Amateurs had a chance to mingle with superstars for a few hours during one popular event at the Jesse James Festival in Kearney on Saturday.
When they weren’t busy sniffing out the competition, each athlete had an eye —and a mouth — on the ball.
The MO*KAN DockDogs club held three days of competition during the festival, Sept. 16 to 18. And while the pros competed in Big Air (long jump), Speed Retrieve (swimming time trials) and Extreme Vertical (high jump), there was fun for all during Tennis Ball Fetch.
Molly Johnson was there with her two chocolate labs — both national winners. Her goal was to offer guidance and encouragement to all the dogs, whether they be familiar with DockDogs competitionsor not.
“DockDogs is open to any dog, mutt or purebred; there’s no discrimination,” said Johnson, a board member of the non-profit group, which has affiliates across the country. “If you like having fun with your dog and they like to swim, it’s just great.”
People of all ages, from children to those in their 70s, turn out with their dogs to join in the fun, she says.
But for the tennis ball fetch event on Saturday, no membership was needed. Many showed up for the chance to introduce their canine friends to the aquatic sport, and help raise funds for the B.A.A.R.K. Foundation, which helps out dogs in need.
“We had quite a crowd,” Johnson said. “We had a long-haired dachshund and we had a Great Dane.”
Even those without dogs were drawn to the pool, with its 40-foot-long dock.
“Kids love to stand by the pool and get splashed by the dogs,” Johnson said, adding that the key goal for the non-profit is for dogs and owners to have fun.
“There’s a competitive part of it, but you have to keep your sense of humor,” she said. “If you take it too seriously, you take the joy and fun out of it.”