Drive, hosted by the Ultimate Air Dogs.
With his humans, Diane and Tim Lange of Cleveland, Ohio, interpreting, Scout told his tale: he loved jumping off the dock at his humans’ lake house, so Mrs. Lange took him to a jumping seminar at which he jumped 23 feet the first time and 19 feet the second.
“I thought, well, this might be something he really likes,” Mrs. Lange said, and it has quickly become her and her husband’s “empty nest” hobby now that their kids are 21 and 25 years old and living their own lives.
For the past three years, Scout and Mr. and Mrs. Lange have traveled all over the country, especially the Eastern Seaboard, going to competitions that seem more like “dog family” gatherings to them now.
“This is our favorite venue. It’s a beautiful location with the river right there, such a cute town and people are so nice,” Mrs. Lange said.
The two-person Ultimate Air Dogs team, Susanne and Victor Sporano, agree.
Mrs. Sporano says that of all the competitions they go to, this is their favorite and the dogs seem to love it, too.
“There are a ton of dogs getting their personal best [distances] here,” Mrs. Sporano said, “There’s just some sort of energy that the dogs tap into.”
The Sporanos have been hosting the Seaway Splash since 2015, driving up in the big rig truck that consists of the 40-foot dock in which the emptied and folded 40-foot swimming pool is stored after each event before moving on to the next.
Mrs. Sporano said it takes them about two hours to get the dock and pool ready, but the Clayton Fire Department makes it especially easy for them.
“They just come up and put hoses in the river and fill the pool for us,” she said.
Seven-year-old Adelina Leonard and 5-year-old Grayson Leonard came from New Hampshire with their parents to visit their grandparents. They arrived at the Seaway Splash with their mini-fishing rods expecting to fish, but instead found flying dogs.
“I think it’s cool they can do that,” Miss Leonard said, while young Mr. Leonard thought dog fishing could be just as much fun as fish fishing.
Belleville, Ontario resident Barb Peterson had been to the Splash once before, but this time she was watching her brother Ron Ball’s dog take a flying leap.
Mrs. Peterson’s nephew, Ryan Ball, said their 15-month-old dog jumped in public for the first time last year.
Bella, a Dutch Shepherd, made her humans proud by topping her best distance of 20 feet, 8 inches with a jump of 22 feet 1 inch.
This year, a new addition to the scene was Victoria Lines cruise ship from Canada docked parallel to the jumping pool, providing the best seats in the house for the passengers from the decks.
The three-day event will end with the 4 p.m. finals Sunday, the culmination of nine “splash” distance jumping rounds since Friday.
Competitions on Saturday and Sunday like “catch-it” and, unique to Ultimate Air Dogs events, “fetch-it” and “chase-it” go beyond distance and challenge the pooches’ coordination, aim, vertical jump and swimming skills.
Ultimate Air Dogs was created by Milt Wilcox — the Detroit Tigers pitcher in the winning game of the 1984 World Series — after his dog Sparky proved to love jumping. The company has four two-person crews that put on 200 competitions around the country.
The event is produced by the Thousand Islands Clayton Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Paw Street Bakery of Chicopee, Maine.
For details about today’s schedule, go to https://www.1000islands-clayton.com.lash/schedule/.