Hattie catches big air at dock jumping Nationals

HERE COMES HATTIE — Leaping her way to a world-class sixth place win in the Big Air Division of the Dock Dog World Championships held last month in Iowa. The black lab, owned by Kristin Hanscom of Bridgton, made it to the finals by jumping 20.1 feet off a dock into a pool to catch a foam bumper in her mouth. (Photo courtesy Da-Rill Photography)

HERE COMES HATTIE — Leaping her way to a world-class sixth place win in the Big Air Division of the Dock Dog World Championships held last month in Iowa. The black lab, owned by Kristin Hanscom of Bridgton, made it to the finals by jumping 20.1 feet off a dock into a pool to catch a foam bumper in her mouth. (Photo courtesy Da-Rill Photography)

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Every so often, a special dog comes along with so much energy and so much heart it’s contagious. Such is the case with a black Labrador retriever named Hattie, who has inspired pride and joy in both the staff and clients of Bridgton Veterinary Hospital.

So much so, that the sign on Harrison Road in front of the clinic boldly proclaims Hattie’s achievement — “Sixth in the world,” in the Senior Class Big Air Finals at the Dock Dogs World Championships in Iowa in November.

“I was like, awww, my good girl,” said Hattie’s owner, Kristin Hanscom of Bridgton, after Hattie made a master class jump of 20.1 feet in the qualifying round, securing her place in the finals. Her jump in the finals was less stellar at around 17 feet, resulting in her placing 6th among the 43 dogs in her class.

Just making it to the world competition was a huge achievement, said Hanscom, who works as a vet tech at Bridgton Veterinary Hospital. And it wouldn’t have been possible, she added, without the huge support she received from the hospital, which held a monthly gift basket raffle throughout the summer and raised $600 to pay for Team Hattie’s travel expenses by car.

“We wanted to do what we could to support Kristin and Hattie’s adventure,” said Leah Haney, in charge of Community Outreach for BVH. Haney added that by purchasing raffle tickets, bags of treats and offering many words of encouragement, “Our fabulous clients were more than happy to support Kristin and Hattie’s bid.”

To qualify for the finals, Hattie placed second at the Northeast Regionals in New York this summer in Big Air (dogs who regularly jump at least 15 feet) and was among the top 10 in the Dueling Dogs Division ((two dogs racing the 40-foot length of the pool in lanes separated by underwater Plexiglas).

Hanscom got involved with Dock Dogs two years ago, when Hattie was still a puppy.

“It was just like this bond right away, I don’t know how to describe it,” Hanscom said. “She was just a wild and crazy dog with a ton of energy. She’s like that special dog that is good for me; it forces me to get out and do stuff. I have two other dogs, and I love them, but I don’t know — there’s just something about Hattie.”

In the Dock Dogs Big Air Division, it’s all about how far a dog can jump. This series of photos shows owner and trainer Kristin Hanscom of Bridgton on the dock, just after giving Hattie the signal to jump into the pool. The black lab leaps up, up, and away in pursuit of her prize: a rigid foam bar, called a bumper, that is suspended aloft and releases automatically from its rope attachment once she catches it in her mouth.

In the Dock Dogs Big Air Division, it’s all about how far a dog can jump. This series of photos shows owner and trainer Kristin Hanscom of Bridgton on the dock, just after giving Hattie the signal to jump into the pool. The black lab leaps up, up, and away in pursuit of her prize: a rigid foam bar, called a bumper, that is suspended aloft and releases automatically from its rope attachment once she catches it in her mouth.

Hanscom joined the Seacoast Dock Dogs Club in Berwick and began training in the pool with Hattie, who took to the sport, well, like a dog to water.

“We got into it and she loved it,” she said.

Hanscom loved it too, as a way to socialize with other dog lovers and channel Hattie’s “wild and crazy” personality.

“They love to just please us — that’s why I love Dock Dogs,” she said of the national organization that has many local chapters. “It’s something that’s not super-regimented, but its something that I love to do and my dog loves to do.” There’s all sorts of classes and rankings, from novice, junior, senior and master, as well as events tailored to smaller dogs (Lap Dogs) and older dogs (Legacy Dogs).

Hattie competes in the senior class, and had a very exciting summer leading up to the world competition. She progressed from the Big Air Division, which is the easiest to learn, because it simply measures how far a dog can jump from a running start off a dock. The longest jump on record is around 30 feet. Extreme Vertical (seeing how high they can jump) takes more patience, because the dog tires faster as the bumper is raised. Dueling Dogs, basically drag racing for dogs, requires much practice, as does Speed Retrieve (racing to retrieve a bumper).

In fact, Hattie was disqualified at the World Championships in the Dueling Dogs event, because she got over-excited and jumped into the other dog’s racing lane. And the fact she competed in Dueling Dogs right before the Big Air event may have affected her finish, because she was tired from the race.

“I DID IT!” — Hattie poses proudly after finishing sixth in the Big Air Category at the Dock Dog World Championships in Dubuque, Iowa. (Photo courtesy PhotosbyFeist)

“I DID IT!” — Hattie poses proudly after finishing sixth in the Big Air Category at the Dock Dog World Championships in Dubuque, Iowa. (Photo courtesy PhotosbyFeist)

“I told her it was okay Hattie, you could have done better” in Big Air if she hadn’t been so tired.

All in all, though, Team Hattie did Maine proud, said her fellow vet staffers and supporters on the Team Hattie Facebook page. And already Hattie is missing competing.

“We may go to a competition in January in New York,” said Hanscom. “As long as she likes it, we’ll keep doing it.”

Haney said BVH’s staff is very excited to see what the 2016 season of Dock Dogs will bring for Team Hattie.

“We are so proud of Kristin and Hattie” she said. “It was great fun for all of us to watch them compete and cheer them on!”

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